MSI GS66 Stealth Review (2021): Gambling Comes to Laptops


MSI’s latest GS66 Stealth may look like last year’s model, but it has a lot more to offer. It is powered by NVIDIA’s new RTX 30 series GPUs, and it is one of the first gaming laptops with a 1440p (or 2K) display. It’s a big problem. In recent years, laptop gamers could choose between low-resolution 1080p displays with fast refresh rates or 4K displays that contained a ton of pixels, but also required a your of the power to make games.

1440p is a good compromise: it’s sharper than 1080p, but not as demanding as 4K. The MSI GS66 and other laptops with 1440p also support fast refresh rates to keep gaming smooth. So take this new screen technology, more power and the relatively slim design of the GS66, and it looks like a winner, right?

Gallery: MSI GS66 Stealth (2021) | 7 photos


For the most part, yes. But I ran into a major downside: tons of fan noise. That’s the cost of storing so much material in a thin laptop. And while all PC gamers have to deal with fan noise, the GS66’s cooling system was way louder than most.

But let’s start with the right things first. As soon as I got the GS66, equipped with NVIDIA’s RTX 3080 mobile GPU, Intel’s i7-10870H processor, and 16GB of RAM, I quickly installed Overwatch to see how well his 240Hz 1440p display performed. I was not deceived. This 240Hz figure means the screen can display up to four times more frames per second, compared to standard 60Hz monitors. The more data there is, the smoother everything is. Quite simple.

In OverwatchI hit around 175 FPS on average with epic graphics settings at 1440p. The fluidity of the gameplay made it easier for me to line up sniper fire or just wreak havoc as Junkrat. Of course I saw the game run even faster GS66 from last year, which had a 300Hz 1080p screen. But that lower resolution offered less detail every time I slowed down to take a close look at Overwatch’s characters and stages. With the new 1440p display, I could make out things like the thin lines of the costumes, as well as distant objects and slightly muddy players at 1080p. I’d be happy to trade in an incredibly high refresh rate like 300Hz for a slightly better screen.

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

And while 4K displays are obviously sharper, 1440p gaming requires a lot less power. You’ll probably get great results with the GS66 even if it doesn’t have NVIDIA’s most powerful graphics card. Most 4K displays have been largely limited to 60Hz refresh rates, so while you could run a game well, it could never be as smooth as a 1080p display. Ironic, isn’t it? We are now seeing 120Hz 4K displays in expensive machines like the Razer Blade Pro 17, but it’s still quite rare.

The 1440p resolution isn’t particularly useful for watching videos, but the GS66’s screen still made streaming content look good. This 240Hz panel also made browsing the web and reading documents incredibly smooth – although you would have to manually activate NVIDIA’s GPU to see the full benefits of this refresh rate. By default, the GS66 uses NVIDIA’s Optimus technology to automatically switch between the system’s integrated Intel graphics and the RTX 3080 GPU. This helps with battery life, but it also limits the screen to a 60Hz plus standard with integrated graphics. And as a side note: if you’re still not sold on 1440p as your ideal gaming resolution, you can also hook up the GS66 with a 300Hz 1080p display or 4K panel.

PCMark 10

3DMark (TimeSpy Extreme)

Geekbench 5

ATTO (main reads / writes)

MSI GS66 Stealth (2021, Intel i7-10870H, NVIDIA RTX 3080 Max-Q)

5369

4,538

1 247/6 505

3.1 GB / s / 2.9 GB / s

MSI GS66 Stealth (2020, Intel Core i7-10750H, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q)

4 778

3 231

1 159/6 901

1.8 Gb / s / 1.8 Gb / s

Gigabyte Aero 17 HDR XB (Intel i7-10875H, NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super Max-Q)

5 155

3 495

1 137/5 681

2.93 GB / s / 2.59 GB / s

ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 (Intel i9-10980HK, NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super Max-Q)

5 616

3,680

1 365/8 055

3 Gb / s / 3.24 Gb / s

ASUS Zephyrus G14 (AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS, NVIDIA RTX 2060 Max-Q)

5,436

2,725

1,189/7705

1.7 Gb / s / 1.67 Gb / s

Switching to a more demanding game, the GS66 was able to run Control between 55 and 75FPS with maximized graphics and ray tracing settings. I had to use NVIDIA’s DLSS technology to get this smooth gameplay, meaning it was actually rendered at a resolution below 1440p, before being resized with AI algorithms. Given how taxing ray tracing can be, I found DLSS to be practically a requirement with Control, whatever system I’m playing.

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