MSI GS66 Stealth (2021)

A laptop that balances power with style and portability

MSI GS66 Stealth (2021)
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Smooth 300Hz display
  • Good performance
  • Stylish profile

Cons

  • No MicroSD card slot, odd trackpad
  • Relatively pricey

Bottom Line

The MSI GS66 Stealth (2021) is a stylish and robust laptop with enough power for excellent gaming performance. Thanks to its 300Hz display, you can expect high frame rates for extra smooth visuals.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 5,499.00 (AUD)

The Pitch

The current trend in gaming laptops is to pack as much grunt into as slimline a form as possible, and if you’re like me and double up your work laptop as your gaming system, that’s a big plus. The new-for-2021 MSI GS66 Stealth is a continuation of that trend, and mostly gets the form-to-power balance right. Packing a 10th generation Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia’s new GTX 3080 GPU, it firmly tips the scales toward gaming power, but its sleek profile makes it highly versatile for use in any environment.

Price

In Australia the pricing for the MSI GS66 Stealth starts at AU$4,099.The model we reviewed (the MSI GS66 Stealth 10UH-042AU) is priced at AU$5,499. For a breakdown on the different configurations and where to find them head over to MSI online. Here are the specs of the machine we reviewed:

MSI GS66 Stealth Specs

Processor: Intel Core i7-10870H

Operating system: Windows 10 Pro

RAM: 32GB DDR4/3200

Storage: 2TB NVMe SSD

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080

Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920x1080), 300Hz IPS-Level

MicroSD slot: No

Battery: 4-Cell Li-Ion 99.9Whr

Connectivity: Killer GB AX Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth V5.2

Front-Facing Camera: HD (30fps@720p)

Dimensions: 358 x 248 x 18 mm

Weight: 2.1kg

Design and functionality

Stealth is an apt name. With a black matte finish and stylish but understated black-on-black MSI logo, the machine's profile as a gaming powerhouse is well camouflaged. The styling remains unchanged from 2020’s MSI GS66 Stealth release, which was a stark contrast to the more conspicuous MSI GE65 Stealth that featured a gold logo and top cover stripe. While the GS66 Stealth is less flashy, gamers should still be satisfied with the simple, blocky aesthetic, and their boardroom colleagues will be none the wiser about the laptop's true purpose.

Measuring just 0.7-inches thick and weighing 1.2kg, the GS66 Stealth’s minimal profile makes it incredibly lightweight and portable for a gaming machine. But while it is remarkably thin, it doesn’t at all feel flimsy. MSI have addressed concerns about flex in earlier models by incorporating a solid chassis and reinforcement where it’s needed, including robust hinges.

Credit: Dominic Bayley

A simple pressure test proves the GS66 Stealth could survive being shoved into a work bag or satchel. Resting it on a table, the frame also feels quite sturdy, especially around the keyboard. This laptop also has enough metal where it matters the most: where you rest your hands.

Despite its low profile, once the top cover is flipped, the GS66 Stealth is quite bold in a number of ways. It has large audio slits on each side of the trackpad that generate a full-bodied sound. The keyboard has some of the biggest keys I’ve seen in a laptop along with a long, rectangular trackpad that measures 5.5-inches.

Personally, I found the trackpad covered too much real-estate to enable a quick sweep of the screen with my mouse pointer. Still, that could mostly be adjusted by mouse sensitivity settings, and I liked the SteelSeries-designed keyboard, which is quite comfortable to type on.

Some gamers might also like the space and accessibility the big keys provide for reaching hotkeys faster. The backlighting is also well designed: The light hits your eyes at the perfect angle as you face the screen, but in keeping with the low profile, it isn’t too distracting.

Credit: Dominic Bayley

Overall, these features add up nicely to a great dual-purpose laptop. The GS66 Stealth is tough and powerful enough for furious gameplay, yet portable enough to take on the road. I can’t help but marvel at the balance MSI has achieved to create an almost-desktop experience in a featherweight unit.

In regards to ports, the GS66 Stealth includes lots of options. It has three Type A USB 3.2 ports, as well as a single Type-C USB 3.2 port. It also has one HDMI port and Thunderbolt 3 port. There’s also a Combo jack for gamers who like to immerse themselves in a full audio experience with microphone and headphones, and a Killer LAN port for those who prefer a cabled connection.

Credit: Dominic Bayley

I would have liked to have seen a MicroSD card slot, but sadly the GS66 Stealth has none. Our review unit came with a large 2TB SSD that was more than enough space for my games library.

Is the 300hz display really necessary?

Creating more than a little wow factor is the GS66 Stealth’s 300Hz refresh rate, 15.6-inch FHD (1080x1920) display. MSI promises it can deliver an outstanding 3ms response time.

While 300Hz sounds amazing on paper, when I saw it in person, I was left pondering the benefits of 300Hz versus 240Hz... versus 144Hz, or even the lowly 60Hz. Knowing that most gamers can get by reasonably well with 144Hz—which has become a kind of unspoken standard for optimising one's graphics experience—I set out to see if 300Hz is any better.

I set up a comparison screen test, pitting the MSI GS66 Stealth’s 300Hz against the lower 60Hz display from the MSI Summit E15. In a side-by-side comparison, I performed two visual screen tests from a website named Blur Busters at Testufo.com. These tests include a scrolling animation at different frame rates, as well as a moving photo test.

The Testufo.com moving photo test. Credit: IDG
The Testufo.com moving photo test.

Surprisingly, it was super easy to see the difference between the displays, with the 300Hz panel completely decimating the 60Hz panel in terms of visual clarity. On the animation test, the 300Hz images glided by in clear focus, while images on the 60Hz display were so blurry at 60fps, I had to glance away to prevent dizziness. In comparison to the 144Hz animation, again the the 300Hz animation appeared clearer. There was also a marked difference in the sharpness in the image details in the moving photo test. The takeaway? 300Hz is well worth it and could make all the difference in split-second gaming responsiveness.

Performance

Nvidia’s RTX series GPUs, based on the second-generation RTX Ampere architecture, are some of the best that money can buy for 4K gaming. And although the RTX 3080 laptop version doesn't have the same NVIDA CDUA core count as the desktop version, it still includes the same core technology that is built on an 8nm process.

Ideally that means a laptop like the MSI GS66 Stealth with it's RTX 3080 GPU should outperform a laptop with say, Nvidia's older 2080 Super GPU in a similar chassis. However, when compared to laptops with bigger chassis that pack in better cooling and power wattage, the story can be quite different. When there is better power delivery to the GPU, these laptops can fare quite better in benchmark comparison. I found this to be the case in my benchmarking, but only marginally so. 

Generally, the GS66 Stealth’s CPU performed very well in benchmarks, showing powerful overall performance scores. It beat the likes of the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Turbo, and held its own against sportier CPUs like the MSI GE65 Raider’s Core i9-9880H. However, its Core i7-10870H did struggle a bit with the lighter Fire Strike Extreme 1.1 benchmark and couldn’t quite reach the lofty heights of Alienware’s M15 R2’s overall score. It was also surpassed by Alienware’s Area51m R1 in the 3DMark Time Spy 1.1 benchmark.

Credit: Dominic Bayley

In these benchmarks, laptops with faster CPUs won when workloads switched from the GPU to become more CPU bound. The Alienware Area51m R1 is a case in point. Its better performance can be attributed to more power delivery to its GPU, facilitated by better thermals that gave its CPU (which is more like its desktop cousin than the Stealth's) an edge. However, all things considered, the GS66 is a solid performer for its size and weight profile - the Area51m R1 weighs 2.1kg more and is 24.38mm thicker by comparison. Plus, any processing shortfall in the GS66 Stealth is more than made up for by the smoothness of its 300Hz display.

To that end, in our Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, which measures frames per second (fps), the GS66 Stealth fared somewhat better, clocking an average of 111 fps overall and edging out the zippier Alienware M15 R2 and Predator Helios 500 laptops.  

Credit: Dominic Bayley

Temperature measurements taken at different times showed the MSI GS66’s idle temperature to be on the warm side at 38-40 degrees Celsius, but it didn’t heat up much more than that during any of our gaming benchmarks. That was also surprising considering the Stealth’s fan blades are just 0.1mm thick.

Battery power

To test battery capacity, I ran PCWorld’s standard battery rundown test, which involves playing a 6.3GB 4K video on repeat until the laptop powers down. The laptop is set to airplane mode with brightness adjusted to 92%, and volume set to 50%.

As you can see from the comparison chart, the GS66 Stealth had enough juice to last almost five hours, which was consistent with the best laptops we tested—bar the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 Turbo, which had almost an extra two hours playtime.

Credit: Dominic Bayley

The Bottom Line

The MSI GS66 Stealth is one of the classiest-looking laptops around and much more robust than its predecessors. Under the hood, there’s enough power for excellent gaming performance and thanks to its 300hz display, you can expect high frame rates for extra smooth visuals. The price may not be easy on your back pocket, but the GS66 Stealth is a nifty piece of hardware.

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