Probably the best all-round notebook we’ve ever tested.
MSI make a mind-boggling array of notebooks but we’re better off for it. Not only is there a shape, size and configuration for everyone, the company seems to learn and evolve with each generation. The GS65 Stealth Thin is the latest version of its all-rounder line which strives to be portable, powerful, office friendly and great for gaming – all at once. These notebooks are typically the most desirable but frequently have flaws. So, how successful is this one?
Our first impressions are very good. The lid looks great with its matte black and subtle, gold-outlined rim. The low-rent MSI logo is gone and so has the red MSI dragon: both replaced by an understated, gold, dragon print. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s more subtle and classy than its predecessors. The lid feels solid and doesn’t flex much while the hinge is solid and doesn’t wobble. Only a very thin bezel surrounds the screen and yet the HD webcam and microphone array are still mounted above it.
However, the main body is a touch creaky – it feels like a lightweight exoskeleton has been draped over a rigid chassis. It’s also littered with air vents at the top, bottom, sides and back which might detract from its appearance in some quarters. You’ll be distracted from it all by the new Steelseries RGB keyboard. This doesn’t just look great but the keys are all full-sized and very comfortable to type on. The gold-rimmed trackpad is comfortable and accurate.
We’ve seen mediocre screens on MSI’s winning all-rounders in the past, but not this time. Its IPS foundations mean that viewing angles are good and colour reproduction is impressive. It also sports a 144Hz refresh rate for silky-smooth gaming. It’s uniformly lit and very impressive for both office work and gaming.
Despite only being 18mm thin, its insides are stacked. Intel’s latest 2.2GHz hexa-core Core i7-8750H CPU is flanked by 16GB RAM plus a 512GB NVMe drive. These propelled it to a score of 4,804 in PCMark. That’s impressive in its own right, but this was boosted to 5,165 when the built-in, Turbo-mode overclocking was turned on.
In 3DMark’s FireStrike Extreme, it scored 6,343. This is a very good result for a notebook this size and there won’t be a game it can’t play very well on the Full HD screen. The only issue we had with the GPU is that, when fully overclocked, it refused to run some punishing apps like 3DMark and cryptomining. It’s hardly a deal breaker: when cryptomining, despite getting warm, it ran consistently-fast and the fan never ramped up to its maximum, loud whine (there’s just an audible whoosh). We’ve seen plenty of thin, overpowered laptops slow right down if they can’t handle the heat caused by their own power. This strikes a very good balance.
Connectivity is impressive thanks to a USB-C 3.1 (Gen.2) Thunderbolt port joining three USB-A 3.1 (Gen.1) ports, two 3.5mm jacks, Gigabit Ethernet plus HDMI and mini DisplayPort. We rarely mention bundled software but MSI’s Dragon Center provides impressive access to multiple monitoring, performance-enhancing and function controls.
It ran PCMark’s battery test for three hours 21 minutes (albeit at 77 per cent of the plugged-in score) but ran our test movie for over six hours! Combined with its 1.88KG weight, it’s a very-portable powerhouse.
Ultimately, it’s powerful, but not overpowered, it’s great to interact with and it’s highly-portable – the perfect trifecta. The exoskeleton chassis can’t beat the likes of Apple or HP’s business machines on the catwalk, but it stomps on the pretty boys everywhere else. At $3,399 it’s good value yet not cheap… but then what do you expect from, what is very likely, the best laptop we’ve ever tested?
MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RF
“Ultimately, it’s powerful, but not overpowered, it’s great to interact with and it’s highly-portable – the perfect trifecta.”
2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU • 16GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM • Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU • 512GB M.2 SSD • 15.6in 1,920 x 1,080 144Hz display • HD webcam • Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1(Gen2) Type-C • 3 x USB 3.1 (Gen.1) • HDMI 2 • DP 1.4 • Gigabit Ethernet • 2x 3.5mm audio jack • 1.9KG • 1yr RTB warranty