MSI is one of the top manufacturers of powerful yet portable gaming laptops. And with this year’s Stealth 15M aside from a few minor puns, MSI feels like it has improved its craft. Not only is the Stealth 15M the thinnest 15-inch gaming laptop you can get right now, it features a 144 Hz display coupled with surprisingly solid battery life so you can play safely away from your home.
Instead of the high black and red paint jobs you get on many other MSI laptops, the Stealth 15M is delightfully minimalist. It has a matte carbon gray aluminum body (also available in white for a small premium) and MSI even opted for a more discreet logo (sorry, I couldn’t stand it) instead of the typical black and gold badge. The choice of ports is also good: a USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4, two USB-A 3.2 ports, a full-size HDMI 2 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and even a microSD slot that covers the left and right sides. And while there is some flexibility in its inner deck for a system that is thinner and lighter than a system XPS 15The Stealth 15M feels pretty solid.
When you turn on Stealth 15M, you are greeted by one of the system’s strongest aspects – although it depends on your preferences, it can also be one of its weaknesses. In line with the driving force for higher refresh rate displays, MSI includes a 1920 x 1080 144 Hz display in all but one configuration (takes the standard 60 Hz panel), which is perfect for gamers looking for a little bit more responsiveness.
However, with only 250 nits tested brightness, the Stealth 15M’s screen is a dimmer touchscreen than I would’ve liked (300 nits and above is better). It’s not low enough to come to an agreement, but if you’re someone who likes to work or play outside, you can struggle with the Stealth 15M more than an XPS 15 that pumps around 500 nits from its 4K display. .
Another important thing to know is that the Stealth 15M comes with a matte screen where things can get more divisive. Compared to the glossy screens that many people are used to, the colors do not look exactly the same on matte screens, which may cause some people to think the Stealth 15M screen looks a bit dim. On the flip side, you don’t see any reflection that minimizes distractions while gaming. I think it makes a lot of sense to get dull in this system.
Inside, the Stealth 15M remains understated with the same dark gray finish. But if you want to flaunt it, you can also do it with MSI’s colorful (and highly comfortable) RGB backlit keyboard, which can be easily customized using the Mystic Light tab in Dragon Center. Below the keyboard is the obligatory trackpad, which is both accurate and responsive, but I have to point out that the size of the touchpad seems a bit small compared to the Stealth 15M’s overall dimensions.
There are a few other minor features with Stealth 15M. For a laptop in 2021, its huge bottom bezel doesn’t seem out of place. I don’t think MSI should completely eliminate every boundary around its displays – a small bottom bezel could help keep your hands from blocking content while gaming – but a small reduction would be nice. In its default mode, fans of the Stealth 15M can make noise quickly by switching from a slight buzz to a miniature jet engine as soon as they start a game. Fortunately, there are settings in Dragon Center that allow you to control fan speeds, this includes silent mode if you are just browsing the internet and don’t want to cause a commotion. But if you’re looking for the best performance, you’ll have to put up with some fan noise.
MSI wants to fix the webcam issue on all its laptops this year with new full HD sensors, but unfortunately the Stealth 15M currently comes with a 720p webcam, which is mediocre at best. Even in a relatively well-lit room, photos look pretty noisy. The Stealth 15M can display your face in a Zoom call or live stream, but anyone who cares about image quality will likely want to buy an external webcam.
However, the Stealth 15M compensates for most of these with great features for its size and routinely offers around 30% better graphics performance than the XPS 15. The Stealth 15M comes with a new Intel Core i7-1185G7 chip, but also has an Nvidia RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU compared to the XPS 15’s GTX 1650 Ti card. This advantage can be seen in games; Stealth 15M reaches 77 fps at 1920 x 1080 and “Ultra” settings (54 fps for XPS 15) in Far Cry 5 and 70 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1920 x 1080 and is “Highest” settings (53 fps for XPS 15). Admittedly, this is not a world-shattering performance compared to larger 15-inch systems. MSI’s own GP66With room for larger and more powerful RTX 3070 and 3080 cards, but in such a thin and light system, the Stealth 15M remains a sleek and powerful package.
Even with its more powerful GPU, the Stealth 15M offers solid battery life that comes in 7 hours 59 minutes, which is only 30 minutes shorter than the XPS 15 (8:28). In addition to the built-in power brick, the Stealth 15M can also be charged via USB-C, which is useful for people on the go. However, the charging process isn’t that fast, as USB-C chargers typically can’t provide the full 150 watts you get from MSI’s internal adapter. You will still need to use the default power brick if you want to make sure you get the best performance.
Unlike many gaming laptops, the Stealth 15M is a system that really encourages you to move. It has great performance for its size, a solid minimalist build, and a pretty good battery life to boot. I expect MSI to address minor issues of the Stealth 15M in a future model, but even now, apart from the lackluster webcam, the 15M’s shortcomings are more like quirks than real drawbacks. And while there are larger 15-inch gaming laptops that can provide a little more graphical impact, you’re also looking to make $ 250-300 extra cash. Razer Blade 15 or MSI GP66. If you don’t want to lower the graphics settings with a tap while playing the new AAA titles, the Stealth 15M is a highly balanced laptop for gaming both at home and on the go.
- Weighing 3.7 pounds and 0.62 inches thick, the Stealth 15M is actually slightly smaller and lighter than an XPS 15.
- Fortunately Stealth 15M fans can be adjusted because things can get pretty loud when taxed.
- Stealth 15M is available in two colors, carbon gray and white, but white is extra costly.
- You can charge the Stealth 15M in a pinch with a USB-C cable, but if you want maximum performance, you’ll need MSI’s power brick.
- If you care about built-in webcam quality, the Stealth 15M might not be for you.