Review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop – Bringing You a Powerful Gaming Experience!

Review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop

A review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop is presented in this article.

In 2019, we rated the MSI GS65 Stealth as one of our favorite gaming laptops…

…a stylish thin-and-light machine at an affordable price.

As for the new GS66 Stealth (starting at $1,499; $2,699 as tested)…

…it has a sturdier design with more power, but it lacks some of the sleekness and unique flair of its predecessor.

The new Intel Core i7-10750H processor…

…and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) GPU are responsible…

…for the GS66’s super-high frame rates displayed on a 300Hz display.

However, when compared to the expectations raised by our test unit’s price and parts…

…the Asus ROG Zephyrus S GX502 falls short of our high-end gaming…

…Editors’ Choice despite the performance and design nitpicks.

Before picking a new favorite, we will wait to see how other systems…

…with these flashy new components perform.

Here are a few words from Abigail…

I recently received my MSI GS66 Stealth and so far, I’m very pleased with it!

However, I was a bit confused as the keyboard back lights could not be changed…

…since their previous models allowed it.

You won’t be able to do it if you’ve thought you could like I did!

I couldn’t find a way to change or alter the colors of my keys from red…

…and orange nor the pulse effect (although it’s nice).

Just a warning for those who want to buy this model!

If you’re interested in this machine for its specs, don’t let aesthetics deter you.

Now let’s jump right in!

Review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop

Review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop

With A Sturdier, But Plainer Design

There are marked differences between the build of the GS66 Stealth and the GS65.

While both look similar at first glance, they differ in size, texture, and color scheme.

From an aesthetic standpoint, MSI ditched the gold accents on the lid…

..vents, and touchpad in favor of an all-black design.

It looked sharp and stood out from others…

…but I suppose this sandblasted “Core Black” look can blend in more in professional settings.

Physically, the build is a lot thicker and sturdier this time around.

Several manufacturers have backed off somewhat…

…from their industry-wide obsession with thinness, at least with gaming laptops.

The vendors seem to have realized that gains in performance…

…and features provided by an extra tenth of an inch outweigh those of an imperceptibly thinner design.

The GS66 Stealth measures 0.71 by 14.2 by 9.7 inches…

…compared to 0.69 by 15.1 by 10.2 inches for the GS65. It’s slightly thicker…

…but almost an inch narrower, so you’re still saving space.

Despite the changes, this puts it on par with a top competitor…

…like the Razer Blade 15 (0.7 by 14 by 9.25 inches).

GS65 Stealth Thin, the first laptop in this line, had an uncomfortable amount…

…of flex in its lid and around its keyboard when pressure was applied.

With some reinforcements in key places…

…the 2019 GS65 Stealth reduces but does not eliminate flex.

Even though it was extra light, it felt flimsier than, say, the all-aluminum Razer Blade 15.

With the GS66, MSI doubled down on the durability…

…both by bolstering the chassis and giving the GS66 an overall blockier look.

This laptop has virtually no chassis flex…

…(I found a small amount in the thin strip between the touchpad and the keyboard…

…but you shouldn’t be pressing there normally), and it feels much more solid overall.

Although that comes at a slight weight penalty, it’s not as bad as I expected.

Weighing 4.4 pounds, the GS65 is lighter than the GS66, which weighs 4.63 pounds.

It’s measurable, and you can feel it, but when I first lifted the GS66, I expected a larger gain.

Its weight and sturdier build make it significantly less portable…

…whereas I probably would have recommended the GS65…

…as the most portable 15-inch gaming laptop.

The New 300Hz Display

Now let’s discuss the display since there’s a lot to talk about here.

There’s a 15.6-inch panel with full HD or 1080p resolution, which is normal enough.

Its 300Hz refresh rate is much higher than the more common 144Hz rate…

…and the already sky-high 240Hz panels.

This means the laptop can display up to 300 frames per second (fps)…

…which is roughly how smooth a game will look in motion.

That’s five times the 60Hz refresh rate of most laptop panels, so this is quite an improvement.

Would anyone need such a high refresh rate? It depends who you ask.

Users and gamers alike will be content with 60Hz…

…and may never notice higher frame rates at all.

Hardcore players may be content with 60 frames per second…

…even if they normally play big-budget story-based games.

The top consoles also deliver this performance.

Competitive multiplayer genres, like shooters and MOBAs…

…such as Counter-Strike, Fortnite, Apex Legends…

…Rainbow Six: Siege, League of Legends, and Dota…

…benefit from high refresh rates.

The action on your screen is updated for your eyes more frequently…

…(and physically looks less choppy), giving you a competitive edge.

The visuals in these games are not very demanding…

…so you can actually push frame rates that high…

…even with the image quality settings turned up.

On most consumer PCs, it’s virtually impossible…

…to get frame rates that high in photo-realistic AAA games.

300Hz refreshes push that concept to its limit.

Despite playing a lot of these multiplayer games on my home desktop…

…I am content with the 300Hz display on this laptop.

Even though I didn’t quite hit the refresh rate ceiling…

…when testing Rainbow Six: Siege, it certainly felt buttery smooth.

In the in-game benchmark, the GS66 Stealth averaged 193fps…

…at the Medium preset (many competitive players…

…use moderate frame rates for higher frame rates) and peaked at 293fps.

Whether or not you notice depends on who you are…

…but I was able to tell it was higher than my usual 144fps.

It might be worth it if you take your multiplayer success seriously.

For the rest of the build, it’s good, but not remarkable.

The keyboard was designed in collaboration with SteelSeries…

…and features customizable key lighting.

My only complaint is that the keys are a little shallow…

…it feels like you’re hitting bottom quickly, giving a flat sensation…

…especially with the space bar.

I have no complaints about the touchpad…

…which is a bit wider than average and tracks smoothly.

Keep reading…

Concerns about Ports, Configurations, and Components

The chassis has plenty of physical connections…

…including a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, and an HDMI port.

A thicker chassis also allows it to have an Ethernet jack…

…which is a boon for gamers who want a faster…

…more stable connection while playing or downloading games.

The laptop comes in a variety of configurations…

…some of which are available outside of the U.S.

We tested the second most expensive model, priced at $2,699.

In addition to the 300Hz display, you’ll get an Intel Core i7-10750H processor…

…32GB of memory, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) GPU…

…and a 512GB solid-state drive. Other configurations range from $1,499 to $2,999…

…with CPU options up to the Core i9-10980HK and GPU options down to the RTX 2060.

There are also 1TB SSD options, which might make more sense:

…I think 512GB is too little for modern games, especially at our model’s price.

This is one of the first laptops we’ve tested with both a brand-new processor…

…and graphics chip (following right after Gigabyte’s Aero 15 OLED XB).

Intel just launched its 10th Generation “Comet Lake-H” mobile processors…

…a series of chips that will allow premium laptops (mostly gaming machines)…

…to reach higher performance levels. One of these is the i7-10750H, a six-core…

…12-thread processor, and we conducted some early tests to see how this new series…

…of laptops would perform generally (but read on for more details on the specific performance of this laptop).

The RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) is one of the most powerful GPUs you can find in a laptop.

Nvidia released “super” versions of the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070…

…offering somewhat better performance at lower prices, as it did on the desktop.

Additionally, we tested a couple of mobile Super GPUs that we got our hands on.

The Max-Q suffix complicates things a bit. You can read more…

…about this term here if you aren’t familiar with it.

Simply put, it is Nvidia’s way of squeezing more powerful GPUs…

…into slim laptops by slightly throttling or down-tuning…

…their power potential to minimize heat production.

We found that Max-Q somewhat muddied the on-paper Nvidia GPU hierarchy…

…and the down-tuning seemed to affect the RTX 2080 more than the RTX 2070.

This explains some of the results below, which aren’t as clear-cut as you might think…

…thanks to so many factors affecting frame rates.

As a result, it is important to examine each laptop…

…as a whole rather than just its parts, so let’s jump into the results.

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Performance Testing

In order to compare the GS66 Stealth to other similar gaming laptops I have assembled a batch.

They’re all relevant to the GS66 in some combination of price, size…

…components, and performance, so here’s a comparison table to help you understand the differences.

Review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop
Credits: pcmag.com

There are a few reasons why the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is the odd one out.

It’s the least expensive ($1,449.99 as tested), has a 14-inch screen…

…instead of a 15.6-inch screen, and has the only AMD processor here…

…(the new, highly efficient Ryzen 9 4900HS) and a GPU that’s behind the rest.

Although it won’t compete on the pure graphics power front…

…it is still useful for comparison purposes.

The rest are pretty straightforward…

…including a range of Max-Q, Super, and non-Super GPUs.

Go on…

Productivity, Storage, and Media Tests

PCMark 10 and 8 are comprehensive performance suites developed by UL (formerly Futuremark).

We run PCMark 10 tests that simulate real-world productivity and content creation workflows.

It is used to assess the performance of office-centric tasks such as word processing…

…spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and video conferencing.

PCMark 8 includes a storage subtest, which we use to assess the speed…

…of the system’s boot drive. Both tests are rated using proprietary numbers;

…higher scores indicate a faster system.

I was unable to fix an issue where the GS66 Stealth would not complete the PCMark 10 test.

The crash of benchmarking software on a particular system…

…isn’t really an indictment of either, just an unrecognized conflict.

It is assured that the MSI can (and did, in my experience) handle everyday workloads…

…and multitasking without stuttering. During the storage test…

…all of these SSDs performed well, providing fast boot and load times.

The next test is Maxon’s CPU-intensive Cinebench R15…

…which utilizes all available processor cores and threads.

To render a complex image, Cinebench relies more on the CPU than the GPU.

The result is a proprietary score indicating a PC’s suitability for processing-intensive tasks.

A Cinebench test is a good predictor of our Handbrake video editing test…

….another tough, threaded workout that is highly CPU-dependent…

…and scales well with cores and threads.

We timed systems as they transcoded a 12-minute clip of 4K video…

…(the open-source Blender demo movie Tears of Steel) to 1080p MP4 files.

The test is timed, and lower results are better.

Additionally, we run a custom Adobe Photoshop image editing benchmark.

An early 2018 release of the Creative Cloud version of Photoshop was used…

…to apply a series of 10 complex filters and effects to a standard JPEG test image.

The total processing time was calculated by timing each operation.

The lower the time, the better.

All of these tests put the GS66’s processor in the middle of the pack…

…not leading the group. It was better than the older Core i7 chips…

…in the HP Omen X 2S and the Blade 15.

Furthermore, the Aero 15’s better CPU (an eight-core chip…

…in the new Core H series) and the Ryzen CPU…

…(a platform that generally outperforms Intel’s at media tasks) topped the charts.

In our Photoshop test, which involves short bursts rather than longer…

…sustained workloads, the i7-10750H came close…

…to (or even beat) those two; the Ryzen chip cleaned up in Cinebench.

Still, the GS66 is a decent multimedia laptop, capable of handling photo or video workloads well.

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Graphics Tests

Review of MSI GS66 Stealth Gaming Laptop

By rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics…

…with particles and lighting, 3DMark measures relative graphics power.

Various types of systems are tested using two different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike.

Sky Diver and Fire Strike are both DirectX 11 benchmarks,

…but Sky Diver is better suited to midrange PCs while Fire Strike is made…

…for high-end PCs to strut their stuff. The results are proprietary scores.

Next, we have a synthetic graphics test from Unigine Corp.

Similar to 3DMark, the Superposition test renders and pans…

…through a detailed 3D scene to determine the system’s performance.

Using the Unigine engine, it displays a different 3D workload scenario…

…to provide a second opinion on each laptop’s graphical prowess.

This time around, the new RTX 2080 Super (Max-Q) mostly does its job…

…proving superior to its older, non-Super version, as well as to the RTX 2070 and 2060.

The GS66 Stealth and its GPU failed to outperform the Aero 15 and its RTX 2070 Super (Max-Q)…

…which it should logically be superior to.

(Both systems have been updated to Nvidia’s latest driver.)

As the Aero 15 has a better CPU with more cores and threads…

…it is possible that this is making up the difference.

In any case, barring some wacky software behavior…

…it can be attributed to the thermal design and differences of each laptop.

The parts of the laptop cake are almost impossible to “unbake”…

…to calculate the effects of each factor, but again that emphasizes…

…the importance of testing each machine…

…and in this case the GS66 Stealth trails the Aero 15.

Last but not least…

Battery Rundown Test

In preparation for our unplugged video rundown test…

…we set up the laptop in power-saving mode…

…(instead of balanced or high-performance mode)…

…and make a few other battery-saving tweaks.

We loop a locally stored 720p file of the Tears of Steel short…

…we use in our Handbrake test with screen brightness set…

…at 50 percent and volume set at 100 percent until the laptop shuts down.

(We also turn off Wi-Fi.)

MSI’s battery performance was adequate.

While shorter than some of these machines…

…(which are relatively long-lasting for gaming laptops)…

…it’s still long enough to let you go without charging.

This laptop’s battery life isn’t short enough to undermine its portability…

…even if it doesn’t set any records.

Given that MSI made sure to note that it included a large 99.9-watt-hour battery…

…(the largest permitted for plane travel) in this laptop…

…you could view the result as disappointing.

The solid, but not stellar battery runtime can only be attributed…

…to the high-end components (300Hz display, powerful GPU)…

…draining the battery faster than some more modest components might.

“There’s a 99.9 Wh battery inside the GS66 Stealth, the largest legally allowed on a notebook, and that translates in fair runtimes on a charge, as long as you use the laptop in the Hybrid mode that enables Optimus. However, keep in mind that the system down not automatically switch the screen to 60 Hz when unplugging the laptop, which you might want to when looking to maximize runtimes, as running it at 240 Hz takes its slight toll.”

Ultrabookreview.com

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Sum Up!

The MSI GS66 Stealth is one of the best in this field…

…with a great build and high-end features that match its high price.

It’s a whole different proposition from the GS65 we tested…

…which was a much cheaper configuration as well as a lighter…

…slimmer machine with a few more features to set it apart.

This laptop, aside from the new components…

…(which are also coming to competing laptops and are not exclusive to the GS66)…

…has less of an identity than its predecessor.

This is a portable, high-performance machine, but the design is a bit run-of-the-mill…

…and the performance, while great, isn’t what we expected considering the GPU.

However, don’t get us wrong: The GS66 Stealth has plenty of advanced features…

…and will perform well in all games. Even though the design is more standard…

…the quality is still excellent, and extras like the 300Hz screen will make some salivate.

However, the price is quite high, and the storage capacity is a bit low for gaming.

Hardcore enthusiasts with big budgets can only buy this game, but they won’t be disappointed.

Before awarding a new high-end winner…

…we’ll wait and see how competing flagship laptops implement these new parts.

Conclusion

Overall, I consider this laptop to be a good laptop that should satisfy the design, performance, and battery life requirements of its potential buyers, but there are a number of minor quirks and imperfections.

Even though MSI improved the overall craftsmanship quality from the previous generation, they left a prominent and annoying front lip that I can’t understand. At the same time, it is a clean and practical laptop, with a pretty good set of ports, an IR camera, reliable inputs, and good screen options, starting with this 240 Hz FHD display at the base level.

 

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