First Impressions: MSI GS30 Shadow Pt1 - A work/play laptop

Over the past few weeks I have been looking to purchase a new laptop for work, I have also been on the market for a new gaming system since mine was rendered inoperable by the removalists. I was in a tough spot, requiring a lightweight and portable laptop for work, and then something with the power to play games when at home.

In the past, I always preferred to keep these two distinct usages types separate, there are a number of distinct advantages to this, as well as a number of disadvantages. Now I had been considering finding something that could at least provide the best of both worlds, or close to that as possible. I want my cake and I want to eat it!

What do I actually need in this laptop? Well the requirements are tricky, but not impossible:

  • 12 to 15 inch screen
  • 16Gb to 32Gb of memory
  • Minimum 256Gb SSD
  • Decent graphics performance provided by mid to high end NVIDIA or ATI
  • Have some battery life
  • Good price point

There were a number of systems which met these requirements to varying degrees, including:

Overall, these laptops are very good, however I just wasn’t convinced that they really would be suitable. Then early last week, I was catching up on more CES 2015 coverage, looking for more reviews and stumbled up an AnandTech article, MSI Announces GS30 Shadow Laptop and GPU Expansion Dock. I was immediately intrigued.

What sets the MSI GS30 Shadow apart from almost every other laptop on the market is its unique docking station. Now you might be thinking, “Kieran I have been using a docking station for 10 to 20 years now, that isn’t something special”, and you could be right at first glance, but the GS30’s dock is very special. For the majority of laptops, their docking stations have become nothing more than glorified port replicators that simply reduce the effort of plugging in all of your accessories. In the past docking stations would provide a significant boost in functionality and often included features like a modular bay for an additional CD drive or Hard Disk, or in the case of the Dell C series, a PCI card. The dock that is packaged with the GS30 is more like the old fashioned docking stations, but on steroids, lots of steroids! The GS30 dock comes with a PCI Express x16 connector, a 450 watt PSU, a 3.5 inch disk drive and SATA3 connector, a KillerNIC network controller and 4 USB3 ports. The dock alone has some serious computing power!

If you’re curious how MSI is interfacing with all of these extra devices and whether there will be sufficient bandwidth, the answer is that the dock uses a full x16 PCIe 3.0 based connector.
— http://www.anandtech.com/show/8817/msi-announces-gs30-shadow-laptop-and-gpu-expansion-dock

Whilst MSI announced the GS30 back in September 2014, little was really known about it till the official launch as part of CES 2015. Whilst there are one or two hands on reviews and videos, there is only one through performance review at this point. Even so, I still wanted to get my hands on one, so the next morning I ordered one, and picked it up the very same day. I also got my hands on an MSI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB. I was informed by the owner of my local computer store clerk that I was the first owner of a GS30 in Australia.

Join me, tomorrow for part 2 where I discuss the laptop, its features and performance.

Kieran Jacobsen