There have been no shortage of attempts to give laptop graphics some added pop by connecting an external solution with a desktop board. Most recently, Shuttle and Gigabyte displayed new options at CeBIT in March, and now MSI is getting into the act with the prosaically named Graphics Upgrade Solution.
MSI will show off the GUS at Computex with an ATI Radeon HD 5670 card in its housing. The unit then connects to a laptop via the ExpressCard slot. So far, so good. Even a middling card like the 5670 can provide a nice boost over integrated graphics. But there are some significant limitations that won't let you turn an ordinary notebook into a gaming behemoth.
For one thing, the maximum power draw is 84 watts and there isn't an extra 6-pin power adapter, so the 5670 is pretty much the top card you can run. There's also a bandwidth limitation with using the ExpressCard slot, though MSI claims that it has found ways to juice more throughput out of the connection. Nonetheless, you're talking about the equivalent of a PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot.
MSI claims that future iterations of GUS will use USB 3.0 instead of ExpressCard, so things will get more interesting then. In the meantime, the company is looking to price the Graphics Upgrade Solution for between $169 and $229 with the Radeon HD 5670 card included, or $99 to $109 for the unit without a card. Hopefully, MSI will have more details, like a release date, when Computex opens in a couple of weeks.