MSI GS77 Stealth review: Don’t let the name fool you

Don’t let the name fool you – there’s nothing secret about this device.

The MSI GS77 Stealth has long been the portable choice among MSI’s gaming elite, and while that fact remained suspiciously true with last year’s 5.4-pound GS76 Stealth, this year’s 0.79-inch-thick, 6.17-pound The GS77 effectively launched that idea. Sunday. This laptop is big, thick, and heavy, and while it lacks the light strips and LED grids that other ostentatious gaming laptops claim, its RGB keyboard still makes it very clear that it’s above all for gaming.

That’s not necessarily a big knock against the device—the GS76 was light enough for what it was, and the GS77 brings the Stealth series back in line with the rest of the 17-inch market. Now it weighs a little more than Razer’s Blade 17 and Asus’s Zephyrus S17. And it’s roughly the same weight as MSI’s more powerful GE76 Raider.

One can see why MSI wanted to go bigger because the chips inside have been touching almost every chassis this year. The model we were sent includes the 12th-generation Core i7-12900H — one of the most powerful mobile chips in Intel’s history — paired with Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Ti, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage All provide power to the 240 Hz QHD screen.

But the new enclosure takes on a major advantage that the GS77 used to have on these models: The GS77 Stealth has lost something that made it desirable as a “portable” purchase. The keyboard is on the flat side, the touchpad is uncomfortably stiff, the battery life isn’t good, and the device is too big and too heavy to bring anywhere reliably. What we’re left with is a computer that makes many of the same compromises as the most powerful gaming laptops on the market without bringing the same exceptional frame rates.

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The primary advantage of the Stealth now is its price. My test unit is currently listed for $2,899. It’ll cost $100 more to get this GPU in the GE76 Raider (which has a similar beefy Core i9 as well as a fancier design), while the QHD Razer Blade 17 with the 3070 Ti will be a full $3,399.99. I’ve been able to find the GS77 model for as low as $1,799 (for a 144Hz 1080p screen, an RTX 3060, and 16GB of RAM), while the cheapest Blade on Razer’s site is $2,799 and the 12th Gen Raider $2,299. starts with. Still, $2,899 is hardly a budget price, and it’s worth knowing what you’re settling for that low cost.

The MSI GS77 Stealth is seen half-open from above on a green fabric bench.

The lid is quite fingerprint free.

Back left corner of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

So is a lot of keyboard deck.

First, the aspect of the GS77 that’s an undeniable improvement over the last year: build quality. I’ve had complaints about MSI’s chassis in the past, but the GS77’s base and lid are both sturdy and uncluttered. The trackpad collected some fingerprints fairly easily, but the rest of the chassis wasn’t much of a magnet for them. It’s a good looking computer, and it didn’t pick up any scratches or dents after tossing it around in a suitcase for a few days.

Other perks of the previous model remain. There’s a good range of ports, including two USB-C, two USB-A, a headphone jack, HDMI, Ethernet, and an SD card reader. (The SD reader is strangely slow compared to last year’s, though, as other reviewers have noted.) The QHD display makes the game sound great. There are six speakers inside, and while they don’t deliver the best audio on the market on a 17-inch, my games still sound great. I had no trouble with the microphones, which support AI noise cancellation, and the webcam has a physical shutter switch on the side for peace of mind.

The MSI GS77 Stealth keyboard deck as seen from above on a yellow fabric bench.  The screen displays The Verge homepage.

But the touchpad is another story.

That said, I can’t really use this device as a daily driver for two important reasons: keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard is pretty light, but it’s thin enough to type on, with more of a spongy feel than a clicky feel. And when there is a number pad, the keys get a little tight as a result. The arrow keys, in particular, feel small.

And the touchpad is where I really had trouble. It’s big but a click was about as hard as I’ve ever experienced on a touchpad. (And it’s pretty loud too.) I felt like I had to actually throw my finger down to register a click. I was closer to plugging in a mouse (something I don’t do when I’m testing for productivity use cases, as a general policy) because of how much I hate navigating with it. These aren’t unheard-of compromises when it comes to 17-inch gaming laptops, but they do underscore how little I’d recommend for it to double as a daily driver.

The MSI GS77 Stealth closes up on a yellow fabric bench as seen from above.

The dragon is still there, but it is tame.

When it comes to frame rates, how do these specifications stack up? With all sliders maxed out, red dead redemption 2 It ran at an average of 60 frames per second at native resolution (technically 59.3, but we might call it 60). It jumped to 65 at 1080p. Feather shadow of the tomb raider At 1080p, we saw an average of 83 frames per second with ray tracing on Ultra (its maximum setting) and 121 with feature off. At native resolution, these translate to 58 frames per second (another number we can loosely call 60) and 86, respectively. Overall, more than playable.

The GS77 clocked an absurd 400 frames per second on the CPU-heavy CS:GO in 1080p and still quite a high 286 at native 1440p. The only title to give the game any trouble was cyberpunk 2077, The Joe — at native resolution, at max settings, with ray tracing cranked up to “Psycho” — ran at 19 frames per second (but achieved 33 at those settings in 1080p).

Overall, these are definitely improvements over last year’s model results, and they show you shouldn’t have trouble running most modern games at QHD resolution, though they’re below what you can get from the pricier Core i9 and RTX 3080 machines. There’s one disappointing omission, though: the GS77 doesn’t have a MUX switch. This component (which both the Raider and Blade have) allows the laptop to support adaptive features like G-Sync and can also make a substantial performance difference. At this price point it’s an odd thing to put it out there and something I imagine many people who are willing to pay $2,900 would be unwilling to settle.

Ports on the left side of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

See that little switch? That’s for the webcam.

When it comes to other workloads, the Stealth was more competitive. It completed our five-minute, 33-second 4K Adobe Premiere Pro video export test in two minutes and 15 seconds. The Raider clocked a minute and 56 seconds this time around, but it’s one of the very few laptops that has ever done so. Last year’s 3070 GS76 was 12 seconds slower. (These are not meant to be apples-to-apples comparisons, as different versions of Premiere may change over time; they are more to give you an idea of ​​how long an export might take.)

The GS77 beat the GS76 on the Puget system benchmark for Premiere Pro, as well as other creative workstations like the Blade and Gigabyte Aero 16, which tests live playback and export performance at 4K and 8K. (It lost a lot to Raider). It’s not the kind of laptop I’d recommend people use for office workloads, so the GS77’s good performance here isn’t the biggest point in its favor.

Ports on the right side of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

Two USB-C and one SD on the right.

The keyboard deck of the MSI GS77 Stealth, seen from above.

The charging port, HDMI and Ethernet are on the back.

MSI’s software certainly isn’t as messy as it has been over the years, which is an encouraging sign. I had no problem adjusting the fan profile and so on with the preinstalled program. When I tried to run the game (a problem on a gaming laptop) I ran into a glitch where the screen turned off. MSI sent me a replacement unit, which did not exhibit that problem. Still, that’s not the kind of thing we like to see on $2,900 products.

And then we get what I see as the biggest compromise here: battery life. I averaged only two hours and 16 minutes of continuous use on this thing, with some tests lasting less than two hours. This has got to be close to the worst battery run I’ve ever gotten out of a gaming laptop. While it’s commonly understood that cheaper laptops will have less powerful chips, giving up battery life in addition to that power (the Raider lasted me about two hours with the same workload) is a tough pill to swallow.

If you’re looking solely at frame rates on paper, this laptop is a good buy. It can play all kinds of games at QHD resolution without burning your basement.

But the Stealth moniker, and the way the line has been positioned historically, may indicate to some that this device is a good pick for more than just gaming. This; Changes to MSI’s stealth line have made it more powerful at the expense of other features that have made it a good form of stealth. It’s too big and heavy to carry around in a briefcase or backpack constantly, the battery life isn’t usable for daily work away from outlets, and the keyboard and touchpad wouldn’t be my picks for every day use. It’s no longer really a portable alternative to Raider. It’s just a more affordable version of the Raider.

Which is fine, if that’s what you want. But with the Raider offering more powerful specs, better battery life, more RGB, and a MUX switch for a few hundred dollars more, I think it offers a better experience that’s worth the money for those shopping in this category. would be worth.

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