MSI Tries Different, Smaller, Stealthier External Gaming Docks

Do you remember MSI's Gaming Dock, launched at CES? My colleague, Seth Colaner, said it looked like an "ugly, bulky brick." Not to throw him too far under the bus with MSI, he ended up liking the idea of it, just not some of the execution. But others must have thought the same thing, because here at Computex we saw a couple variations of the theme, both of which were equally intriguing, but less ugly and bulky and bricky. 

Specifically, MSI showed us the GamingDock Mini and an AX24 AIO with an optional graphics card housing. The GamingDock Mini, like its previous bulkier iteration, is also meant to be used with the GS30 Shadow laptop, but MSI indicated that will likely change over time (meaning a broadening of its use across the MSI product line).

The gaming dock will still use MSI's proprietary PCIe x16 connector, and it still won't let you plug in without restarting to get the graphics card functionality (Microsoft does not support hot swap in Windows). We're looking forward to Thunderbolt 3-powered external graphics docks, specifically because they would support not having to restart your system when you plug them in.

The GamingDock Mini will support any current, standard-sized Nvidia or AMD graphics card, and it has room and power enough for a Titan X. There's no internal power supply, as it will use the GS30 power adapter.

MSI said that the GamingDock Mini will ship in the second half of the year and would cost $169.99.

The company was less forthcoming about pricing on the AIO AX24 but said it would ship in late Q4. It comes with an optional housing for a video card, again using the proprietary PCIe x16 connector, and again it's able to house standard-sized cards up to a Titan X.

The housing is quite stealth, like a leach on the back of the AIO. There is dedicated power for the module, giving it 330 extra watts. The CPU will be Skylake, if I’m reading the signals right (and the timing; why wouldn’t it be!). The unit also has a carrying handle for easier schlepping to LAN parties. 

We asked MSI the question you, dear reader, always ask on things like this, which is why someone would buy such a docking component instead of just building their own PC. MSI acknowledged that it sees that feedback, but that with the AIO, you can easily transport your gaming PC and the display too, especially with that handle on top.

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Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson is Editor-at-Large of Tom's Hardware US.
  • SheriffMoose
    I really like where MSI is going with these ideas. Its great having a powerful desktop, but its a pain to haul around all of the parts needed to LAN parties. The laptop dock is even more interesting to me, as you can get the ultra portability of the laptop when you want, and just add the dock when you go to a LAN to get about the same performance you would in a pretty powerful desktop, depending on the price point, of course. Video cards are typically the main component that hold back laptops; assuming the PCI-E system they use doesn't have significant limitations/overhead, I imagine it'd be a great way to extend the longevity of a gaming laptop, especially since we haven't gotten close to saturating the PCI-E 3.0 lanes.
  • BulkZerker
    Hey sherrif. Unless I'm getting bunk info , the connector these laptops use a 8 lane 3.0 connection. Probably not an issue now, but its a good stopgap measure.

    As for the aio with a wart, it isn't made for us/ euro markets. Its for the emerging asain market. Thing will sell like hot cakes to cramped computer cafes
  • brettms71
    This is exactly what i'm after. I have an MSI laptop with a 880m inside it. It's great for gaming. But sometimes I want more. I guess I will have to upgrade the laptop at some point, so will definitely be getting a MSI with a docking station. Was waiting for the new design, because the old one was a bit ugly :)
  • Crashman
    I gave MSI this idea 10 years ago, so where's my payoff? The conversation went something like this:

    Me: You know the docking stations nobody uses any more? Why not run with that idea as a graphics enclosure? You can power the card from the enclosure, and people can use the same machine for high-end gaming as they use on the road!

    Them: What would we use for an interface?

    Me: You could use the PCIe interface or, better still, have your engineers search the industry for a solution that's less fragile and easier to connect.

    MSI: That sounds like a terribly big connector, I don't think our notebooks have room on the circuit board for this type of feature.

    Me: Your guys are smart, tell them to keep looking until they find something.

    MSI, I only want a buck for every notebook you sell with this feature. I'll make it easier for you, a buck for ever gaming dock you sell. See, I'm not greedy, this is more about the credit than the money :p

    Heck, you can knock it down to $0.25 if you name the interface after me and print that name next to it :)

    I'm pretty sure that first conversation was at CES 2005, and I talked to them again about it a few years later when they were showing an experimental ExpressCard solution.
  • Exodus Black
    This all looks so amazing, I really can't wait to buy this. External GPUs are so cool, I hope this becomes a standard and kills the pricetags on some of those expensive gaming laptops/ultrabooks (I'm looking at you Razer).