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

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

The MSI GS77 Stealth has long been the portable option among MSI’s gaming elite, and although that fact remains questionably true with last year’s 5.4kg GS76 Stealth, this year’s 0.79-inch, 6.17-pound GS77 effectively shot that idea into the sun. This laptop is big, thick and bulky and although it lacks light streaks and LED grids that other notable gaming laptops boast, its RGB keyboard still makes it clear that it’s primarily for gaming.

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

One can understand why MSI might have wanted to go bigger because the chips inside have fried almost every chassis they’ve touched this year. The model we were sent features 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 key advantage the GS77 had over those models: The GS77 Stealth seems to have lost some of what made it desirable as a “portable” purchase. The keyboard is on the flat side, the touchpad is uncomfortably hard, the battery life isn’t great, and the device is too big and too heavy to carry around. What we’re left with is a PC that requires many of the same compromises as the most powerful gaming laptops on the market, without carrying the same outstanding frame rates.

For more information on our scoring, see how we rate.

Stealth’s main advantage now is its price. My test unit is currently listed for $2,899. Getting this GPU in the GE76 Raider (which has an even stronger Core i9 as well as a fancier design) would be $100 morewhile a QHD Razer Blade 17 with 3070 Ti it will be a whopping $3399.99. I was also able to find GS77 models for not even $1,799 (for a 144Hz 1080p screen, RTX 3060 and 16GB RAM), while the cheapest Blade on the Razer site is $2,799 and starts with the 12th generation Raider at $2,299. Still, $2,899 is hardly a budget price, and it’s worth knowing what trade-offs you’re making for that lower price.

MSI GS77 Stealth viewed from above, half open on a green fabric bench.

The lid is almost fingerprint free.

The rear left corner of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

So much of the keyboard.

First, the aspect of the GS77 that is a definite improvement over last year: build quality. I’ve had complaints about MSI’s chassis in the past, but the GS77’s base and cover are both sturdy and unyielding. The trackpad collects fingerprints fairly easily, but the rest of the chassis isn’t much of a fingerprint magnet. It’s a good looking computer and hasn’t picked up any scratches or dents after being knocked around in a suitcase for a few days.

Other advantages of the 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. (However, the SD reader is strangely slower than last year, as other reviewers have noted.) The QHD display makes games look great. There are a whopping six speakers inside, and while they don’t deliver the best sound on the 17-inch market, my games still sounded pretty good. I had no issues with the microphones supporting AI noise cancellation and the webcam has a physical shutter switch on the side for some peace of mind.

The MSI GS77 Stealth keyboard deck viewed from above on a yellow fabric bench.  The screen shows the home page of The Verge.

But the touchpad is another story.

However, I really can’t imagine using this device as a daily driver for two major reasons: the keyboard and the touchpad. The keyboard has plenty of lighting, but is quite thin to type on, with more of a spongy feel than a click. And although there’s a numeric keypad, all the keys are a bit cramped as a result. The arrow keys, in particular, feel small.

And the touchpad is where I really had trouble. It’s big, but clicking was as hard as I’ve ever experienced on a touchpad. (And it’s pretty loud, too.) It felt like I had to really press my finger down to register a click. I came close to including a mouse (something I don’t do when testing for performance use cases, as a general policy) because of how much I hated navigating with it. Those aren’t unheard of compromises when it comes to 17-inch gaming laptops, but they highlight how little I’d recommend this double as a daily driver.

MSI GS77 Stealth closed on a yellow fabric bench top view.

The dragon is still there, but it is subdued.

When it comes to frame rates, how do these specs stack up? With all sliders at maximum, Red Dead Redemption 2 it ran at an average of 60fps at native resolution (technically 59.3, but we can call it 60). That jumped to 65 at 1080p. Respected Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, we saw an average of 83fps with ray tracing on Ultra (its maximum setting) and 121 with the feature off. At native resolution, these translate to 58 fps (another number we can loosely call 60) and 86, respectively. All in all, more than playable.

The GS77 puts an absurd 400fps on the heavy processor CS: GO at 1080p and still a pretty high 286 at native 1440p. The only title that gave the game problems was cyberpunk 2077, which — at native resolution, at max settings, with ray tracing aimed at Psycho — ran at 19fps (but hit 33 at those settings at 1080p).

Overall, it’s certainly an improvement over last year’s model’s results, and they show that you shouldn’t have any trouble running most modern games at QHD resolution, even though they’re below what you can get from the more expensive Core i9 and RTX 3080 machines. However, there is a disappointing omission: the GS77 does not support MUX. This component (which both the Raider and Blade will have) allows the laptops to support adaptive features like G-Sync and can also make a significant difference in performance. It’s a strange thing to turn off at this price, and something I’m guessing many people willing to pay $2900 won’t be willing to compromise on.

The ports on the left side of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

See that little key? This is for the webcam.

When it came to other workloads, the Stealth was more competitive. It completed our five minute and 33 second 4K Adobe Premiere Pro video export test in two minutes and 15 seconds. The Raider beat that time, clocking in at one minute and 56 seconds, but it’s one of the few laptops ever to do so. Last year’s 3070 GS76 was 12 seconds slower. (This isn’t meant to be an apples-to-apples comparison, as different versions of Premiere can change over time; rather, they’re 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 it Gigabyte Aero 16, in the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests live playback and export performance at 4K and 8K. (Indeed lost to Raider by a lot). It’s not a laptop I’d recommend people use for office work, so the GS77’s performance here isn’t the biggest point in its favor.

The ports on the right side of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

Two USB-C and SD on the right.

The MSI GS77 Stealth keyboard deck, viewed from above.

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

MSI’s software is definitely not as buggy as it has been for the past few years, which is an encouraging sign. I had no problem setting up fan profiles and such with the pre-installed programs. I ran into an issue where the screen started turning off when I tried to launch games (gaming laptop issue). MSI sent me a replacement unit that doesn’t show this problem. Still, it’s not something we like to see in $2,900 products.

And then we come to what I see as the biggest trade-off here: battery life. I only averaged about two hours and 16 minutes of continuous use on this thing, with some tests even lasting under two hours. This has to be close to the worst battery life I’ve ever gotten from a gaming laptop. While it’s generally understood that cheaper laptops will have less powerful chips in them, having to give up battery life on top of that power (the Raider lasted me about two hours longer with the same load) is tough pill to swallow.

If you’re looking for pure frame rates on paper, this laptop is a good buy. It can run any games at QHD resolution without burning up your basement.

But the Stealth moniker and the way the line has been positioned historically might suggest to some people that this device is a good choice for more than just gaming. Is not; MSI’s changes to the Stealth line made it more powerful at the expense of other features that made it, well, Stealthy. It’s too big and heavy to carry around in a briefcase or backpack all the time, the battery life isn’t usable for everyday work away from an outlet, and the keyboard and touchpad just wouldn’t be my choice for everyday use. It’s no longer a truly portable alternative to the Raider. It’s just a more affordable version of Raider.

Which is fine if that’s what you’re after. But with the Raider providing more powerful specs, better battery life, more RGB and a MUX switch for a few hundred dollars more, I think it provides an overall better experience that will be worth the money for people shopping in this range .

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