In this final post, I will talk about the GS30's dock and my overall thoughts on its performance.
Whilst the laptop is cool, everything is really talking about the dock. As I mentioned earlier, the dock consists of a PCI Express x16 slot, a 450 watt power supply, a KillerNIC, audio connectors (speakers and microphone), stereo speakers with sub-woofer and 4 USB3 ports.
You can install any NVIDIA or ATI card you want into the dock, and from any manufacturer. It should be noted though that MSI has stated that all of their cards will work within the dock. I chose an MSI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 not only on the reviews, but also due to the fact I knew I would receive suitable support in such a configuration. The power supply in the dock has two 6/8 pin power plugs to supply power to whatever card you end up selecting. There is also a fan on one side to assist in keeping everything cool.
It is worth noting that MSI wasn't the first to come up with the idea of strapping a desktop graphics card to a laptop. Currently the other well-known vendor is Alienware. Alienware first offered the graphics amplifier to their 13 inch series, and in the latest generation it is available in the 15 and 17 series. MSi claim that the biggest difference between the GS30 and the Alienware is that their dock is a PCI Express x16 solution, whilst the Alienware is only x4. There is a significant bandwidth difference between PCI Express x16 and x4, however these claims haven’t been independently verified.
Connecting to the dock is a fairly straight forward process. Shutdown the laptop, place the laptop in the cradle and pull the handle to bring the two together. The locking process also ensures that there is now way the laptop could easily come away from the dock. For those who are wondering, the dock connector looks pretty much like a PCI Express connector. To undock, simply shutdown and unlock then push the handle to eject the laptop. You need to shut down, you cannot simply put your laptop to sleep or hibernate. My theory of how everything is working internally, and this is just conjecture, is that when connected, the dock is disconnecting the Intel Iris graphics and the Atheros Ethernet controller.
I chose to install my Western Digital 2TB Black Edition drive in the dock. This drive has all 240 of my Steam games, and has worked well for me in my previous system. Installation of the drive was also extremely easy, I recommend installing the hard disk prior to installing the video card.
The audio options on the dock are rather disappointing. Whilst it is great to see (hear) the stereo speakers and sub-woofer in the dock, I would have much rather seen a fully fledged sound card included. I previously used optical out to a set of Yamaha speakers, now I am going to have to go back to the drawing board because the GS30 dock only provides a standard headphone/speakers connector.
I have been extremely impressed by the performance of the GS30, dock and GTX970 combination. Whilst I haven’t spent much time playing games, only FireFall and BioShock Infinite, I can confirm the performance is quite remarkable. I was not disappointed running both games with their video settings maxed out. The fans on the laptop will ramp up during this time, but once again, it is nothing too serious.
For a detailed performance breakdown and benchmark, check out the review by Hexus here.
Overall this is an exceptional laptop, be it as a work PC running virtual machines or visual studio, or at home as a gaming machine. This is a great work machine and a great home machine. I would definitely recommend it to people!
Whilst the laptop would probably struggle competing on its own against the likes of Alienware or the HP Omen, or even a business oriented device like the HP EliteBook Folio, when combined with the dock, it becomes one hell of a system.
MSI have done an amazing job, their engineers have created something exciting, unique and quite revolutionary. I will be very interested to see how they continue to develop and expand upon this concept in the coming years. Hopefully in 2 years when I am looking for a new laptop, they will have resolved some of my gripes and filled in some of the missing features.
- True Quad Core i7
- Docking station
- Lightweight Ultrabook
- 16Gb of memory
- Twin 128Gb SSDs
- Gaming performance when docked is equivalent to desktop systems
- Excellent option for work/life balance system
- All of your data in one place
- Dock features PIC Express 16x and one SATA 3 port
- No touch screen
- No TPM
- No NFC
- No KillerNIC Ethernet or WIFI on Laptop, KillerNIC only in dock
- Screen resolution could be higher
- Audio options could be better (no optical out)
- Need external monitor/keyboard/mouse when docked
- Need to shutdown to dock/undock
- 3 hours battery life
Improvements I want to see in the future
- Touch Screen
- Better audio options in the dock
- Windows 8.1 pro
- No Symantec AV
- Better driver update system