Hooking up an external graphics card to your laptop is not a new idea. What’s new with the MSI GUS II (Graphics Update System II) is that it connects over the Thunderbolt interface. No wait, that isn’t new either, this was actually done with the latest Sony VAIO Z. Sony calls that one a “Power Media Dock” and it houses not only a GPU but also an optical drive. The word “power” in the title is also a relative term, since the included GPU is a mobile Radeon HD 6650M.
The whole concept of external graphics dates back to the AMD XGP box, which shipped with a couple of Fujitsu laptops and was a monumental failure in every respect. A much better option has been offered for quite some time in the form of the ViDock from Village Instruments.
In any event, the MSI GUS II allows you to attach a decent desktop graphics card via the Thunderbolt port that probably doesn’t exist on your laptop unless it’s a Mac (and to make matters worse it doesn’t support OS X for the time being). On the downside, it won’t be able to house the fastest graphics cards as it’s limited to the 75 Watts provided by the built-in PCI-Express slot (high-end cards requires at least one more 75 W connector if not two).
So far the concept of attaching an external GPU box to your laptop hasn’t been overly successful, but some users may find the idea appealing. Most of all, though, certain tech journalists seem to find the concept sensational. The problem (or one of the problems at least) with an external graphics solution is the glaringly obvious fact that it isn’t portable. So unless you want to carry this box around along with your slim-and-light laptop, it still doesn’t transform your low-end ultraportable into a gaming laptop.
That said, there are clearly some users that don’t mind having parts of the hardware on the outside of their laptops, so it’s not entirely useless. But according to my crystal ball it won’t be a smashing success this time around either.