Home / Computing / Laptop / MSI GS30 Shadow with GamingDock

MSI GS30 Shadow with GamingDock

By

Reviewed:

1 of 9

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDOck
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDOck
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock
  • MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

Summary

MSI GS30 Shadow with GamingDock – First Impressions

A system that allows you to a take a thin and light ultraportable laptop and plug it into some sort of desktop dock that contains a powerful graphics card has long been the holy grail of mobile computing. Plenty of companies have tried their hand at a solution, but they’ve either never made it to market or been too expensive and rare to get any traction. The latest company to give it a try is MSI, with its GS30 Shadow and GamingDock combination.

Unlike most previous systems the GamingDock uses a classic laptop dock system with connections on the underside of the laptop, rather than a cable. This allows MSI to use a connection that can deliver a full 16 PCI-E lanes, meaning it can take full advantage of the power of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 that sits in the dock.

SEE ALSO: Best Laptops Round-up

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

MSI GS30 Shadow – Design

The GS30 Shadow laptop is a relatively slim and light 13-inch machine that could easily be carried around every day. It’s a little heavier and thicker than the latest ultrabooks but it’s still well within the range of being comfortable. Comparing to something like the Dell XPS 13 2015, the GS30 Shadow has dimensions of 320 x 227 x 19.8mm and weighs 1.2kg, while the Dell measures 304 x 200 x 9-15mm and weighs 1.18kg.

It’s similar story with the styling. It’s a nice enough looking machine, with clean simple lines and a muted matt black finish, while a bit of flair comes in the form of a strip of white light that runs along the front edge. Ultimately, though, it’s clearly not a truly premium, slim line laptop of the Macbook Air mould – you certainly won’t be embarrassed by it by neither will it make others envious.

Related: Best Laptops and Ultrabooks

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

MSI GS30 Shadow – Features

Where the GS30 Shadow lacks for very little is in its feature list. This is a very capable and well equipped laptop that should easily cope with most everyday tasks, and even some light gaming.

The heart of this specification is an Intel Core i7-4870HQ processor with Iris Pro Graphics 5200, which is about the most potent CPU/GPU combination you can get for a laptop. The CPU is quad-core with hyperthreading (so appears as eight-core) and runs up to a whopping 3.7GHz, while the Iris Pro Graphics 5200 is the uprated solution that uses onboard eDRAM for impressive graphics performance, something which has traditionally been a weak point of Intel CPUs.

Related: Best Windows 8 Laptops and Tablets

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

The one downside of this choice of chip is that it will churn through battery power much quicker than a more modest solution. This could severely hamper the overall appeal of the laptop-plus-dock solution, as a key factor is that the laptop on its own is a truly practical, portable everyday option. We’ll have to wait until we do a full review to find out exactly how the GS30 Shadow holds up.

Otherwise, it’s all good. There’s up to 32GB of RAM, both a hard drive slot and room for two m.2 SSDs, which can be run in a RAID configuration. Connectivity is also excellent, even without the dock. There’s two USB 3.0, an SD card reader, full size HDMI, Ethernet and both headphone and microphone sockets.

The 13.3-inch screen is also well specced, with a 1080p resolution, IPS panel technology and non-reflective coating. It didn’t appear to be the finest screen we’d ever seen upon first viewing, but it should certainly be more than capable.

The keyboard and trackpad were also impressive. The former has a well-defined action, making it easy to tell if you’ve pressed a key or not. It also has a good layout and is backlit, too. The trackpad, meanwhile, is nice and large and responded well in our brief test.

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

MSI GS30 Shadow GamingDock

Decent as the GS30 Shadow is on its own, its true appeal is of course when combined with its dock. This is a chunky thing that the laptop sits on top of, and as such it makes the most of the bulk to incorporate a host of other features.

Speakers are the main addition, with two speakers flanking a central sub woofer, each of which is rated at 5W. There’s also space for an extra 3.5-inch hard drive and there’s some extra connectivity too, with Killer Gb Ethernet, mic and headphone sockets, plus four USB 3.0 ports.

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

The star of the show, though, is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics card. This is among the fastest graphics cards you can currently get and is ample to make just about any game run at maximum settings at the 1080p resolution of the laptop’s screen. Not that you’ll be using the laptop’s screen, as the system is meant to be hooked up to an external monitor.

The card is a standard form factor, so houses the usual selection of outputs, with one DVI, an HDMI and three DisplayPorts. Theoretically you can also replace the graphics card with another one, but for now MSI is only offering the GS30 Shadow with the GTX 980.

The one other competitor that’s making a laptop dock solution at the moment is Alienware, with its Alienware Graphics Amplifier, but crucially it only uses a PCI-E x4 connection, which limits the bandwidth available between the graphics card and laptop. This impacts its maximum performance. It also doesn’t have the speakers, the hard drive space and quite such good connectivity, though it sure does look nicer. It’s also available without a graphics card, allowing you to choose your own. The GamingDock will be available without a graphics card in the US but will only be sold as a complete bundle with a GTX 980 in the UK.

As expected, the combined laptop and dock absolutely monstered through all the demos we saw, so the power is definitely there. What remains to be seen is just how reliable a solution it is in everyday use.

SEE ALSO: Best Gaming Laptops Round-up

MSI GS30 with ShadwoDock

Early Verdict

We’re really happy to see another attempt at creating a graphics card dock and laptop solution, and MSI seems to have made a decent attempt with the GS30 Shadow and GamingDock. We’re not really sold on the inclusion of speakers or the styling of the dock, but functionally it's spot-on. We just wish MSI was selling it without the GTX 980 here in the UK so that users had more options than to pay £2199 for the full kit.

MattMe

February 4, 2015, 3:56 pm

Ouch! That price!
For that you could get a good laptop/ultrabook and a powerful desktop machine, which would offer a better solution for both purposes of this combo.

Matthew Bunton

February 4, 2015, 7:18 pm

Maybe i'm missing something but this just seems pointless.

I agree with MattMe you would be better off doing what he suggested.

MikeL

February 4, 2015, 10:16 pm

agree with MattMe, the price can pay for a MacBook air running bootcamp and a powerful desktop PC with a few years subs of Office 365 so all your files are shared

and it looks plain fugly!!

Ed

February 4, 2015, 11:37 pm

Well, this is indeed the problem with MSI's chosen route. Alienware is more on the money with offering the external box on its own for 'just' £200. Combine it with a £150-£200 desktop graphics card and you've got a big upgrade over the laptop's graphics and a big saving compared to a gaming PC. Not entirely onboard with the Alienware 13 already having an 860M graphics card in it - more bulk and battery drain - but I guess it means you can game on the road too, even if you'll have to turn the settings down.

Kulti Vator

February 5, 2015, 12:19 pm

Having external access to PCIe 16x is long overdue - let's hope MSI's competitors are spurred into action and that we soon see some options with substantially less chunky dimensions & price-points!

BetelgeuseOrion

March 4, 2015, 4:44 pm

a macbook air is a pile of crap compared to this, it has a true quad core i7, not some crippled POS dual core.

seriously? you think running boot camp is the same as running windows natively on a Raid 0 SSD array?

boot camp cripples the windows drives interface because its emulated, its not true AHCI, and its not true EFI.

files shared on the cloud is the same as files on the SAME SSD? lol get real.

MikeL

March 12, 2015, 12:26 pm

ok, you're most likely one who gets a semi chubby whenever frames per second is mentioned. Have you ever run bootcamp before? I have, for general work use such as MS office, never any issues and it never crashed on me due to drivers that work. Onedrive files are stored locally and then synced to the cloud. Also, Macbooks storage is PCIE based which gives SATA a run for it's money. The i7 in the MSI doesn't really make a blind bit of difference when you're mobile as the GPU is still at home so you won't be gaming and then there's battery life. Maybe not a MacBook but any other decent ultrabook would be of more use than this as a mobile device. A MacBook is just an example.

comments powered by Disqus