MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF Review: it’s expensive, but it’s genuinely worth it

Rating: 9/10

Yay:

  • Great build quality in a thin gaming laptop
  • Amazing display quality
  • SteelSeries’ keyboard is amazing to use
  • Top-notch performance

Nay:

  • Speakers could be better tuned
  • Fans kick in randomly
  • Lacks value for money when you look at hardcore specs

Introduction

I’ve made it no secret that when it comes to gaming laptops, MSI is one of my most preferred brands out there. The company has been one of the pioneers in the gaming scene, and their knowledge shows in the machines that they create. Now, while gaming ultrabooks are still something that are quite premium, they are pretty much one of the best looking laptops out there. And well, the MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF is no different. Packing in some hardcore hardware along with other bells and whistles, the laptop is one of the best gaming ultrabooks you can buy right now. However, does all that manage to justify the beefy price tag of Rs. 2,09,990? Let’s find out, in our review of the MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF, Mr. Phone style.

Also read: MSI P65 Creator 8RE Review: It’s not for everyone and that’s a good thing

Design And Build Quality

Let’s start off with the design of this laptop. The design looks pretty similar to every other MSI slim gaming laptop out there. It features a plain black finish with gold accents, along with the MSI dragon branding in the top-center of the back. The overall set up is quite neat, that is, from the outside.

Once you open the lid, you are greeted by this display panel that has non-existent bezels on three sides but houses a massive chin for the controller and stuff. Then, on to the C section of the laptop, you have the premium SteelSeries gaming keyboard that MSI’s top of the line laptops are known for, along with a pretty massive heat vent that one might assume to be a speaker grill. I’ll talk about the performance of both these later on in this review, but in terms of design, the laptop really looks pretty amazing.

Owing to the fact that this is a gaming ultrabook, the laptop actually weighs just 1.9kg and is 17.9 mm at its thickest point. I know 1.9kg sounds like a lot, but considering the horsepower this laptop packs in, that’s actually quite good. And to be honest, I’ve been carrying this laptop around in my messenger bag for about a month now, and I’ve hardly faced any issues in terms of portability, to be honest.

To sum it up, the flat design is pretty neat and premium, and it is something that MSI has carried for a while now. The thing is that it works, and also adds a signature value in terms of design to the company. As such, there is no need for the company to go about changing it. Oh, and the build quality is top-notch too. This is a premium-grade metal chassis, that feels quite sturdy, and there is hardly any flex anywhere.

Ports And Connectivity

Now when you talk of connectivity, the MSI GS65 gets as good as it can be. On to the left side, you get a Kensington lock, followed by the exhaust, followed by an RJ45 LAN port, 2x USB 3.0 ports, and dedicated 3.5mm ports for headphones and mic.

Over to the right side, you can find another exhaust, followed by the DC charging port, a full-size HDMI port, a mini-Display port, a USB Type-C port, and another USB 3.0 port.

It is worth highlighting that all the USB Type-A ports here are of the USB 3.1 standard. Also, while I usually ask for Type-C charging on ultrabooks, asking for that here would be stupid, considering you’d need some really massive power to keep the monstrous hardware inside happy. That said, I would have liked to see an SD card slot here, considering there is a massive portion of the audience out there that actually buys gaming laptops for content creation. A machine with this kind of hardware would certainly appeal to them, but the lack of an inbuilt SD Card reader can be a deal-breaker to some.

Display

I’ve said it, and some of the best reviewers in the industry also agree with me that no gamer wants a 4K panel on a laptop this small. Instead, give them a higher refresh rate display, and you would have hit a sweet spot. The MSI GS65 isn’t different, and the laptop comes with a 144Hz high refresh rate panel.

However, this thing isn’t just about the refresh rate. It is pretty damn good too. The 15.6-inch IPS LCD display here is one of the best and the brightest panels I’ve used in a long time, and I absolutely love it. The display panel has minute bezels on all three edges and has just a massive chin which hides the display controller. The content on the display looks super crisp, and while the company isn’t sporting any claims over the sRGB value, the panel certainly seems quite accurate.

While I’ll get to the performance aspect in a while, I did play a handful of games on this machine, and everything looked absolutely stellar. Not only was the higher refresh rate pretty good, but the response time of the display is also great which makes things work almost seamlessly. If there’s one thing about the panel that I’d like to change is that I’d like it bezel-less from all four sides, but that isn’t a major deal and I’d still rate this panel as one of best ones on offer on a gaming laptop in the market right now.

Keyboard

MSI’s keyboards on their premium laptops have always been good, and there’s a good reason behind that. That’s because they’ve partnered with SteelSeries for the keyboards, and the keyboard on this laptop legit feels like heaven. We all know mechanical keyboards are the best (don’t argue with me on that), but the keyboard on the MSI GS65 is one that really comes close to delivering almost the perfect mixture of a chicklet and a mechanical keyboard.

While it is easy to categorize the keyboard here as a chicklet keyboard, the actual typing feel is quite similar to that of a mechanical keyboard. These are quite audible too, sounding similar to the Cherry MX Brown keys out there. Honestly, this combo makes it the perfect option on a gaming ultrabook. I mean, let’s be realistic, having a mechanical keyboard on an ultrabook sounds stupid, and it wouldn’t look that good too either. However, what we have here is pretty great, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My average typing speed on this laptop was about 71 words per minute, which is right up there with my top speed of 77 wpm. 

The keyboard section of this review wouldn’t be complete without addressing the RGB on offer. While I’m mostly a fan of the RGB settings that Alienware offers, the options that SteelSeries gives you aren’t bad either. You have to launch the SteelSeries Engine 3 app to head over to customize the options. There aren’t a lot of animations here, and I stuck with the default Chakra style of lighting. However, with per-key RGB here, you have the freedom to go as crazy as you want to. The lighting isn’t too bright but is bright enough to illuminate the keys in darkness while not making a color-contrast issue in daylight. Overall, the keyboard is another thing added to the long list of things to love about this laptop.

Touchpad

Before I even talk about the touchpad experience, I want you to just take a look at it. Just look how freakishly massive this is?!

Now I know what you’re thinking, that this would translate to massive ghost or random touches. Well, think again, ‘coz you’re wrong. This is honestly the best touchpad on a laptop, period. What’s mind-boggling is that it wasn’t even required, for this is a gaming laptop and users are gonna use a gaming mouse anyway. But I have to applaud MSI for the touchpad they’ve incorporated here.

The glass surface touchpad is super smooth and the 35% extra touchpad space gives you ample room for all your gestures. There’s palm rejection on this touchpad which works really well and leaves no room for any complaints. You definitely get your money’s worth on this laptop for sure, and the touchpad is something to literally fall in love with.

Audio

Remember how I talked about how you might mistake the heat section at the top to be the speaker grills? Well, actually, the speakers on this laptop are placed right at the bottom. And to be fair, that is the only caveat with them, coz the audio on the MSI GS65 Stealth, despite the bad placement, is amazing. Not only do the speakers get quite loud, but the levels are also quite balanced.

There’s also a significant amount of bass here, that really enhances the overall experience, especially in terms of gaming. The audio here is tuned by Nahimic, and it shows, coz you can genuinely expect professional-grade audio quality from the device.

Performance

Let’s talk about the spec sheet first. The MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF packs in an Intel Core i7-8750H processor coupled with 16GB of DDR4-2667MHz RAM along with a 512GB Samsung MZVLB512HAJQ PCIe SSD. As for graphics, you get the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q GPU. It sounds like a performance beast and it performs like one too. 

The laptop easily manages to run all the games at the highest settings possible without breaking a sweat. All the titles ran on Ultra settings, and you can easily cross the 60fps base mark on all of them. For games like NFS Heat and Battlefield V, the higher refresh rate really makes everything look super smooth. While the performance is definitely not the same as a standard RTX 2070 GPU, the Max-Q variant doesn’t disappoint a lot.

Thermals And Upgradability

Getting inside the system is a bit of a task though. You have to unscrew a total of 15 screws, including one hidden underneath the factory seal. Do note that unlike most laptops these days, trying to access the insides of the system will void the warranty. Once inside, you’d notice this black sheet for insulation. The actual components, however, are hidden on to the underside of the device. You can try and disconnect each and every ribbon cable and every other component, but even then, you’d find a system that is not upgradeable. As such, I’d recommend not voiding that warranty sticker, and in case something goes wrong, just visiting a service center instead of trying to fix it on your own. It isn’t meant for the average Joe, and while MSI is known for keeping its components working fine, digging through them is a hassle on this one. However, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Battery Life

The MSI GS65 isn’t just a gaming laptop, it is one that packs in some really beefy hardware. While it may look like an ultrabook, you can definitely not expect similar battery life from this beast. In my testing, I was able to squeeze about 3 hours of juice on this thing, which is pretty decent, considering everything that the device comes equipped with. MSI’s Dragon Center gives you a whole lot of options to carefully tune the settings you want, and while the battery life isn’t great, it is still pretty good for its hardware. That said, the charging brick here is pretty beefy, and it really makes carrying the device everywhere a bit of a hassle at times. 

Should You Buy The MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF?

So, should you buy the MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF? Well, if you can afford it, absolutely. It goes without saying that the laptop is pretty expensive, but I wouldn’t really call it overpriced. Yes, you can get other options that come with similar hardware at a cheaper price tag, but there’s always some cost-cutting. Either the keyboard isn’t good, the touchpad is mediocre, the sound isn’t loud, or the display isn’t that responsive. The GS65 Stealth, on the other hand, completely justifies its price tag, and if you have got the money to spend, the laptop wouldn’t leave you disappointed at all.

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Varun Mirchandani
varun.mirchandani@u2opiamobile.com

Varun is your go-to guy for everything related to technology. Someone with a keen interest in the Android world, he installs a new custom ROM every week and is always living on the bleeding edge of technology. When not writing for Mr. Phone, you can find him gaming on his beastly gaming rig which is also his prized possession.