In addition to 7-series motherboards, MSI had its GUS II external GPU solution on display. The external chassis features a Thunderbolt interface and an internal PCIe slot. Despite running on a MacBook Pro there is currently no OS X support for the solution, but it does work under Windows. Presumably if there's OS X support for the GPU inside the enclosure it would work under OS X as well.

The only limitation to the GUS II is the internal GPU has to be powered by PCIe alone (there are no aux PCIe power connectors inside the chassis). 

MSI gave us no timeframe for release or estimate on price, but the idea alone is super exciting. I expect to see more of this type of thing as Thunderbolt equipped Ivy Bridge notebooks show up this year.

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  • zanon - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    >I reckon the performance plateau for a TB connected GPU is still considerably higher than HD3000, but what about vs a 6770m? Would it still be worth the money to buy an external upgrade?

    Couldn't know without testing of course. However, it's easy enough to get a feel for the sort of delta there is between desktop and mobile just by going and taking a look at some of the Anand reviews for various notebooks, including the Macbook Pros, the various Alienware gaming machines, and so forth, and then comparing them to even something like a 6950. It's not even in the same area, and those are bigger, heftier machines. On the really light ones you will be seeing integrated, and then what have we got? HD3000, Starcraft II, 1366x768, medium settings: 16.5 FPS. Yeah. A big fat gaming focused machine with something like a 555M pushes that up a lot, same settings, to over 68. But that's like the framerate a ~$250 desktop card would get you at 1920x1200 with ultra settings and AA.

    Ultimately I don't think there's any real way to get around the fact that a single desktop card can easily draw 3x-5x the power of the entire max machine draw of many notebooks. It's just plain physics, there's only so much you can do with a fifth or less the power and thermal budget. Even with bandwidth constraining things, a raw difference of 500% or more is a lot to make up, and there's room for optimization of the approach too (ie,. CPU ramp up when docked to an external GPU to take advantage of the additional thermal budget available).
    Reply
  • sullrosh - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    since it is a pcie slot does it work with any pcie card? Reply
  • tpurves - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Would be awesome to take over graphics for a macbook air when docked. Even stuck at a 75W power budget would leave a lot of room for improvement over intel integrated graphics. For comparison the AC adapter for the MBA is only rated for a max 50W to power and charge the entire computer. Reply
  • Khenglish - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    You guys are vastly underestimating what can be run on thunderbolt with the limited PCI-E bandwidth. In short, thunderbolt with optimized drivers can run absolutely anything with no performance loss. Check http://forum.notebookreview.com/gaming-software-gr... to see what you can do with a simple PCI-E 1.1 x1 link. Even with 1/32 the bandwidth of a desktop, in some cases 90%+ of the PCI-E 2.0 x16 performance is obtained. On a 2.0 x1 link, you get practically no performance loss die to PCI-E. Ex 15587 gpu score in vantage with an overclocked 560 ti, and 4096 gpu score in 3dm11. Even a 580 scales well on a 1.1 x1 link. Check the forum I posted to see the scaling.

    The reason the performance loss is so little is because nvidia provides PCI-E compression with current drivers. Unfortunately this current only works with x1 links. The compression will not engage on an x2 link, causing x1 to usually outperform x2.

    There are some results with systems that do not run any compression. When looking at the performance on an 1.1 x2 link, it's not hard to imagine that on a2.0 x2 link or better, which thunderbolt provides, would offer excellent performance even on the new HD 7970.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    That page is an utter mess, the one useful bit of scaling I found was to 5870 tests by Tech Powerup, a direct link is below. The average performance hit they found from a 1x 2.0 link was about 25% reduction; there were however very large variations with some games only losing a few percent and others having framerate drops as high as 75% of their 16x performance. (A few games even scored higher at lower PCIe bandwidth numbers: Inconsistent benchmarks?????). A 2.0 x4 link was fast enough that none of the games tested suffered any catastrophic failures, in most cases the delta was small enough it probably wouldn't affect the [H]ocp minimum relevant performance threshold of being able to increase IQ settings while maintaining a playable framerate.

    Unfortunately they didn't test a 2.0 x2 link (or equivalent). Toms hardware did similar tests on a 1.1 x4 link several gpu generations ago and IIRC didn't find any major problems. But I think that was with an 8800 family GPU so I'm not sure how relevant it would be with modern ones being a half dozenish times faster.

    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/HD_5870_PCI...
    Reply
  • Khenglish - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Did you bother to scroll down to the performance tables? They're pretty straightforward and if you click the name of the person's experience you often get quite a bit of detail.

    There is so much info on that page about PCI-E performance but no one bothers to check it.... I get over 4k total score in 3dm11 with a overclocked 460 on a 1.1 x2 link...
    Reply
  • mpschan - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    I, and many others, are very excited to see something like this come along.

    What I really want is a laptop that can drive 1080p for games with mid quality settings. Obviously power and heat from the GPU are the biggest obstacles to that, but this could address that and move the concern over to the CPU, which might be up to the task (if not now then hopefully soon).

    If they can get this to work and work well enough to pull 40-60 fps from a laptop at 1080, you will see people lining up to buy this.
    Reply
  • Haydon - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    For the money it would cost to buy the enclosure and the card, why not just get a laptop with a decent GPU in the first place with Optimus technology and the like which switches to the integrated GPU when you're not playing games on it? Untill some iteration of lightpeak can do PCIe 3.0 at x4 or PCIe 2.0 at x8 this just isn't going to sell well.

    I can already get 40-60 fps at medium/high settings on my laptop that cost only $1500 from AVA Direct.

    This seems more for the Mac crowd who is as of yet unaware that they're being ripped off so hard in the graphics department that they don't know laptops exist that can play games well.

    On the PC side of life there are laptops that don't need an external enclosure to run everything at 1080p in 3D (like the 3d that pops out of the screen) even with maxed out settings.
    Reply
  • aliasfox - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    I don't want a bigger laptop. I want to carry a 12-13" laptop around - just big enough for a full size keyboard. You can't fit a fast GPU and a fast processor in something that size and expect to get a good amount of battery life.

    But sometimes I'm at home and I want to do something that poor old integrated graphics can't handle. Plug this box into the laptop, plug the TV into the box, and I have now have 10x the graphics performance at 1080p, while still being able to carry around a 3 lbs laptop when I need to take it out.
    Reply
  • know of fence - Thursday, January 12, 2012 - link

    2012 to be the year of the Thousand-bucks - erm - Ultrabooks! Thunder bolt-on crutches may be available a year later down the line when people will realize those things fall flat - erm - when it comes to graphics. Reply

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