I'm of the opinion that most of us don't need seizure-inducing RGB lights and huge flared vents on our laptops. The good news is that many laptop manufacturers seem to think so as well. The latest crop of gaming laptops sport blissfully clean designs, and something like the Razer Blade, Gigabyte Aero 15X, or Lenovo Legion Y530 won't look too out of place in a work meeting.
Having said that, it looks like MSI got the memo as well. The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RF features a far more subdued design than its predecessor. The brushed metal finish is gone, and it now favors copper accents and a muted MSI Dragon logo on the lid. The rest of the black aluminum chassis is rather tasteful as well, although it’s a pity that the metal feels more like plastic than actual metal.
The laptop has a quiet, understated look to it that I like, while the copper accents on the edges help give it a more character.
Unfortunately, build quality is decent, but not the best. The palm rests, keyboard, and speaker grilles exhibit noticeable flexing and creaking when pressure is applied, although it’s nothing too alarming. Still, this was something I noticed on the previous model as well, so it's slightly disappointing that MSI hasn't improved this aspect.
However, it's possible that the flexing is a concession MSI had to make in order to make the laptop so light. This is one of the most portable gaming laptops available. Its 1.88kg weight is truly impressive, and the large 82Wh battery ensures you get decent battery life.
It’s also super thin and boasts the slim bezels found on so many gaming laptops today, so you get a more compact space footprint overall. Check out last year's GS63VR Stealth compared to this year's GS65 Stealth and the difference is notable. That said, there’s still space on the top bezel for the webcam, so you won’t have to put up with any weird camera angles.
The SteelSeries keyboard supports per-key RGB backlighting, and it feels surprisingly nice to type on for such a thin laptop. The touchpad is also a Windows Precision Touchpad, which is great, but the integrated left- and right-click buttons could be improved in terms of feedback and responsiveness.
The IPS display itself boasts vivid colors and deep blacks, and the speedy 144Hz refresh rate makes it even better to use. Games feel smooth and fluid, and the 144Hz refresh rate is apparent even when dragging windows around on your desktop. However, as with most of the other laptops in this category, the display was also a little on the dim side.
The Dynaudio speakers sit above the keyboard. While they’re loud enough to fill a small room, they’re not particularly impressive and the low-end audio range produced is anemic at best.
When it comes to cooling, the GS65 Stealth Thin exhausts hot air out the sides and back. It is cooled by three fans, instead of the usual two, and four heat pipes provide independent cooling for both the CPU and GPU. The laptop also isn’t as loud as you’d expect, and it’s quieter than some of the competition.
The palm rests generally stay quite cool, but the area above the keyboard can get quite hot to touch.
The GS65 Stealth Thin has most of the ports and connectors you’d expect, including three USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort outputs for support of up to three external monitors at once. Unfortunately, like most of its rivals, it’s also missing an SD card slot. That’s disappointing, because its simpler design means it’s also quite suited for use at work.
I'm also not a big fan of the placement of the power connector on the right edge of the notebook. It's located near the middle, so it's difficult to get the cable tucked away discreetly. Furthermore, it's likely to interfere with your mousing hand if you're a right-hander.
Networking is handled by a Killer Wireless-AC 1550i Wireless Network Adapter and Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet Controller. The Killer Wireless-AC 1550i is on par with the Intel Wireless-AC 9560 in that it also supports faster-than Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds and a maximum throughput of 1.73Gbps (and full compatibility with 802.11ac Wave 2 routers).
Finally, MSI’s Dragon Center 2 software provides useful tools for monitoring the laptop’s performance and tweaking various settings. For example, you can adjust the fan speeds to favor either noise levels or cooling, and also switch between different display profiles. Head over here for more details on MSI's new Dragon Center 2 software.