MSI plans to showcase its upcoming Graphics Upgrade Solution (GUS) at Computex next week, an externally-housed ATI Radeon HD 5670 1 GB card that connects to a notebook's ExpressCard slot. MSI's solution is one of many external options in the works--both Gigabyte and Shuttle recently displayed their offerings at CeBit back in March. As seen at the show, Gigabyte has chosen the docking station approach whereas Shuttle's I-Power GTX mini will use a special GTX connector.
As for MSI's solution, the company has tweaked the limitations of the ExpressCard connection by using a thicker, shielded copper cable and "improved" associated electronics. This supposedly allows for "over 70-percent" of the theoretical bandwidth as opposed to the 50-percent or less seen with other external solutions. MSI said that the next generation of GUS devices will take the simpler route by using USB 3.0, however the current model will still provide a nice performance boost over integrated graphics.
While this option may sound encouraging for gamers, there are a few positives and negatives associated with the technology. The external device will need a separate power source, and could prove cumbersome when traveling. However that's only a minor setback given that it can provide up to three additional video outputs. This means that consumers can set up a 4-display array using the output from the laptop (or use the laptop's LCD) and the three ports provided on ATI's card.
MSI said that the upcoming GUS will be offered in two forms: without the ATI card for just $99 to $109, or with the Radeon HD 5670 card for $169 to $229. As it stands, the device can't support cards more advanced than the Radeon HD 5670, as the GUS has a maximum power draw of 84 watts and does not have a 6-pin power adapter.