Gaming

Capable gaming laptop at a premium

The MSI GS65 Stealth lasted about seven hours in The Straits Times video-loop battery test.
The MSI GS65 Stealth lasted about seven hours in The Straits Times video-loop battery test.

Displays with narrow bezels are increasingly the norm for laptops and smartphones. This trend has now spread to gaming laptops, with the new MSI GS65 Stealth 8RF-Thin sporting a near-bezel-less display.

The Stealth is not the first gaming laptop with this feature. The honour belongs to last year's Gigabyte Aero 15, which was supplanted by the Aero 15 W last month.

Both laptops offer a more immersive feel thanks to similarly slim bezels of around 5mm at the sides. But the Stealth's Web camera is at the usual location above the display. This is unlike the Aero, where the camera is below the screen, leading to unflattering shots of a user's chin and nostrils.

More importantly for gamers, the Stealth has a 144Hz high-refresh-rate 15-inch display that is more responsive than standard 60Hz screens. While this display does not support Nvidia's or AMD's adaptive frame rate technology (G-Sync and FreeSync respectively) to reduce stuttering, it should still lead to smooth gameplay.

MSI has partnered with gaming peripheral brand SteelSeries on notebook keyboards for a while now. This collaboration is behind the Stealth's colourful LED backlit keyboard. Using the SteelSeries Engine app, you can customise the backlight colour for each individual key. But I bet most users would pick one of the many pre-defined lighting schemes and leave it at that.

The keyboard feels as shallow as the ones on ultrabooks. This is unsurprising as the Stealth, at under 18mm, is almost as thin as ultrabooks. Most 15-inch gaming laptops also come with numeric keypads. Not the Stealth, which lacks the space for the keypad, likely because of its relatively compact footprint.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $3,799

    PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-8750H (2.2GHz)

    GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q 8GB GDDR5

    RAM: 16GB DDR4

    SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CONNECTIVITY: 3 x USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, audio jacks

    BATTERY: 82 watt-hour

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

In contrast to the gaudy designs of previous MSI gaming laptops, the Stealth shows more restraint. The MSI logo is smaller and is not backlit. But its thin aluminium chassis gets really warm, especially at the bottom, when the laptop is running at full tilt in games and other graphics-intensive apps.

Powering the Stealth is Intel's latest Core i7-8750H chip with six processing cores. It is the same processor as the one in the Gigabyte Aero 15 W. Although it will not improve gaming performance significantly, this processor will boost content creation apps such as video-editing and graphics-rendering apps.

It comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics chip, though it is a Max-Q variant that is clocked slightly lower than the standard GTX 1070 and is hence not as fast as the regular edition. Nonetheless, it is capable enough to run the latest games. In Crysis 3, the Stealth managed around 83 frames per second (fps) at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at the maximum setting. It also scored 106fps in Doom at similar settings.

I found MSI's Dragon Gaming Center app to be very handy for adjusting the laptop settings. This app lets you monitor and tune key settings, from switching display profiles to adjusting the fan speed.

An impressive takeaway - the Stealth lasted about seven hours in our video-loop battery test, rivalling some of the best laptops I have tried. Of course, it does have a substantial 82 watt-hour battery, unlike thinner and lighter ultrabooks.

MSI has clearly designed the Stealth to compete with the Aero 15 W. Both laptops are available here in two similar hardware configurations and at identical prices. The MSI Stealth is priced at $3,199 for the GTX 1060 version while my review set - with a GTX 1070 Max-Q chip - costs $3,799. It is a hefty price when one could get a similar, albeit chunky, gaming laptop for less.

• Verdict: MSI has crafted a slim and capable gaming laptop, but its premium price may not be for everyone.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 09, 2018, with the headline 'Capable gaming laptop at a premium'. Print Edition | Subscribe