The new MSI GS65 Stealth has knocked our previous choice of the best gaming laptop, Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501, off this list, thanks to its excellent array of cutting edge components, which includes an 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. It’s also more reasonably priced than the Zephyrus GX501, and its subtle design means that it can double as a work or study laptop without raising any eyebrows. If you’re looking for a more affordable gaming laptop, however, check out the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming below.
MSI has at last elevated its leading line of laptops to elite status with the MSI GS65 Stealth for 2018, making the absolute best of the technology afforded it. Earning our Editor’s Choice award, MSI’s gaming laptop brings immense power to a subtle and attractive package unlike any attempt before.
The result is a sleek, portable 15-inch laptop within a 14-inch device that’s capable of high-end gaming as well as intense productivity work for a decent price – cheaper than key competitors. If you’re looking for the ultimate crowd pleaser laptop, you’ve just found it.
Today’s GS65 review unit retains the same 15.6-inch matte IPS 1920×1080 display, which features a 144 Hz refresh rate that is immediately obvious at first glance due to the fluidity of even such mundane motions as pointer movement. Subjectively, brightness and contrast seem average and colors pop fairly vividly.
As expected (since both panels are identical), our measurements are nearly the same as those we witnessed from the previous unit. We record a mere 256.8 cd/m² average brightness (distribution: 83%) with a decent contrast of 784:1 (spurred by a black level of 0.32 cd/m²). That’s well below the close to 300 cd/m² average we see from all other competitors in our field, and the contrast is also the lowest overall.
Color coverage from the display is decent, managing 92% of sRGB and 60% of AdobeRGB. This isn’t sufficient for serious photographers or anyone doing graphic design, but for practically everyone else, it’s perfectly adequate. Most competitors post similar numbers, with only the XPS 15 faring better with 99% / 71% respectively.
Color accuracy is also a reasonably strong suit for the GS65; our CalMAN measurements reveal ColorChecker/Greyscale DeltaE averages of just 2.77 / 4 and a ColorChecker maximum of still just 5.89 (Blue). The Total Gamma of 2.27 and CCT Average of 6901 are also good results.
MSI has thankfully gone in a different direction regarding the look and feel of its flagship thin-and-light gaming laptop, focusing on a device with far wider appeal. You won’t find stark angles or red LEDs all over this laptop – rather, you’ll find a sleek, all-black device with subtle gold accents on its lid, within its dual hinges and surrounding its touchpad.
Those gold accents are also found highlighting the laptop’s heat vents, but nowhere else on the brushed, black aluminum frame. The result is one of the most understated gaming laptops we’ve seen to date – one that we would have no problem whipping out in a coffee shop much less at a eSports tournament.
As for how the laptop feels, the GS65 Stealth weighs just 4.14 pounds (1.88kg) and measures a measly 0.69 inches (17.53mm) thin. The laptop fits just fine in our backpack and doesn’t weigh us down, which is impressive considering MSI tells us it could have gone even thinner and lighter but opted for an Ethernet port and the goal of eight hours of battery life.
That said, while MSI clearly made an effort to improve the size of its charging brick, its size negates a bit of that hard work. Regardless, this is still one of the most portable gaming laptops around.
Being just thin enough has afforded the laptop not only room for plenty of ports, but also a SteelSeries keyboard with plenty of travel and forceful feedback. Plus, the keyboard is RGB backlit with 16.7 million color options and SteelSeries’s GameSense, which changes the lighting behavior to sync with gameplay in supported games.
The glass-coated touchpad feels just fine, and doesn’t trigger movements when typing, telling us it has strong palm rejection.
Now, another reason we suspect MSI went a little thicker with the GS65 Stealth’s frame and heavier with its weight was to make room for its three-fan Cooler Boost Trinity thermal system. More on that in a bit. However, with that extra room, MSI didn’t loan much of it to the tiny and tinny speakers, which fire down from beneath its base. Just bring a headset and you’ll be fine – especially considering the amount of tuning MSI has done to improve that experience.
All MSI GS65 notebooks are powered by an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU and either 16 GB or 32 GB of DDR4-2400 MHz dual-channel RAM. Two different GPU options are available: the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB) and GTX 1070 Max-Q (8 GB). Finally, storage ranges between 256 GB and 1 TB, all solid-state—some SATA, some NVMe, and even a 1 TB option termed “Super RAID 4” (which actually just refers to dual 512 GB NVMe SSDs in a RAID-0 configuration).
Our review unit is just a step below the previous machine we tested, featuring an Intel Core i7-8750H, GTX 1060 GPU, 16 GB DDR4 dual-channel memory, and a 256 GB NVMe SSD.
As one might expect, performance while unplugged is notably below that while plugged in; a secondary run of 3DMark 11 while operating on battery power yields a score of just 5758. Elsewhere, LatencyMon reveals no issues with DPC Latencies.