Say hello to my skinny friend. MSI’s GS65 Stealth Thin is one of the thinnest gaming laptops available at only 4.1 pounds and 0.7 inches in thickness (reviewed at $1,999, or $1,799 beginning). Also, it’s one of the first gaming PCs to sport Intel’s 8th generation, six-core Coffee Lake chip, which, compared to its predecessor, offers an additional 20% in performance.
MSI GS65 hasn’t scrimped on the gaming chops, though; the notebook’s VR-ready Nvidia GeForce 1070 Max-Q GPU is packed into a very compact chassis, assuring both fast frame rates and a fluid virtual reality experience. While the MSI GS65 Stealth’s heat issues detract from its otherwise excellent mobility, it remains one of the greatest gaming laptops money can buy.
Note from the Editors: MSI has released a new model of the GS65 Stealth(opens in new tab), which has a 9th Gen Intel CPU, Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics, and a 240Hz display. Soon, you may expect a review of this laptop from us.
Design: The Golden Touch
With its gold highlights and unassuming beauty, the Stealth Thin is the Bond girl of gaming laptops. All aluminum alloy used to construct the computer is sandblasted to a matte black finish. MSI GS65 uses the Midas touch, replacing the traditional red and white dragon symbol logo with a printed black and gold insignia. A narrow golden strip with intricate diamond cutting is on the inside of the lid. A touch of gold was also applied to the side vents to offer a touch of class.
Due to its dual purpose, MSI incorporated a flexible hinge on the Stealth that lets you lay the screen flat in case you need to do some fast teamwork. If you want to make the screen easier for the person across you to read, use Ctrl + Alt + Down Arrow.
Extra sleek black metal decorates the laptop’s inside. The keyboard and touchpad are gilded in bright gold, and the power button is plated in the same metal. While I like the design as a whole, I particularly like the flowery patterns on the top vent.
The Stealth has several ports despite its compact design. The power jack, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, and USB 3.1 Type-A ports are on the right side of the device. In addition to Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a secure lock slot, a microphone jack, and a S/PDIF connector for high-resolution audio, this device also has two USB 3.1 Type-A ports.
What exactly is Stealth Thin’s slimness rating? Extremely. The laptop weighs 4.1 pounds and has dimensions of 14.1 by 9.8 by 0.7 inches, making it one of the lightest gaming laptops available. The 15.1 by 10.3 by 0.7 by 0.8-inch, 5.5-pound Asus Zephyrus ROG M GM501 is a close second. The Alienware 15 R3 weighs 7.4 pounds and measures 15.3 by 12 by 1 inch, making it the biggest and thickest of the group. The PowerSpec 1510 weighs 6.5 pounds and measures 15.3 by 10.8 by 1.3 inches.
The Stealth has a 15.6-inch screen; however, it can only show at 1920 x 1080. Although I would have preferred a QHD or 4K display, I do enjoy the 144 Hz refresh rate that should reduce screen tearing and lag. In addition, the very vibrant colors left me in awe, especially the pink and green neon holographic controls in the Tears of Steel short. The level of detail was such that I could make out individual scales on a snakeskin jacket and see dirt and dust embedded in the jacket’s worn fissures.
In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I searched the countryside for a rampaging griffin, but I also had time to pause and smell the hellebores. A big bloodstain and many bloody bones littered the area ahead of me as I paused to gather the potion component.
This has so much color! The Zephyrus (120%), Alienware 15 (114%), and the 1510 (150%) can’t compare to Stealth’s ability to reproduce the entire sRGB color gamut (113 percent).
Our measurements of the Stealth display showed an average brightness of 293 nits, higher than the 288-nit mark for premium gaming. This is noticeably brighter than the Zephyrus’ 286 nits but still not as bright as the 1510s 306 nits or the Alienware 15’s 400 nits (374 nits).
As much as I hate it, Stealth’s bottom-mounted speakers are excellent. When I first heard “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae, I was blown away by how loud the system was. Sharp percussion, crisp synthesizers, fiery guitar, and Monae’s squeaky, sex-kitten soprano flooded my bedroom.
Nothing except the wind and the gentle grass sway could be heard as I followed the route through the woodland in Witcher 3. A bird’s piercing cry pierced the tranquility of the forest. A few seconds later, I heard a tremendous wingbeat and a roar that seemed from another world. The meaty thud of silver sliding into flesh was punctuated by the recognizable tambourines and violins of the Witcher combat soundtrack.
The third version of Nahimic’s audio software from MSI shows that the two companies are still committed to creating high-quality tunes. The streamlined program eliminates many unnecessary default settings in favor of four primary categories: Music, Movie, Communication, and Gaming. Bass, treble, and voice controls may be accessible, depending on the preset. You may use the Volume Stabilizer if you don’t want your music to be too loud and bother other people. The new software’s most prominent feature is the Surround Sound effect, which makes your listening experience seem as immersive as if you were in a tiny music hall.
Aside from enhancing the microphone’s preamplifier, Nahimic may also be used to reduce static noise and eliminate echo. Moreover, the mic will only pick up sounds in front of it, thanks to the Lateral Sound Cancellation feature. The corporation has maintained the Sound Tracker tool, which plots the origin of in-game sounds on a map. Seventy titles, including The Witcher 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider, World of Tanks, and Wolfenstein: The New Order, support the functionality of this writing.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keys on a laptop with this thin profile often have a shallow profile. It’s not like that with the Stealth. Despite falling short of our preferred key travel range of 1.5–2 mm (1.4 mm), the 77-gram force actuation of the island-style keys is impressive. This makes for remarkably springy keys, and I managed to maintain my typical 70 WPM on the 10fastfingers typing test.
While I like MSI’s 24K keyboard magic, I am pleased to see that the firm continues to collaborate with SteelSeries to provide 16.7 million colors to the SteelSeries Engine. What’s gold without a few diamonds, right? That way, I can make my own unique, jewel-toned color palette. Since the illumination of each key is independent, you may be as detailed as you want in your customization.
The SteelSeries Engine 3 software does more than just make your keyboard seem pretty; it also lets you program macros. While you’re tweaking and coding, you may decide which programs will open when using the new setup.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
So slim, but so powerful. The Stealth has an 8GB VRAM GPU from Nvidia and the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q. The GPU’s power level is between a standard GTX 1070 and 1080, making it capable of producing playable frame rates at the maximum settings and supporting virtual reality. However, the system works more silently and at a lower temperature than conventional systems because of its emphasis on power economy and usage.
It was tense when I fought a griffin in The Witcher 3. When a flying monster’s talons came close, I had to roll out of the way every time. After it landed, I stunned it with an Axii spell and hacked at its chest. The action was consistently rendered at 54 fps on Ultra at 1080p, thanks to the Max-Q GPU.
The Stealth’s 44 frames per second on the Rise of the Tomb Raider test (very high, 1080p) blew by our 30 fps playability barrier. However, it fell short of the 57 fps premium gaming average and the 56, 53, and 52 fps achieved by 1510, Zephyrus, and Alienware 15 (GTX 1070), respectively.
The Stealth managed 79 frames per second in the Hitman test, one frame less than the 80 fps category average but more than twice as fast as the 1510s 30 fps. 98 frames per second were recorded on the Alienware 15, but just 87 were recorded on the Zephyrus.
The average frame rate in Grand Theft Auto V was 67 frames per second. However, the Stealth only managed 61. And yet, it still edged out 1510, which only achieved 60 frames per second. The Zephyrus managed 70 frames per second, but the Alienware 15 only managed 68.
On SteamVR, the Stealth performed well, earning a 9.5, which puts it in the top quartile of all devices tested (but still below the average of 10.5). Compared to the 1510 and the Alienware 15, which reached a maximum of 11, the Zephyrus scored slightly better (10.9).
One of the first gaming laptops, the Stealth Thin, has an Intel 8th Generation Coffee Lake CPU. These new processors contain six cores instead of four, resulting in increased performance over their predecessors.
All that extra power was on full display while I watched a Netflix episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” while simultaneously running Windows Defender and having twenty-five Chrome tabs open. The Stealth’s 3.9 GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and 16 GB of RAM breezed through the job with zero lag.
As for our synthetic benchmarks, the laptop performed well, earning 17,184 on Geekbench 4 to comfortably outscore the 15,942 premium gaming average. Compared to the Alienware 15 (Core i7-7820HK CPU) and the 1510 (Core i7-7700HQ CPU), Zephyrus’s score of 20,590 is rather excellent.
The Stealth took 12 minutes and 1 second to downscale a 4K movie to 1080p in the Handbrake test. Compared to the average category (14:10) and 1510 (14:00), that is much quicker. The Zephyrus crossed the line in 9 minutes and 43 seconds and was too fast.
When copying a 4.97GB mixed-media file, Stealth’s 512GB M.2 SSD achieved a transfer rate of 193.3 MB/s. The result is much lower than the typical premium gaming laptop’s 640.5 MBps throughput. The 1510 (256GB NVMe SSD) outperformed the Alienware 15 (512GB PCIe SSD) at a throughput of 391.5 MBps.
As is often the case, a gaming laptop’s battery life will suffer at the expense of its processing speed. It’s not like that with the Stealth. When put through Laptop Mag’s Battery Test, which involves nonstop web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the machine lasted an astounding 5 hours and 40 minutes, crushing the 3:49 premium gaming laptop average thanks to the GPU’s exceptional efficiency with power. After 2:47, the Zephyrus quit.
I embarked on a quest for the first fifteen minutes of Witcher 3. I finished by taking the Stealth temperature in three different locations. Our comfort level is 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and the touchpad registered 82 degrees. The core, however, was far hotter, reaching a scorching 101 degrees. The laptop’s underside got to a scorching 122 degrees in its nature.
To improve the performance of the Stealth, MSI redesigned its previous-generation fans with thinner fan blades and increased the number of heat pipes from three to five. Because of this, the noise level of the fans throughout my Witcher romp was tolerable. When the fans kicked on, though, there was a faint but audible whistle.
After 15 minutes of running an HD movie, we returned to those areas to remeasure. The touchpad registered at 87 degrees, the center of the keyboard at 94 degrees, and the bottom at a somewhat uncomfortable 102 degrees.
Dell, Gigabyte, take notice. A thin bezel won’t block the webcam. With the lens at the top of the bezel, you don’t have to worry about video conferencing strangers up your nose.
I wish MSI had included a higher-resolution camera in this costly laptop than 720p. My bedroom test images bleached much of the color, including my bright orange clothing. Visual noise reduced the image’s detail. It looked like I was using an Instagram filter.
Software and Warranty
MSI’s gaming tools will enhance your experience. System Monitoring is located in the futuristic-looking Dragon Center. You can also alter System Tuner and Voice Boost settings here. Battery Calibration and Burn Recovery are system applications. There’s a memory button.
The laptop’s System Control Manager (SCM) lets you turn Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the Webcam, the Display, and the volume and brightness on and off. MSI True Color lets you alter the display’s color temperature to suit your surroundings.
Insufficient resources? Check out Nvidia GeForce Experience for Battery Calibration, Game Optimization, and WhisperMode. XSplit Gamecaster lets players webcast games. MSI contains Killer Control Center, which checks all open applications and allocates additional bandwidth to data-intensive apps.
As with many Windows laptops, the Stealth features bloatware including Bubble Witch Saga 3, LinkedIn, Evernote, CyberLink PowerDirector 14, CyberLink PowerDirector 8, Music Maker Jam, Spotify, March of Empires, and a 30-day free trial of Dolby Atmos for Headphones through Dolby Access.
MSI GS65 Stealth Thin has a 1-year warranty. MSI’s Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Gaming Brands scores are available.
Some players prefer a glowing system. They want a gaming laptop that looks professional. MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is for kidults like myself.
For $1,999, you get a powerful laptop with great speakers and a comfortable, configurable keyboard. Asus ROG Zephyrus, $2,199, features identical components but a dimmer display and a bigger, heavier chassis. MSI GS65 Stealth Pro is a small, smart laptop perfect for gaming and math.