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MSI GS65 Stealth Thin Review

OUR VERDICT

The MSI GS65 Stealth delivers great graphics and overall performance in a svelte, sophisticated chassis.

FOR

  • Great overall and graphics performance
  • Barely there bezels
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Slim, beautiful design
  • Impressive battery life

AGAINST

  • Gets hot while gaming

Say hello to my skinny friend. At a mere 4.1 pounds and 0.7 inches thick (reviewed at $1,999, or $1,799 starting), MSI’s GS65 Stealth Thin is one of the company’s slimmest gaming laptops to date. It’s also one of the first gaming systems to feature Intel’s 8th gen, six-core Coffee Lake processor, which promises 20 percent more performance than its predecessor, making this model a good system for productivity.

But MSI hasn’t skimped on the gaming power, cramming a VR-ready Nvidia GeForce 1070 Max-Q GPU into that slim chassis and all but guaranteeing the notebook will deliver high frame rates and smooth virtual reality experience — all in an unbelievably pretty frame. We wish this machine ran cooler, but overall the MSI GS65 Stealth is one of the best gaming laptops you can buy for those who value portability.

Design: The Golden Touch

Adorned with gold accents and beautiful without being ostentatious, the Stealth Thin is the Bond girl of gaming laptops. The entirety of the laptop’s chassis is made from black, matte sandblasted aluminum alloy. Instead of the usual backlit red-and-white dragon sigil logo, MSI employs a little Midas touch, replacing it with a printed black-and-gold emblem. A thin, diamond-cut golden strip lines the top of the lid. The company also added some gold to the side vents for an elegant flash of color.

Since it’s designed for work and play, MSI equipped the Stealth with a flexible hinge that allows you to lay the display flat, just in case you need to do a quick collaboration. Pressing Ctrl + Alt + Down Arrow will flip the screen orientation 180 degrees to provide a better view for the person sitting across from you.

The interior of the laptop is stately, with more black aluminum. The power button and touchpad are lined in gold, with a glowing, gilded keyboard. While I’m a fan of the overall look, my favorite part of the interior is the top-mounted vent, with its delicate floral designs.

While the Strealth’s frame is definitely thin, it still has plenty of ports. On the right sits a USB 3.1 Type-A port, Thunderbolt 3, a Mini DisplayPort, HDMI and the power jack. You’ll find a pair of USB 3.1 Type-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a secure lock slot, a microphone jack and a S/PDIF jack for high-res audio.

So, just how slim is the Stealth Thin? Extremely. At 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches, the 4.1-pound laptop is one of the slimmest gaming laptops on the market. The 5.5-pound Asus Zephyrus ROG M GM501 is a close second, with a 15.1 x 10.3 x 0.7~0.8-inch frame. The PowerSpec 1510 is on the heavier side of the equation at 6.5 pounds, 15.3 x 10.8 x 1.3 inches and the Alienware 15 R3 is the thickest and heaviest of the bunch at 7.4 pounds and 15.3 x 12 x 1 inches.

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin price and configurations

The MSI GS65 Stealth starts at $1,799, which includes a Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 SSD and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM.

I felt like the belle of the ball reviewing the $1,999 model of the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, which has a 3.9-GHz, six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 SSD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of RAM.

Want more storage? MSI has a $2,999 iteration that doubles the RAM and SSD capacity to 32GB and 1TB, respectively, in a Super RAID 4 configuration.

Display

The Stealth’s 15.6-inch display only comes in 1920 x 1080 resolution. But while I wished for a QHD or 4K version, I appreciated the 144-Hertz refresh rate, which should help cut down on screen tears and latency. I also marveled over the incredibly vivid hues, like the pink and green neon holographic controls in the Tears of Steel short. Details were sharp enough that I could see the individual scales in a snakeskin jacket as well as the dirt and grime that settled into the cracks and crevices of the well-worn red garment.

I scoured the countryside in search of a rampaging griffin in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, but took some time to stop and smell the hellebores. As I stopped to pick the potion ingredient, I noticed a large bloodstain in the clearing up ahead and several gore-soaked bones — a calling card of my prey.

So much vibrancy! The Stealth can reproduce 150 percent of the sRGB color gamut — an achievement that beats not only the 141 percent average, but also the Zephyrus (120 percent), the Alienware 15 (114 percent) and the 1510 (113 percent).

The Stealth’s panel averaged 293 nits when we measured for brightness, topping the 288-nit premium gaming score. That’s brighter than the Zephyrus (286 nits), but nowhere near the 1510 (306 nits) nor Alienware 15 (374 nits).

Audio

Wow. These. Speakers. Kick. Ass. While I typically detest bottom-mounted speakers, the pair on the Stealth are actually very good. As I listened to Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel,” I was impressed by how loud the system actually was. It filled my bedroom with sharp percussion, clean synths, feisty guitar and Monae’s mewling, sex-kitten vocal.

Wow. These. Speakers. Kick. Ass.

The forest in Witcher 3 was quiet, save for the wind and the slight swoosh from the grass as I tracked the trail. A shrill call from a bird overhead broke the otherwise bucolic sounds of nature. A few seconds later, I heard a heavy beating of wings and an unearthly roar. The tambourines and violins of the familiar Witcher fight music swelled to life and punctated the meaty thud of silver sinking into flesh.

Nahimic and MSI continue to make beautiful music with the third iteration of the former’s audio software. The retooled software keeps it simple, getting rid of its myriad presets, going instead with Music, Movie, Communication and Gaming. Depending on the preset, you can adjust the bass, treble or voice. There’s even a Volume Stabilizer to keep your music from disturbing the people around you. The best part of the new software is the Surround Sound effect, which adds noticeable depth to anything you’re listening to, giving the illusion that you’re in a small concert hall.

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Keyboard and Touchpad

Normally, with a laptop this slim, the keyboard keys are somewhat shallow. Not so with the Stealth. Despite coming up short with what we like to see for key travel (1.4 millimeters instead of 1.5 to 2 mm), the island-style keys have a strong, 77-gram force actuation. As a result, the keys are surprisingly springy, and I hit my usual 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test.

While I appreciate the 24K magic MSI has going with the keyboard, I’m glad to see that the company is still working with SteelSeries to deliver 16.7 million colors in its SteelSeries Engine software. That way, I can create my own custom, jewel-toned color scheme, because what’s gold without a few gems? And since each key has its own individual lighting, you can get as granular as you want and pick colors and effects for each and every key.

In addition to making the keyboard look purty, SteelSeries Engine 3 software allows you to create macros. And once you’re done customizing and programming, you can also set what applications will launch with your new configuration.

Gaming, Graphics and VR

So slim and incredibly powerful. The Stealth is packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM. Sitting snugly between a regular GTX 1070 and 1080, the GPU is powerful enough to deliver good frame rates at the highest settings as well as support VR. However, thanks to its focus on power efficiency and consumption, the system runs more quietly and at a cooler temperature than regular systems.

The Stealth Thin packs an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, which is powerful enough to deliver good frame rates at the highest settings.

My griffin battle in Witcher 3 was tense. I was constantly rolling out of the way to avoid an airborne beast’s razor-sharp talons. When it finally landed, I hit it with my Axii spell long enough to stun it and chop away at its breast. The Max-Q GPU never faltered, rendering the action at 54 frames per second on Ultra at 1080p.

When we ran the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (very high, 1080p), the Stealth delivered 44 fps, which sailed past our 30-fps playability threshold. However, it missed the 57-fps premium gaming average and the 1510, Zephyrus and Alienware 15’s (GTX 1070) results of 56, 53 and 52 fps, respectively.

During the Grand Theft Auto V test, the Stealth produced 61 fps, missing the 67-fps average. Still, it managed to sneak past the 1510, which scored 60 fps. The Alienware 15 hit 68 fps, while the Zephyrus delivered 70 fps.

The Stealth fared pretty well on the SteamVR test, scoring 9.5, placing it in the very high quadrant, which is a bit below the 10.5 average. The Zephyrus (10.9) posted a slightly higher score, while the 1510 and Alienware 15 maxed out at 11.

Performance

The Stealth Thin is one of the first gaming laptops to launch with Intel’s new 8th Gen Coffee Lake processor. One of the biggest improvements is that these new chips have six cores instead of four, which deliver more performance than the previous generation.

The Stealth’s 512GB M.2 SSD produced a transfer rate of 193.3 megabytes per second when duplicating a 4.97GB mixed-media file. The score is well below the 640.5-MBps premium gaming laptop average. The Alienware 15 (512GB PCIe SSD) got a result of 299.3 MBps, while the 1510 (256GB NVMe SSD) produced a rate of 391.5 MBps.

Battery Life

Usually, on a gaming laptop, you have to trade power for battery life. Not so with the Stealth. Thanks to that power-efficient GPU, the system lasted an extraordinary 5 hours and 40 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, shattering the 3:49 premium gaming laptop average. The Zephyrus tapped out after 2:47.

Heat

I went questing in Witcher 3 for 15 minutes. When I was done, I took the Stealth’s temperature in three strategic places. The touchpad measured 82 degrees Fahrenheit, while the center reached 101, which is warmer than our 95-degree comfort threshold. But the center of the laptop’s bottom was even hotter, at 122 degrees.

MSI retooled its last-gen fans for the Stealth with thinner fan blades and added five heat pipes instead of three. That meant when the fans turned on during my Witcher romp, they were relatively quiet. However, there was a noticeable, but low, whistle when the fans initially kicked in.

We measured those spots again once everything cooled down, but this time, after 15 minutes of running an HD video. The touchpad and middle of the keyboard measured 87 and 94 degrees, respectively, while the bottom hit a rather warm 102 degrees.

Webcam

Take note, Dell and Gigabyte. You can have a “barely there” bezel without placing the webcam in an unfortunate position. With the lens placed at the top of the bezel instead of below the screen, you don’t have to worry about giving people an up-close-and-personal shot up your nose when video conferencing.

Specifications

General

Sales PackageLaptop, Battery, Power Adaptor, User Guide, Warranty Documents
Model NumberGS65
Part Number9S7-16Q411-205
SeriesStealth
ColorBlack
TypeGaming Laptop
Suitable ForGaming, Processing & Multitasking
Power Supply230 W AC Adapter
Battery Cell4 cell
MS Office ProvidedNo

Processor And Memory Features

Dedicated Graphic Memory TypeGDDR6
Dedicated Graphic Memory Capacity8 GB
Processor BrandIntel
Processor NameCore i7
Processor Generation8th Gen
SSDYes
SSD Capacity512 GB
RAM16 GB
RAM TypeDDR4
Processor Variant8750H
Clock Speed2.2 GHz with Turbo Boost Upto 4.1 GHz
Cache9 MB
Graphic ProcessorNVIDIA Geforce RTX 2070
Number of Cores6

Operating System

OS Architecture64 bit
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home
System Architecture64 bit

Port And Slot Features

Mic InYes
RJ45Yes
USB Port1 x USB 3.1 Type C, 3 x USB 3.1 Type A
HDMI Port1 x HDMI Port

Display And Audio Features

TouchscreenNo
Screen Size39.62 cm (15.6 inch)
Screen Resolution1920 x 1080 Pixel
Screen TypeFull HD LED Backlit IPS Display (With 144 Hz Refresh Rate)
SpeakersBuilt-in Dual Speakers
Internal MicBuilt-in Microphone
Sound Properties2 x 2 W Speakers, Sound by Dynaudio

Connectivity Features

Wireless LANKiller Wireless 1550 (2×2)
Bluetoothv5.0
EthernetKiller Ethernet E2500

Dimensions

Dimensions357 x 247 x 18 mm
Weight1.88 kg

Additional Features

Disk DriveNot Available
Web CameraHD 720P Webcam
KeyboardPer-key Backlight RGB Keyboard by Steelseries (Single Color – White)
Backlit KeyboardYes
Pointer DeviceTouchpad
Included SoftwareSteelSeries Engine 3, Cooler Boost Trinity, Dragon Center 2.0, Nahimic 3, True Color 2.0
Additional FeaturesLi-ion Battery

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