MSI is jumping on the Intel Thunderbolt bandwagon with a new product called GUS II. GUS II is an external graphics card enclosure designed to house a single card with a power draw no higher than 150 watts, ideally targeted at notebook gamers. The device operates over the Thunderbolt interface on one end with a PCIe X16 slot for cards inside the enclosure. Hardware-wise, the GUS II is ready to go but MSI admitted there were still some issues to work out on the software/driver side. MSI expects GUS II to retail between $100 and $150 sometime in the first half of this year.
We looked at some interesting motherboards from MSI as well. Announced just a week before CES, the Big Bang XPower II is MSI's new flagship Extended ATX board that will be launching in a few weeks featuring 4-way AMD Crossfire and Nvidia SLI support, Intel's X79 chipset (socket 2011) and supporting up to 128GB of system memory. The board includes a 22 phase PWM with hybrid digital power, dual 8-pin CPU headers and currently holds the record for the fastest base clock at 168MHz. There are seven total PCIe lanes with PCIe ceasefire that allows you to kill individual lanes when doing multi-GPU benchmarking or testing. Enthusiasts can expect to pay just south of $500 for MSI's latest board when it becomes available.
Also on display were a couple of Z77-based offerings, the GD65 and GD80. Both boards feature PCIe Gen 3 support, ClickBIOS II, OC Genie II and THX TruStudio Pro. We liked that these boards don't feature any legacy PCI slots. Additionally, MSI had to remove the OC Genie button due to layout issues. We were told that the Z77 series will feature less power phases, resulting in 22 watts less than previous offerings. The GD80 additionally features Intel's Thunderbolt technology. Look for both boards to be available in the second quarter of 2012.