CES 2012: MSI’s GUS II Uses Thunderbolt to Provide External Graphics to Laptops

A new and interesting take on external graphics technology

The idea of external graphics cards is not new to us, but MSI has presented a new take on it during the CES 2012 fair where it showcased the GUS II prototype enclosure that uses Thunderbolt in order to deliver extra graphics power to notebooks.

Presented during the show with a Radeon HD 5770 graphics card linked via Thunderbolt to a MacBook Pro, the GUS II enclosure is said to support a wide range of double-wide PCI Express x16 GPUs.

According to MSI, the only catch is that GUS II doesn’t support graphics cards with power envelopes larger than 150W as this is the maximum power that can be fed through the PCIe slot without the need of a separate connector.

A monitor can be hooked up to the enclosure via the ports available on the graphics card, MSI’s demo showing a display running Unigine Heaven benchmark which was linked via DVI.

The final product should be similar to that presented in the Tech Report photos in this article, but pricing and availability details are kept under wraps by MSI for now.

The Thunderbolt technology, previously known as Light Peak, was developed by Intel in order to provide a unified interface with enough bandwidth to replace all the current buses, such as SCSI, SATA, USB, FireWire or PCI Express.

Although this first iteration of Thunderbolt is still far away from reaching that goal, it still manages to join together the PCI Express and the DisplayPort interfaces and can provide, in theory, 20Gbps of upstream and 20Gbps of downstream bandwidth (via two 10Gbps bidirectional channels).

The technology is so far available in a series of Apple products, but in 2012 it will also come to Ultrabooks and Ivy Bridge Panther Point motherboards, much like the MSI Z77A-GD80 we presented earlier.


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