MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF review: Beautiful craftsmanship, raw power and practicality
In the last couple of years, the Indian market has warmed up to video gaming at a pace. eSports is now considered a serious business and PC vendors are making sure they are cashing in on the opportunity. Whether you are willing to spend as much as the price of a little family hatchback or want something that does decent gaming without pinching the wallet too much, you will find tens of gaming laptops with varying degrees of power and features to suit an individual's needs. However, most of them are usually big and bulky clamshells that are impractical to live with and wear gaudy design.
Lately, mobile PC components, such as the GPU and CPU, have evolved enough to offer desktop-class performance without requiring massive and heavy bodies with huge heat sinks. Hence, PC vendors have started shrinking gaming laptops and trying to make them easier to live with. MSI has also been trying for a while and its latest offering in this segment -- the GS65 Stealth 8SF, is one fine example. Retailing at Rs 2,19,990, it's definitely not affordable but for that kind of money, you are getting one immensely powerful gaming laptop that's theoretically supposed to be your backpack companion. What about it in the real world? I had the Stealth on my desk for a few weeks and boy was I impressed!
The Good Stuff
Design and Build: Built like a MacBook but only more beautiful
If you are wondering whether I am unnecessarily exaggerating in the heading, then you take a look at the GS65 Stealth. To term this laptop as good looking would be an understatement -- this is outright beautiful. This is the kind of laptop that will make you fall in love with laptops, even though you don't care about gadgets.
Similar to any other ultra-slim gaming laptop, the GS65 Stealth is entirely made out of metal. However, it has been crafted with such elegance that it makes conventional gaming laptops with a plethora of RGB lights look old-fashioned. The lid is flat with no crazy stickers or RGB lighting -- it wears a matte black paint with gold accents around the edges. This design lends it a touch of class that you may find in some premium business ultrabooks. MSI's logo has also been done in the gold accent, hence making it more desirable to anyone who loves making a fashion statement with a laptop.
Look around the edges and you will notice the heat vents and the audio I/O ports carrying the same gold accents. I haven't seen any laptop whose heat vents have featured such beautiful patterns. Open the lid and you will be greeted with a classy keyboard-trackpad layout smeared with gold accents. The heat vents above the keyboard also have an interesting looking vent design. And whatever you touch here feels soft yet solid. The trackpad has a glass surface while the keyboard is a contribution from Steelseries -- a brand known for making quality gaming peripherals.
And if you assumed this was all, boot up the laptop and the keyboard lights up with possibly one of the most beautifully done RGB backlighting I have ever seen. The backlight is just perfect -- it isn't too bright to be distractive and has no light bleeding from the edge of the buttons. In dark rooms, it looks stunning.
While the entire laptop is made out of metal, it only weighs 1.9Kg -- almost as light as a conventional ultrabook. Hence it is easy to carry around everywhere. I was definitely not bothered by its weight while it was in my backpack. And despite being only 17.9mm thick, it offers all the necessary ports -- a USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2, 3 USB-A ports, an HDMI port, a mini Display port, an RJ45 Ethernet port and two separate 3.5mm ports for headphones and microphones.
Display: One of the best
Nowadays, most gaming laptops come with FullHD screens that support a refresh rate of 144Hz. The GS65 Stealth isn't different in this regard. It comes with a 15.3-inch IPS LCD display with FullHD resolution and a refresh rate of 144Hz. The screen is capable of rendering vibrant colours and high contrasts that make everything look exceptionally good in this laptop. Whether you watching YouTube videos or playing games, the colours are on spot (for the first time, I didn't even tinker around with the colour settings).
With wide-viewing angles and impressive brightness, this is a display that doesn't leave any scope of a complaint. The 144Hz refresh rate means that whether you are going through Windows Explorer menus or playing games, they always seem smoother to the eyes. This brilliant display truly compliments the exceptional performance that the GS65 is able to deliver. Speaking of performance...
Performance: This is a crazy fast laptop
If you are spending above a Rs 1 lakh on a gaming laptop, you can safely assume that your laptop will have no issues as far as performance is concerned. The GS65 Stealth 85F that I was using was rolled out earlier this year to offer the NVIDIA RTX graphics cards. However, by the time you are reading this, MSI has also rolled out an even more powerful variant with the 9th Gen Intel Core i7 processor. However, that's not to say this one is a slouch by any means -- not even in the parallel universe.
The hardware inside this laptop is super impressive: 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Nvidia RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics card with 8GB VRAM and Windows 10.
At this moment, the GS65 with this configuration can run any modern gaming title with high frame rates and ultra-high graphics settings. I was able to play Codemasters F1 2018 with maxed out settings and the laptop was returning a healthy frame rate of 80-90 fps. The RTX 2070 Max-Q shows its raw power by rendering dust particles exceptionally, wet weather reflections, realistic looking raindrops and other small details that matter to those who care for these small details.
The results didn't change with Grand Theft Auto 5, FIFA 2018, PUBG, Project Cars 2 and Watch Dogs 2. I also tried out Battlefield 5 with ray tracing switched on and I was able to play comfortably on medium settings with at least 60 fps.
MSI's custom cooling system is effective and I never witnessed throttling even after two hours of continuous gaming. However, the metal body gets warm after 20 minutes and it's advisable to keep the laptop on a desk.
Practicality: As useful as a business ultrabook
I am not kidding. The MSI GS65 Stealth is one of the most practical gaming laptops I have ever seen. And here's why:
-- The Steelseries keyboard offers exceptional feedback with ample key travel and almost no key ghosting. In fact, I found the keyboard to be as good as one on a Lenovo ThinkPad laptop. I kept on typing so many documents on this laptop and never did I feel the need to plug in an external keyboard.
-- The wide trackpad does help while browsing the web and accuracy is on point. The glass surface makes it a smooth experience. However, the shorter height of trackpad could be a worry for many.
-- The GS65 Stealth has a pair of 2W speakers and while they seem inadequate on paper, the audio performance is quite good. Keep it on a flat surface and the audio performance demonstrates strong mids. Volume isn't loud enough for outdoors. The headphone jack is backed by Hi-Fi audio and you certainly won't be disappointed by that.
The Bad Stuff
For a laptop that impresses in almost all key areas that matter, the GS65 Stealth does struggle badly with its battery life. On a full charge, if you are typing documents while streaming music and keeping a few social media tabs in the background, you will run out of juice within four hours. The battery does charge fast though with its 82Whr battery.
Conclusion: Should you buy the MSI GS65 Stealth 8SF?
Like most premium gaming laptops, the GS65 Stealth is quite a pricey affair. However, if you are reading this review piece, then you probably have a fat wallet. With the affordability factor out of the way, the GS65 appeals to the inner 9-year-old while keeping along with your 30-year-old public persona at a gamers meet or eSports event. MSI has shown that it is possible for a gaming laptop to be beautiful and practical at the same time -- two factors that gaming laptops mostly evade. And while its seductive design may keep on drawing eyeballs, it doesn't skimp on performance even by an iota. MSI has got it just right with the perfect combination of a great display, superb cooling system and a heavily satisfying keyboard.
To sum it up, if you have always wanted a laptop that's equally good at everything, the MSI GS65 Stealth is the one that's closest to that definition.