Updated: Aug 19, 2021
It’s been quite a while since we’ve reviewed an MSI laptop, and so, today, we have something really interesting from MSI, the GS66 Stealth.
Without a doubt, this is a really powerful gaming laptop, that’s aimed to compete against the likes of the Razer Blade, Alienware laptops or the Zephyrus series from Asus. We’re testing the top-specced model.
It’s running an Intel Core i9-10980HK, 32GB of RAM, Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q and a 1TB NVMe SSD.
Just from specs alone, you know it’s going to take on any game you throw at it. But before we get to the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the design, which is actually one of the things that I’m really liking on this laptop.
This time around, the GS66 Stealth is really taking pride in that stealth moniker. Gone are the gold trims of the previous generation, and you now get an all-black chassis, to the point where even the logo is really subtle, only being visible at certain angles.
It’s clean, it’s simple, it’s really sturdy and you won’t feel out of place no matter where you are. I feel that MSI is taking a step in the right direction to modernize the design of their laptops, and I hope they continue doing so.
We then come to perhaps the most important thing of all, the display.
You get a 15.6-inch Full HD panel that’s capable of 100% sRGB coverage and can hit a max brightness of about 320 nits. It’s honestly, a great display. You get pretty vibrant and accurate colours, great for consuming all your content, be it creative or entertainment, and to top all that off, it’s a 300Hz display.
Without a doubt, 300Hz is great for gaming, especially fast-paced shooters like Apex Legends where your reaction times really matter.
But like I mentioned before, the difference between 240Hz and 300Hz is almost unperceivable. Now I’m not saying it’s a bad display, far from it. But I really do feel that 300Hz is a marketing term for brands, more so than anything nowadays, and to be frank, hardly any triple-A titles or even the popular eSports titles like Apex and PUBG can achieve anything near 300 frames per second.
Personally, I would’ve liked to see an upgraded 240Hz panel in terms of colour accuracy, response time, and more importantly, max brightness, but those are just my two cents.
Next, we have the webcam, and like most other laptops, it’s a 720p webcam. The image quality is not great, and the microphones are, well, decent at best. It does, however, have support for Windows Hello, so that’s a nice touch.
Like usual, MSI does work with Steelseries to make their keyboards, and this is no exception. You get full RGB support that’s configurable via the Steelseries Engine software. It’s honestly a great keyboard, with tactile feedback and a good amount of key travel. I pretty much had no issues typing on it, and gaming on it was enjoyable.
The layout, however, is a little weird.
As you can see, the function and right control key are split into two halves, which is quite uncommon, but the weirder thing is that there’s actually two of the exact same keys for backslash.
I’m not entirely sure why they did so, and I can’t think of a reason why anyone would need two keys for backslash.
The trackpad is great. It’s a fair bit bigger than most out there and has kind of an ultrawide aspect ratio to it. It uses Precision drivers and feels great to use, I’ve no qualms about it.
Flanking both sides of the laptop are the speakers, and to describe it in a sentence, it sounds weird.
It does get pretty loud, but the highs sound quite sharp, and the bass, while there definitely is some, feels a little airy. Now if you actually open it up, you’ll find that the speakers are dual firing, top and bottom, and I think that that design actually backfired.
Because there aren’t any openings on the bottom, and the top opening is just a thin slit, I feel that the sound is being forced through that slit and thus, the highs are sharper overall, and because the sound from the bottom speaker is bouncing off the bottom panel, it’s mixing in with the sound from the top speaker, resulting in a slightly different tonality.
In short, it’s loud but weird.
Ports-wise, on the right, you get an RJ45 Ethernet, two USB 3.2 Type-A, a USB 3.2 Type-C and your headphone mic combo. On the left, you get Power Input, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0 and another USB 3.2 Type-A.
We then come to the nitty-gritty stuff, so let’s talk performance.
In Cinebench R20, the 10th-gen Intel Core i9 scored 3475 on the Multi-Core and 466 and on the Single Core, which as expected, was slightly better than the Core i7-10875H which I tested on the Razer Blade Pro.
As for DaVinci Resolve, it managed to render the 1080P project in about 5 and a half minutes, while the 4K project took roughly 16 and a half minutes.
But if you overclock the GPU using MSI Dragon Centre, and activate CoolerBoost as well, you can expect slight improvements, about 20 seconds faster for the 1080P project, and a minute faster for the 4K project.
As for gaming, you can expect extremely playable frame rates, with most games easily hitting over 100 frames per second at the max settings, with CS:GO almost hitting 200 frames. Coupled with that 300Hz display, it really makes for a great gaming experience.
Talking about temperatures, however… it’s not that great.
Be it creative workloads or gaming, you can expect to see the CPU hit 95 degrees Celsius, and stay there pretty much the whole time. Now it does so while maintaining clocks above 3GHz, well above its base clock, but 95 is really high. The GPU, however, does fare better, averaging about 70 degrees Celsius.
But to add on, the fans do get pretty loud, much louder than most other laptops out there.
Now if you do turn on CoolerBoost, it’ll drop CPU temperatures by a whole 5 degrees Celsius, and even GPU temps by the same amount as well. But, the fans get even louder, and in this mode, it’s easily noticeable even with headphones on without music playing.
Honestly, I wouldn’t use it at all.
In terms of upgrades, you get access to two RAM slots and the included NVMe drive, along with space for one more. You can also swap out the WiFi card should you want to. This is also where you can find the battery, which is probably the largest in a consumer laptop by far.
It’s a 99.9Wh battery, and it’s just barely under the legal limit for a built-in lithium battery in a device to carry on board on a flight.
With the GS66 Stealth, you’ll get roughly 7 hours of battery in a real-world usage scenario, and while it’s not mind-blowing like a MacBook or XPS, it’s still better than most gaming laptops out there.
And remember, this has an Intel Core i9 and RTX 2080 Super Max-Q. Now you still wouldn’t be able to game on battery, but I would say this makes the GS66 Stealth much more viable as a mobile workstation for creatives.
Overall, I feel that the GS66 Stealth is a really capable laptop, and for a gaming laptop, I feel that it’s one of the nicer looking ones out there as well.
With that said, however, you do have to take into consideration the price, for it is an expensive laptop, and also the CPU temperatures. My advice, if you’re planning on getting this laptop, is to either undervolt the CPU, or swap the thermal paste for liquid metal, or do both. That’ll drop the temperature noticeably, and increase the longevity of the laptop.
My other advice, which links to price, is to not get the Core i9 and RTX 2080 Super Max-Q variants. Instead, opt for the Core i7 and the RTX 2070 Super Max-Q instead, for I would say, the performance difference is minimal, and you get to save quite a bit more.
More information about the MSI GS66 Stealth (S$6,499) is available on MSI’s website.