The Stealth line has outgrown its name
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Don’t let the name fool you — there is nothing stealthy about this device.
The MSI GS77 Stealth has long been the portable option among MSI’s gaming elite, and while that fact remained dubiously true with last year’s 5.4-pound GS76 Stealth, this year’s 0.79-inch-thick, 6.17-pound GS77 has effectively launched that idea into the sun. This laptop is big, thick, and bulky, and while it lacks the light strips and LED grids that other showy gaming laptops boast, its RGB keyboard still makes very clear that it’s for gaming above all else.
This isn’t necessarily a huge knock against the device — the GS76 was quite light for what it was, and the GS77 has brought the Stealth series back in line with the rest of the 17-inch market. It now weighs a bit more than Razer’s Blade 17 and Asus’ Zephyrus S17. And it’s almost the same weight as MSI’s more powerful GE76 Raider.
One can see why MSI may have wanted to go bigger because the chips inside have been frying just about every chassis they touch this year. The model we were sent includes a 12th Gen 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 powering a 240Hz QHD screen.
But the new girth takes away a major advantage that the GS77 used to have over these models: the GS77 Stealth appears to have lost some of what made it desirable as a “portable” buy. 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 reliably bring anywhere. What we’re left with is a computer that asks 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 the Stealth has now is its price. My test unit is currently listed for $2,899. To get this GPU in the GE76 Raider (which has an even beefier Core i9 as well as a fancier design) would be $100 more, while a QHD Razer Blade 17 with the 3070 Ti would be a whole $3,399.99. I’ve also been able to find GS77 models 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 starts at $2,299. Still, $2,899 is hardly a budget price, and it’s worth knowing what compromises you’re making for that lower cost.
First, the aspect of the GS77 that’s an unquestionable improvement over last year: build quality. I’ve had gripes about MSI’s chassis in the past, but the GS77’s base and lid are both sturdy and unyielding. The trackpad collected some fingerprints fairly easily, but the rest of the chassis wasn’t too much of a magnet for them. It’s a nice-looking computer, and it didn’t pick up any scratches or dents after being battered around in a suitcase for a few days.
Other perks of previous models 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 weirdly slower than it was last year, however, as other reviewers have noted.) The QHD display does make games look great. There are a whopping six speakers inside, and while they don’t deliver the best audio on the 17-inch market, my games still sounded pretty good. I had no trouble with the microphones, which support AI noise cancellation, and the webcam has a physical shutter switch on the side for some peace of mind.
That said, I really can’t see myself using this device as a daily driver for two important reasons: the keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard has pretty lighting, but it is quite thin to type on, with more of a spongy than a clicky feel. And while there is a number pad, the keys are all a bit cramped as a result. The arrow keys, in particular, feel small.
And the touchpad is where I really had trouble. It’s large but was as difficult of a click as I’ve ever experienced on a touchpad. (And it’s quite loud as well.) I felt like I really had to thunk my finger down to get a click registered. I was close 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 hated 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 this to double as a daily driver.
When it comes to frame rates, how do these specs stack up? With all sliders maxed out, Red Dead Redemption 2 ran at an average of 60 frames per second at native resolution (technically 59.3, but we can call it 60). That jumped up to 65 at 1080p. On Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 1080p, we saw an average of 83 frames per second with ray tracing on Ultra (its maximum setting) and 121 with the feature off. At native resolution, these translated to 58 frames per second (another number we can loosely call 60) and 86, respectively. All in all, more than playable.
The GS77 put up an absurd 400 frames per second on the CPU-heavy CS:GO in 1080p and a still quite high 286 at native 1440p. The only title that gave the game any trouble was Cyberpunk 2077, which — at native resolution, at maximum settings, with ray tracing cranked up to “Psycho” — ran at 19 frames per second (but achieved 33 at those settings in 1080p).
All in all, these are certainly an improvement over the results from last year’s model, and they show that you shouldn’t have trouble running most modern games at QHD resolution, though they’re below what you can get out of pricier Core i9 and RTX 3080 machines. There’s a disappointing omission, though: the GS77 doesn’t have an MUX switch. This component (which both the Raider and the Blade do have) allows laptops to support adaptive features like G-Sync and can also lead to a substantial performance difference. It’s an odd thing to exclude at this price point and something I’d imagine many folks who are willing to pay $2,900 won’t be keen to compromise on.
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 beat this time, clocking in at one minute and 56 seconds, but it’s one of very few laptops that has ever done so. Last year’s 3070 GS76 was 12 seconds slower. (These aren’t meant to be apples-to-apples comparisons, as different versions of Premiere can change over time; they’re more meant to give you an idea of how long an export might take.)
The GS77 also beat the GS76, as well as the Blade and other creative workstations like the Gigabyte Aero 16, on the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests live playback and export performance at 4K and 8K. (It did lose to the Raider by a lot). This isn’t a laptop I’d recommend people use for office workloads, so the GS77’s good performance here isn’t the biggest point in its favor.
MSI’s software is definitely not as glitchy as it has been in the past few years, which is an encouraging sign. I had no problem adjusting fan profiles and such with the preinstalled programs. I did run into one glitch where the screen started turning off when I tried to run games (a problem on a gaming laptop). MSI sent me a replacement unit, which didn’t exhibit that problem. Still, it’s not the sort of thing we love to see on $2,900 products.
To start using the MSI GS77 Stealth, you’ll need to agree to the following:
You can also say yes or no to the following:
That’s five mandatory agreements and eight optional agreements.
And then we get to what I see as the biggest compromise here: the battery life. I was only averaging about two hours and 16 minutes of continuous use on this thing, with some trials even lasting under two hours. That’s got to be close to the worst battery run I’ve ever gotten out of a gaming laptop. While it’s generally understood that cheaper laptops will have less powerful chips in them, having to give up battery life in addition to that power (the Raider lasted me about two hours longer with the same workload) is a tough pill to swallow.
If you’re looking purely at frame rates on paper, this laptop is a fine buy. It can run all kinds of games at QHD resolution without burning your basement down.
But the Stealth moniker, and the way the line has historically been positioned, might imply to some people that this device is a good pick for more than just gaming. It’s not; MSI’s changes to the Stealth line have made it more powerful at the expense of other features that made it, well Stealthy. It’s too big and heavy to be consistently carrying around in a briefcase or backpack, the battery life isn’t usable for daily work away from an outlet, and the keyboard and touchpad just wouldn’t be my choice to use every day. This is no longer really a portable alternative to the Raider. It’s just a more affordable version of the Raider.
Which is fine, if that’s what you’re after. But with the Raider delivering more powerful specs, better battery life, more RGB, and an MUX switch for a couple hundred dollars more, I think it delivers an all-around better experience that will be worth the money for people shopping in this range.