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

Don’t let the name fool you – there’s 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 in doubt with last year’s 5.4-pound Stealth GS76, this year’s 0.79-inch-thick, 6.17-pound GS77 effectively launched that idea into the sun. This laptop is big, thick and bulky, and while it doesn’t have the light strips and LED grids boasted by other flashy gaming laptops, its RGB keyboard still makes it very clear that it’s meant for gaming first and foremost.

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

One can understand why MSI may have wanted to get bigger, as the chips inside have fried just about every chassis they’ve touched this year. The model sent to us 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 display.

But the new girth takes away a major 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 flat, the touchpad is uncomfortably stiff, battery life isn’t good, and the device is too big and heavy to reliably carry anywhere. What we’re left with is a computer that demands many of the same compromises as the most powerful gaming laptops on the market without delivering the same stellar frame rates.

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

The main advantage of the Stealth is now its price. My test unit is currently listed for $2,899. Getting that GPU in the GE76 Raider (which has an even beefier Core i9 as well as a fancier design) would be $100 morewhile a QHD Razer Blade 17 with the 3070 Ti would be a total of $3,399.99. I was also able to find GS77 models for as low as $1,799 (for a 144Hz 1080p display, an RTX 3060, and 16GB of RAM), while the Cheapest blade on Razer’s site is $2,799 and the 12th Gen Raider begins at $2,299. Still, $2,899 isn’t a budget price, and it’s worth knowing what trade-offs you make for that lower cost.

The MSI GS77 Stealth seen from above half open on a green fabric bench.

The lid is fairly free of fingerprints.

The rear left corner of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

The same goes for much of the keyboard.

First of all, the aspect of the GS77 which is an undeniable improvement compared to last year: the quality of manufacture. I’ve had gripes about MSI’s chassis in the past, but the GS77’s base and lid are both sturdy and inflexible. The trackpad picked up 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 hasn’t picked up any scratches or dents from being beaten up in a suitcase for a few days.

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

The MSI GS77 Stealth keyboard seen from above on a yellow fabric bench.  The screen displays The Verge home page.

But the touchpad is another story.

That said, I really can’t see myself using this device as a daily driver for two important reasons: the keyboard and the touchpad. The keyboard has nice lighting, but it’s thin enough to type on, with more of a spongy feel than a click. And while there’s a number pad, the keys are all a bit cramped. The arrow keys, in particular, feel small.

And the touchpad is where I really struggled. It’s big but it was as hard of a click as I’ve ever experienced on a touchpad. (And it’s pretty loud, too.) It felt like I really had to press my finger down to register a click. I was about to plug in a mouse (which I don’t do when testing productivity use cases, as a rule) because of how much I hated browsing with it. These aren’t unheard-of compromises when it comes to 17-inch gaming laptops, but they underscore how much I’d recommend this double as a daily driver.

The closed MSI GS77 Stealth on a yellow fabric bench seen from above.

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 ran at an average of 60 frames per second at native resolution (technically 59.3, but we can call it 60). This jumped up to 65 at 1080p. On Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p we saw an average of 83fps with ray tracing on Ultra (its max 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. In short, more than playable.

The GS77 recorded an absurd 400fps on the heavy CPU CS: GO at 1080p and a still quite high 286 at native 1440p. The only title that caused problems for the game was Cyberpunk 2077, which – at native resolution, max settings, with ray tracing turned up to “Psycho” – ran at 19 fps (but hit 33 at those settings at 1080p).

All in all, it’s definitely an improvement over the results of last year’s model, and they show you shouldn’t have trouble running most modern games at QHD resolution, though. that they are lower than what you can get with more expensive Core i9 and RTX 3080 devices. There is one disappointing omission, however: the GS77 does not support MUX. This component (which has both the Raider and the Blade) allows laptops to support adaptive features such as G-Sync and can also cause a substantial performance difference. It’s a weird thing to rule out at this price and something I imagine a lot of people who are willing to pay $2,900 won’t want to compromise on.

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

See that little switch? It’s for the webcam.

When it comes to other workloads, the Stealth was more competitive. It completed our five-minute, 33-second Adobe Premiere Pro 4K video export test in two minutes, 15 seconds. The Raider beat that time, clocking in at one minute and 56 seconds, but it’s one of the very few laptops to ever do 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; rather, they’re meant to give you an idea of ​​how long an export will take.)

The GS77 also beat out 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. (He lost a lot against the Raider). It’s not a laptop I’d recommend people use for office workloads, so the GS77’s strong 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 one SD on the right.

The MSI GS77 Stealth keyboard seen from above.

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

MSI’s software certainly isn’t as glitchy as it has been in recent years, which is an encouraging sign. I had no problem adjusting fan profiles and such with the pre-installed programs. I ran into an issue where the screen started to turn off when I tried to launch games (an issue on a gaming laptop). MSI sent me a replacement unit, which did not have this problem. Still, that’s not the kind of thing we like to see on $2,900 products.

And then we come to what I consider the biggest trade-off here: battery life. I only averaged around two hours and 16 minutes of continuous use on this thing, with some trials even lasting less than two hours. That’s got 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, having to give up the life of the battery on top of that power (the Raider lasted me about two hours longer with the same workload) is a tough pill to swallow.

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

But the Stealth moniker and the way the line has been historically positioned might imply to some people that this device is a good choice for more than just gaming. It’s not; MSI’s changes to the Stealth line made it more powerful at the expense of other features that made it stealthy. It’s too big and heavy to constantly carry around in a briefcase or backpack, the battery life isn’t usable for everyday work away from an outlet, and the keyboard and touchpad don’t would just not be my choice to use every day. It’s not really a portable alternative to the Raider anymore. It’s just a more affordable version of the Raider.

Which is fine, if that’s what you’re looking for. But with the Raider offering more powerful specs, better battery life, more RGB, and a MUX switch for a few hundred bucks more, I think it delivers a better overall experience that will be worth it for people who buy in this range.

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