The MSI GS65 8RF-074CA Stealth looks sleek, performs well, and has a long-lasting battery. It is easily the most impressive Nvidia Max-Q gaming laptop that we’ve tested to date.
- Thin, light, and attractive design
- Fast ‘Coffee Lake’ Intel Core i7 processor
- Solid HD gaming performance
- Decent battery life
- The build doesn’t feel premium
- Middling keyboard
- A little short on storage
In addition to a clean aesthetic, MSI packs a VR-Ready Nvidia GeForce 1070 Max-Q GPU into the slim chassis guaranteeing that the notebook will deliver raw gaming power and a smooth virtual reality experience. In fact, it marks a gorgeous attempt to offer a laptop that crosses the thin line between work and play, with a features and components that prioritize gaming as the definite fly in the ointment. If you’re out for a laptop for both gaming and productivity, you’ve just found it.
When resting on a desk, the GS65’s style is easily noticeable, thanks to an attractive matte black frame edged in gold, also around the touchpad, with the same accents on the hinge, ventilation and MSI logo at the center of the lid. MSI takes a different approach regarding the look and feel of this ultraportable, by focusing on a gaming laptop with a far wider appeal.
It doesn’t have the curvy angles and red LEDs all over the chassis – rather you unbox the most understated gaming laptops we’ve seen to date – one that you have no qualms using in the office, at an eSports tournament or whipping out in a coffee shop to finish an urgent project.
The laptop feels premium and very light, weighing just 4.1 pounds and a meagre 0.69 ( 18mm) thin, against the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501’s 4.97 pounds and 0.7 inches –it has held the bulb for thin-and-lightweight gaming laptops, until the MSI Thin–051 happened. It will slide easily into any backpack and won’t weigh you down, which is impressive considering that it’s a device meant for daily commute.
If anything, it would have grown even thinner and lighter only that MSI didn’t want to sacrifice the Ethernet port and the more than eight hours of battery life. All said, the Max-Q technology used on the GS65 allows for a system that is quite thin, which the big factor being sleekness.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Even with the thin profile, MSI managed to include plenty of ports and a SteelSeries keyboard with good travel and a very comfortable feedback. The keyboard is RGB backlit with 16.7 million color options that adapts with the gaming mode. It also features SteelSeries GameSense technology, that matches the lighting theme to sync with gameplay on supported games.
Below the keyboard is a glass-coated touchpad that feels just fine, with strong palm rejection, meaning it doesn’t trigger accidental touches. Another reason for making the Stealth GS65 a little thicker was to, perhaps, make room for its three-fan Cooler Boost Trinity thermal system. However, with the extra space MSI didn’t use it for bigger speakers, instead opted for tiny speakers that fire down from beneath the base.
MSI fused an excellent display into the GS65 that attracts little to no complaints, thanks to a nearly bezel-free display embedded into the laptop’s lid. It is interesting to see how a gaming laptop manages to achieve an 82% screen-to-body ratio with the thinnest bezels (4.9mm wide) and cram a 15.6-inch display into a 14-inch body. Still, the webcam maintains its normal position with a decent resolution of 720p, though it doesn’t support Windows Hello facial recognition and there is a fingerprint reader embedded into the power button.
The in-plane-switching (IPS) screen refreshes at 144Hz and has a 7ms response time, which is just about the best you can expect for games like Far Cry 5 look crisp, producing little to no screen tearing when negotiating dark scenes.
The screen is impeccably bright, putting forward a strong showing of dark scenes just fine at 50% brightness. It is further enhanced by MSI’s True Color 2.0 that produces colors that meet 100% of Adobe RGB and nearly 100% sRGB standard, with extra support for game-specific color modes and anti-blue light modes. Plus, the display rotates up to 180 degrees, which is very handy for meetings and presentations.
It lacks Nvidia’s G-Sync, which would guarantee fluid motion in games, though that is not deal-breaker –in most cases– but just about the only omission we’ve found on this rig. All said, this ultraportable boasts the brightest, fastest and color-perfect display we’ve seen on a Nvidia Max-Q laptop at this price.
Ports and Configurations
The GS65 Stealth Thin is available in many configurations, all bearing the same resolution but some with a GTX 1070 and differing amounts of RAM and storage. For anyone out here looking for an ultra-thin gaming laptop, the Series offers some degree of choice to match your needs, but it’s not anything close to fully customizable. Our review model, the MSI GS65 8RF-074CA is outfitted with a full HD (1920 x 1080) 144Hz screen, 16GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU and 256GB SSD NVMe storage.
Surprisingly, even with the thin footprint it gets an excellent set of I/O ports: An Ethernet jack, a pair of USB 3.1 ports, and headphone and mic jacks – all on the left flank. The right panel holds another USB 3.1 port, a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3, a HDMI port, and a Mini DisplayPort connection. Ethernet connectivity is provided by Killer E2500 chipset that prioritizes gaming network traffic to prevent lag and lower ping –alongside dual-band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0.
The major boost on the GS65’s performance is the Intel “Coffee Lake” processor, in this case the six-core Intel Core i7-8750H (2.2 GHz-4.1GHz). This is an eight-generation processor that gets better scores than its “Kaby Lake R” predecessor with the addition of two more cores, whose benefit mainly shows on strenuous multi-core tasks like media projects or epic gaming sessions. With two more cores in tow, it will churn out massive spreadsheets and render video files without lagging.
The same applies to gaming, with the GTX 1070 pushing the laptop through modern titles at the very best frame rates. It is a VR-Ready laptop, meaning you can hook it with HTC Vive or Oculus and you’re on your way to desktop-level gaming on a mobile system. While not the most powerful among ultra-thin gaming laptops, some equipped with GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 cards, it does put a muscular showing over GTX 1070-powered gaming laptops.
On the 3D side, the proficiency of both the GTX 1070 AND Max-Q tweaks are evident. This high-end graphics card scores well in HD, too. However, being a Max-Q version of the card, though, it isn’t as powerful as the base GTX 1070. As is the case with Max-Q versions, its performance is close to the standard 1060 GPU. For gaming, that is the most obvious focus of this models, 60fps in HD at maximum settings is an easy task for this system.
When running the Rise of the tomb Raider (very high, 1080p) the system delivers 45fps, which is past the 30-fps playability threshold. However, it is slightly below the 58-fps premium gaming average, which is also below the Zephyrus and Razer Blade 15’s scores of 54 and 53 fps, respectively – though both are fitted with GTX 1070 card. The Max-Q tuned GTX 1070 is safely above the hardware floor for VR – and it doesn’t run hot or get loud during gaming.
Battery life is now a big win for the GS65, lasting a likeable 7 hours and 18 minutes during tests. This is quite impressive for a gaming laptop in general, but particularly good for Max-Q systems. Compared, the ROG Zephyrus last just 2:48, while the MSI GS63VR 7RG Stealth Pro lasts 4:31.
It is contradictory that the thinner, more portable Max-Q versions lack long battery life, so it’s nice that you can use the GS65 off the charger for a little longer. Apart from the Max-Q models, the Razer Blade runs the show at 10:41 on a single charger.
The Bottom Line
The MSI GS65 8RF-074CA Stealth looks sleek, performs well, and has a long-lasting battery. It is easily the most impressive Nvidia Max-Q gaming laptop that we’ve tested to date. The laptop delivers better and outperforms most of its ultra-thin rivals with the same components and arguably trounces them on both design and style.
Compared with other Max-Q models, this is the least expensive entry into high-performing graphics card packed into a thin and light design. As “Coffee Lake” arrives into more laptops, the GS65 offers the best benefits before new chips roll out –if that is the main draw for you. Still, we expected a few more niceties like Nvidia G-Sync and better native audio, but we are pleased with whatever it has to offer. It earns our Editors’ Choice award for thin and light high-performance gaming laptops.
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- Display: 15.6" FHD, 4.9mm Ultra Thin Bezel Anti-Glare Wide View Angle 144Hz 7ms 72% NTSC 1920x1080 16:9 | Operating System: Windows 10
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