When the MSI GS30 showed up at Stuff Towers for review – all svelte laptop and accompanying dock combo – we’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little perplexed as to how it all worked.
Wouldn’t it be sat too high up to type on? Isn’t the screen too small to play video games? After firing it up though, we realised we were missing the point. It’s not the laptop that’s the beast at work here - it’s the box it sits on. Fit it all together, plug in an external keyboard and a monitor, and you’ve got a laptop/desktop hybrid with the ability to rival the best.
With a 13inch, matte 1080p display, the laptop is cute, slim, portable, and stylish as anything. Coupled with its dock, you’re given the choice of using it as either a compact ultrabook, or a fully-fledged desktop replacement.
LOCK, DOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this dock/laptop combo, let’s first break down the monster behind it all.
At 4.2kg, the GamingDock is fairly chunky, and is about the same size as a large toaster. It’s not intended to be portable though, and it’ll probably find a home either in the corner of, or underneath your desk.
You’re also going to want to plug in a keyboard and mouse into one of the four USB 3.0 slots to be able to use this bad boy.
Once you dock the GS30, you’ll be granted the power of an Nvidia Geforce GTX970, turning the laptop from your humble porta-pal into a stationary souped-up battlestation.
If you’re looking to save a bit of cash, you can opt for the GPU-less version of the dock, giving you the ability to fit whichever MSI GPU you prefer. Shove in some SATA storage, and you’ll be set to store the more memory munching side of your game library.
GAMING & GRAPHICS
Inside the laptop you’ll find an integrated Intel Iris Pro 5200, which is no monster, but is more than capable enough of running the majority of games on medium to low settings.
However, you probably won’t find yourself resorting to gaming on the laptop by itself. Sure, whip out Hearthstone, but you may have difficulty flying about fragging noobs on such a small screen.
Although it handled most games pretty well, the petite little lappy just couldn’t take the heat. And by that we mean it got hot - fast. But considering it’s housing a Core i7 processor in such a light frame, you can’t really blame it. The little fans were whirring as fast as they could, venting to the best of their abilities, and in all fairness it took all of ten seconds for the GS30 to go from lap-meltingly hot to cucumber cool once we stopped playing.
Once placed upon its throne, however…
Crikey, this machine flew. With the GTX970 graphics card pumping out raw, unadulterated power, we were running serious, graphic-intensive games such as Witcher 3 with maxed out settings. We fell in love with this machine the minute a game’s settings menu read mostly ‘ultra’, and the frames-per-second meter sat snugly above 50.
Throughout hours of gaming greatness, not once did we notice the dock getting hot. Some may call the fans noisy, but when you consider the dock is pumping out sound from the same place it’s pumping out, the noise was almost completely unnoticeable.
BUILT IN BEAT BLASTER
Alone, the GS30 delivered decent sound for a laptop of its size, with a lot of it being thanks to Sound Blaster Cinema 2 technology from audio gurus at Creative. The GS30 contains two stereo speakers on the underside of the front, which is more than enough for on-the-move music, games or videos.
Pop it and lock it…
You’ll be treated to two 5W 2.1 stereo speakers coupled with a subwoofer, delivering decent (yet unfortunately rather ‘tinny’) sound for all of your gaming and general needs. Although there is better sound quality to be had from a proper speaker system, we found the built in setup to be adequate enough for what we were using it for.
We managed to squeeze out around 4 hours of life for general pottering around, which isn’t fantastic for classroom or ordinary out-and-about use, but will do in a pinch.
With light gaming, we got about 2 hours out of the GS30 before it tapped out. Compared to other ultrabooks on the market, the battery life is relatively short. Saying that, most ultrabooks aren’t packing the same specs as the GS30 so there’s that to consider.
The MSI GS30 is awesome. Alas, the price tag isn’t. For the whopping price of just north of US$2,800 you certainly will receive an incredibly cool bit of kit, but as you’re probably thinking to yourself – for that price you could just go out and build your own desktop and pick up an ultrabook on the cheap to boot.
It should also be considered that aside from purchasing the GS30, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a monitor to use it on and a plug in keyboard and a mouse.
All in all, if you’ve got more money than sense and love the whole cool concept of the GS30 - then by all means go for it. This machine will deliver better gaming performance than even the most kitted out laptops. However, unless you’re an absolute graphics-freak, and need those ultra settings, there’s plenty more pocket-friendly fixes to be found.
It’s an awesome idea, and we’re excited for future models, which will hopefully feature smaller docking stations (and price tags). Until then, we feel these magnificent machines are more of a novelty than a necessity for the modern hardcore gamer.