For years, Razer has set the standard for making gaming laptops that are compact, slim, and feel great to use. MSI wants to end that streak, and its new GS66 Stealth is actually a viable alternative, at least in terms of performance. It still has a little work to do on nailing the small design details.
The GS66 Stealth doesn’t quite nail the fit and finish to take on the best, but landing short of that still gets you a polished laptop that’s stuffed with powerful components and other features that typically come with a $2,349 gaming laptop (as configured; this model starts at $1,499 and goes up to $2,999). It has a Thunderbolt 3 port for fast data transfer, and its display has a 300Hz refresh rate that takes full advantage of the Nvidia RTX 2070 Super Max-Q graphics to show off your games in fast, fluid fidelity.
It is a thin, sleek machine from every angle, whether it’s closed or opened up. It has one of the most generously sized trackpads I’ve ever used on a Windows laptop, similar to the one on MSI’s creator-focused Prestige 14. Compared to the GS65 Stealth Thin, this one ditches the copper detailing and has a simpler, more confident look in general. MSI isn’t fooling anyone with the results. It’s all-black design with slim bezels around the display is similar to Razer’s styling, but the similarities end once we get to MSI’s clumsy keyboard layout that makes executing functions difficult and the bottom of its aluminum chassis that flexes with just a little pressure.
Our review of MSI GS66 Stealth
Verge Score 7.5 out of 10
Improved design Efficient cooling Powerful Big trackpad
Keyboard layout needs work The aluminum chassis flexes on the bottom Lots of bloatware Missing an SD card slot Buy for $2,349.00 from B&H Photo Buy for $2,349.00 from Adorama Buy for $2,349.00 from Newegg
One of the more disappointing things about the GS66 Stealth is that, after using it for a week, going back to my DIY-built desktop made me realize that it’s due for some upgrades. This laptop churned through No Man’s Sky, maintaining over 120 frames per second on its highest graphical settings. This isn’t the most demanding title ever made, but it’s constantly straining the CPU, GPU, and storage as it quickly loads in assets when the player goes from planet to planet or when hopping between galaxies. It’s common to see some huge dips in performance with this game, but it was a glorious experience here.
The RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, Intel’s Core i7-10875H, and the 32GB of RAM proves to be a potent combination of specs for ripping through games, which is what you want when you buy a $2,349 laptop. Additionally, its power makes good use of the 300Hz refresh rate TFT LCD panel. You won’t see upward of 300 frames per second performance in most modern games, but the support for it is there. You can expect most games to run well above 60 frames per second at their highest settings — often times well above 100 frames per second, and sometimes 200 frames per second if I was playing a less demanding game, like Tetris Effect or Rocket League. Viewing angles take a hit, so watching content from off to the side won’t look as good as viewing it head-on, but the colors pop and playing games at a fast frame rate is always enjoyable.
Grid View It’s tough to argue against the all-black design looking similar to Razer’s Blade, but that’s a great look to be inspired by.
Last thing with the keyboard: this keyboard’s RGB backlighting is still managed through the SteelSeries Engine 3 app, but upon loading it up, it said it couldn’t find a connected device. It wasn’t until I redownloaded the app from MSI’s support page that I got the backlighting to work as intended.
The GS66 Stealth that we tested is a fast gaming laptop, and it’s priced competitively to Razer’s Blade 15 — even undercutting its most similar configuration when it comes to packing in a faster refresh rate display, a larger battery, and more RAM. It’s not a bad deal on the lower-end configurations either, keeping appealing features like a Thunderbolt 3 port and a 144Hz refresh rate display in its most affordable $1,499 model. Despite a few nagging design issues, the foundation is more sound and powerful than ever. MSI’s design is the clear winner compared to the plentiful amount of all-plastic gaming laptops in each configuration’s price range. For now, Razer is still the standard to beat, but MSI is getting awfully close.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge