The MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro (See it on Amazon) is neither a thin-and-light, nor is it an absolute behemoth gaming laptop. Instead it’s positioned as a “sweet spot” laptop with plenty of horsepower in a chassis that won’t break your back thanks to its Max-Q Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU. The inclusion of a GPU that runs at lower clock speeds than a typical GTX 1070 has allowed MSI to squeeze it into a form factor that is just 4.19 pounds and 0.71 inches thick.
The version I tested includes a 1080p 120Hz IPS display, but a 4K IPS display is available, minus the 120Hz refresh rate of course. It’s VR-ready too, which is great news considering the recent across-the-board price cuts on both the Oculus Rift and the original HTC Vive.
Here are the specifications of the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro I’m evaluating:
- Model: MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro
- Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 120Hz IPS Anti-Glare LED-backlit
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5 Max-Q
- Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz (3.8 GHz with Turbo Boost)
- Memory: 32 GB DDR4 2400Hz
- OS: Windows 10 Home
- OS Drive: 512GB SSD, 1TB HDD
- Ports: 1 USB 2.0, 3 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 USB 3.1 Gen2, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, Headphones (S/PDIF), Microphone, Card Reader: 3-in-1 (SD / SDHC / SDXC)
- Battery: 65 Whr, 3-Cell Li-Polymer Battery
- Wireless: Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1535, Bluetooth 4.1
- Dimensions: 15.32 x 10.82 x 0.98-inches; 389 x 274.7 x 24.96 mm (WxDxH)
- Weight: 5.82 pounds
- Price: $2,463 (street)
Design and Features
Lots of gaming laptops really want you to know their purpose, with gaudy designs that are equal parts fighter jet and supercar. The Stealth Pro, on the other hand, is relatively understated. At first glance, you might not even know it’s a gaming laptop. A red stripe runs along the back over the venting, and the MSI badge on the top of the laptop are the only things giving away its designed purpose. The entire chassis is made from brushed aluminum, and the bottom has a flocked pad keeping it from slipping or feeling too cold on your skin. It’s quite nice, actually.
Opening up the Stealth Pro gives away its intended use, with an absolutely wonderful SteelSeries RGB keyboard. It’s a full-sized chiclet-style keyboard, and the lighting can be customized in the Steel Series Engine software included with the computer. Colors and effects can be changed to meet your desires, and it has pre-programmed configurations like Gaming, which lights up only the left side of the keyboard. Brightness and speed of the animations can also be adjusted.
The touchpad has a small, milled, copper-colored bevel that absolutely beams with reflective light. It’s really great looking, which is too bad given how unremarkable the touchpad itself is. It just doesn’t feel accurate, and sometimes I found myself right-clicking when I wanted to left-click. Not a deal breaker, but it mars an otherwise excellent overall input experience.
Opening it is oddly difficult, requiring both hands: one to steady it and the other to actually open it. It almost feels like there’s a catch holding the lid in place, so you can’t just throw it open one-handed to get your game on. At least I’m confident in the strength of the hinge, but it does seem to be a little too stiff right out of the box.
The left side of the Stealth Pro has three, yes, three USB 3.0 ports, as well as audio ports, a card reader, and Ethernet port. The right side has a USB Type-C port, USB 2.0, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. Putting the USB 2.0 port on the right makes it perfect for plugging in a gaming mouse, but the power supply also plugs in on the right side, and it’s not ideal. The right-angle plug feels in the way most of the time, and it never felt like it seated well in the power jack.
The 1080p IPS display is another high point on the Stealth Pro. Everything looks fantastic and crisp, and colors explode off the screen. It’s bright without being too bright, and the 3ms response time and 120Hz refresh rate give it some serious gamer cred. It lacks Nvidia’s G-Sync, and it’s not even an option on any of the configurations. But it doesn’t really matter, because it just looks so good. The display is ideal for gaming and movie watching.
One place where the Stealth Pro fails to impress is its speakers. There’s no way to sugarcoat it; they sound awful. Even at low volume, the speakers sound like they’re blown. Sound is distorted and hollow, with nothing in the way of nuance or depth. It’s just there, as flat and bad sounding as the speaker on your phone. At higher volumes, distortion is introduced into the equation, making bad speakers sound even worse.
Storage is ample, with a 512GB SSD containing the OS and affording tons of room for installing games and other programs that benefit from the speed of an SSD. The base model Stealth Pro has a 128GB SSD, but still gives you 1TB of hard drive storage, like the version tested. If you really want to max out storage, there’s a version available with a jaw-dropping 4TB SSD, but it also has a wallet-busting $3449 price tag.
Its main components are pretty beefy, and include an Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 32GB of DDR4 memory, and the aforementioned GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU. These are some of the most powerful mobile parts available today, so this is about as loaded as you can get for a seventh-gen Intel-based gaming laptop, especially one that is as thin as the Stealth Pro.
Since the Stealth Pro uses a lower-clocked Max-Q GPU, overall gaming performance is a bit less than what you’d get with a full-blown 1070, albeit those typically reside in a thicker chassis so you can see there’s some trade off here.
Overall, the GTX 1070 8GB helps immensely, but the entry-level Stealth Pro comes with the mid-tier GTX 1060. The 1060 is a fine graphics card, but the 8GB of GDDR5 lets you max GTA V completely.
The GTX 1070 has no problem playing modern games on high settings. Slightly older games, like Rise of the Tomb Raider, can be maxed out completely with plenty of room to spare, and still maintain a fantastic frame rate. The benefit to going with the 8GB 1070 versus the 1060’s 6GB is readily apparent, but it also gives you extra life going forward. A 1070 will be running games at acceptable levels longer than the 1060. It’s also worth pointing out that this system’s lofty price tag is mostly due to expensive features such as the 120Hz display, 32GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, all of which are tend to inflate costs dramatically. So while this system is more expensive than others in the benchmark chart, there’s a reason, and you can pretty safely bring the price down without major sacrifices in performance.
Fan noise is definitely noticeable when running games, but it’s not alarming or even distracting. There’s an awful lot of high-end hardware in there, so fan noise is completely expected. The flocked material on the bottom keeps the Stealth Pro from feeling warm on your lap, but at the back, where the fan vents are located, it’s extremely warm to the touch.
I really love the SteelSeries keyboard on the Stealth Pro. It feels fantastic. The keys are spaced perfectly and the resistance and travel of the shallow keys is extremely satisfying. I actually prefer it to the keyboard on my MacBook Air. For gaming, it’s great: each key feels accurate and solid, and the surface of the keys gives just the right amount of friction to keep your fingers from sliding off. The W key also has a raised bump for easily finding your place on the WASD keys by feel rather than sight.
Battery life is not good. At under 2 hours, forget about taking this on a plane trip or outside beneath the blazing day-star. For a computer with specs like the Stealth Pro, it’s about where you’d expect it to be, however. Battery is always the worst part of a gaming laptop, and for now, there’s no getting around it. If you’re looking for a computer with great battery, buy a Chromebook. If you want a gaming laptop, try not to be too far from an outlet.
The MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro gaming laptop is available in a number of configurations. The config we tested is approximately $,2400 on Amazon, which is its more-or-less standard asking price: