MSI has joined the Coffee Lake laptop party with a brand new gaming laptop that can compete with Razer Blade, Gigabyte Aero 15X and Asus ROG Zephyrus. The arrival of this laptop was eagerly awaited as it offers new internal hardware as well as a full update on the design and construction of the MSI gaming line.
The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin is the successor to the company's previous slim gaming laptop, the GS63, which we previously looked at. The GS63 design has been used for several generations and has now been improved in many areas. A 15.6-inch 1080p display is still used, but we're now looking at slimmer frames and an upgrade to a 144 Hz refresh rate.
In terms of hardware, you get typical high-end internals for laptops for 2018. The CPU is the Intel Core i7-8750H, which we tested earlier, and the GPU is the GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q. My test device also has 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. However, this combination can vary depending on the region and desired requirements.
MSI was clearly not satisfied that Gigabyte received all awards for its slim bezel gaming laptop, the Aero 15X. Therefore, they have chosen the slim bezel approach. The bezels of the GS65 aren't quite as slim as the Aero 15X, but they're much slimmer than the GS63, and MSI has done a great job without giving us a nostril webcam. As you can see, the top bezel is slightly thicker than the sides, and there MSI managed to fit into a webcam.
A smaller laptop comes with slimmer bezels, and a comparison of the dimensions shows that the GS65 has a slightly smaller footprint than its predecessor. About 22 mm were scraped from the width with a similar depth, while maintaining the same thickness of 17.9 mm. These aren't massive reductions, but every little bit helps and keeps the laptop as portable as possible. It is also very light at only 1.88 kg.
I always liked the GS63 design, but this new GS65 Stealth Thin is just a class higher. It is by far the best looking MSI notebook ever, with an excellent metal case and subtle but attractive gold highlights on the lid, trackpad, ventilation slots and much more. Almost every area of this slim chassis has been refined; it now exudes premium quality. Small details like the simplification of the logo on the lid and the removal of other “gamer” elements have worked wonders. If you remove the annoying stickers under the keyboard, the minimalist design will only be more impressive.
The most important thing with this GS65 design is that MSI did not interfere with the cooling solution despite opting for a high quality metal case. There are still a lot of vents in this system, including the sides, back, top, and bottom. We have seen in laptops like the Razer Blade that a metal design is good, but can significantly limit the cooler. However, this does not seem to be the case with the GS65.
Despite the considerable space requirement for the ventilation slots, this laptop has numerous connections. Three USB 3.0 Type-A ports, Thunderbolt 3 USB-C, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, Mini-DisplayPort and two audio sockets. Unfortunately, there is no SD card slot, which would have been practical for professionals. However, I am glad that MSI has moved the position of the power switch to a more sensible position above the keyboard.
Regarding the keyboard, MSI has used the standard SteelSeries design with RGB LED backlighting per key. In particular, there is no number pad on the GS65, which in my opinion should be delivered with a 15-inch laptop. The Aero 15X, for example, manages to plug a number pad into a similar housing. Not a big deal for gamers, but mostly a fool.
The range of this keyboard is rather inconspicuous. MSI chose an ultrabook-style switch with a flat, rubber-like response. I prefer a more clickable design and know that this is possible with a laptop keyboard, but the limited space that MSI has allocated to the depth of these switches has undoubtedly limited the performance of this keyboard. On the other hand, the trackpad is very responsive and an improvement over the old ELAN days, although you mostly want to use a suitable mouse for games.
If you remove the bottom of the GS65, you'll see … unfortunately an upside down motherboard. While you can see the battery and cooling components to a small extent, accessing the RAM and M.2 slots is quite difficult because you have to remove the entire motherboard and cooling assembly first. There are many small, fragile connectors along the way, so I wouldn't recommend this to the casual user. However, if you go this route, you will find a free M.2 slot and a free DIMM slot.
Interestingly, MSI used a cooling system with three fans, with a single cooler on the left for the CPU and a cooler with two fans for the GPU on the right. The additional fan for the GPU is a bit unique, although the heat sink design is not common and offers a good amount of fin surfaces. Certainly much more than the Aero 15X.
Before I went to the performance, I wanted to touch the display. As I mentioned earlier, it's a 1080p 144Hz display, and although it doesn't contain G-Sync, I appreciate the high refresh rate. I hope that this becomes the standard for gaming laptops.
As with the bezel size, it is clear that MSI is aiming for the Aero 15X with the calibration of this display. The GS65's display isn't X-Rite Pantone certified, but it's much more accurate than any MSI notebook I've tested in the past. It's not perfect, but an average CCT of 6804K is decent, along with average DeltaEs of 2.2 in grayscale, 2.22 in saturation, and 2.73 in ColorChecker. For best results, these numbers should be at least below 2.0. However, given the efforts so far, this is a decent improvement.
Unfortunately, brightness and contrast may not be impressive due to more accurate calibration. Achieving only 248 nits of peak brightness is not great, and neither is the contrast ratio below 1000: 1. Both areas are handled well by the Aero 15X, which offers a similar display and a slightly better calibration.