MSI GS65 Stealth Thin review: A gaming laptop that does split-personality with style

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The Good The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RF has a slim, attractive design with a thin-bezel display that doesn't scream "I game!" and doesn't weigh a ton. It doesn't sacrifice any connections and delivers solid performance, a better-than-average display and decent battery life for its class.

The Bad The keyboard keycaps are a bit slippery, and it can get pretty hot when running at maximum power or get loud when unleashing the fans to compensate.

The Bottom Line A great laptop for the gamer who's all business during the day and all RPG at night, the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RF balances both sides of you with aplomb.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7

MSI's snazzy GS65 Stealth Thin does a nice job of balancing the two personalities of the adult nonprofessional gamer. It delivers decent gaming performance for FPS' and platformers, complemented by a stylish but acceptably businesslike design, with a relatively comfortable keyboard and usable (for a gaming laptop) touchpad. It's not a cheap system, but at least it lives up to its price -- it looks, feels and performs as you'd expect for the money.

The laptop comes in variations of two base configurations: the 8RF, with a GTX 1070, and the 8RE with a 1060. The naming is slightly different in the US where the models go by THIN-051, THIN-053 and so on, but they still use the 8Rx identifier. They've all got an Intel Core i7-8750H on the inside, can be configured with up to 2TB (in various combinations) of solid state storage and 32GB of RAM. Prices for the GS65 start at $1,800, £1,890 and AU$2,800.

I'm not a big fan of 1060 Max-Q configurations; GPU performance is usually slower in a Max-Q design than a standard one, so a 1060 feels a little slower to me than the 1070 and not worth the typically small price differential unless your budget is really tight (or the price difference is substantial). 

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

Price as reviewed $1,999, £2389.97 (32GB), AU$3,500
Display size/resolution 15 inches; 1,920x1,080; 144Hz refresh IPS
PC CPU 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
PC memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz
Graphics 8GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q design
Storage 512GB SSD
Ports 3 x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1 x USB-C/Thunderbolt, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 1 x mDP 1.2, 1 x headphone, 1 x mic
Networking Killer E2500 Ethernet, 802.11ac 2x2, Bluetooth 5
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
Weight 4.1 lbs./1.9kg

The GS65 is one of the trendsetters incorporating a 144Hz, thin-bezel display into 15-inch gaming laptops, and it has some of the slimmest bezels we've seen; about the same as the Razer Blade (2018) but smaller than the Asus ROG Zephyrus M GM501 (2018) and Digital Storm Equinox, just to name a few recent models. Combined with Nvidia's Max-Q design for its 10-series GPUs, we're seeing a lot more of these thin, relatively light and mainstream-looking laptops. 

Though the thin metal used in the chassis makes it seem somewhat delicate, it's pretty sturdy, with little give in the display and keyboard. The hinges are only on the sides but there's good tension, holding it at whatever angle you prefer to lean it.  The brown and copper, all-metal body is a nice change from other gaming laptops. While it's vented all over, the grilles look interesting rather than gaming-flashy. A small cutout where the webcam lives also provides a slight lip which makes it easy to open the lid with one hand.

All the ports are on the sides, none on the back, but there are a decent number of all the right ones given the thinness of the laptop.

The new normal 

The 144Hz, 1,920x1,080 IPS display, which you'll see as an option in many of the recent gaming laptops, is better than the traditional gaming-laptop display, and MSI offers a lot more controls over settings than most. For instance, in addition to presets you can choose native, sRGB or Rec.709 color spaces; adjust white point, gamma, brightness and contrast; and tweak red, green and blue channels. 

There's also an option for hardware calibration using the X-Rite i1DisplayPro or one of the SpectraCal variants. Unfortunately, the installed X-Rite driver made the system unstable;  it had issues with going to and coming out of sleep and hibernation that went away once I uninstalled it, thanks to a driver hint delivered on the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). And it's not just on this system: on our Digital Storm evaluation unit, the X-Rite driver repeatedly crashed the system after about an hour of gameplay. Unfortunately, X-Rite rarely updates its drivers.

The display covers 100 percent of sRGB as defined by the triangle formed by the red, green and blue primaries, but like most displays it has problems with cyan, so technically it measured at about 93 percent coverage. It doesn't get terribly bright -- it peaks at about 280 nits -- and the gamma does hit 2.2, but that's an average of values of an ugly curve.  

The white point is also a bit too high (about 7,800K in sRGB neutral). You can tweak the settings to get it closer to ideal, though. I'd take "factory calibrated" with a grain of salt, but it's fine for gaming, just not for photo editing or other color-accuracy-sensitive work.