I finally got to spend time with the 2020 MSI GS66 Stealth performance ultraportable, and I’ve gathered my thoughts on this product down below, with the solid traits and its quirks.
You probably know plenty about it by now, but having reviewed it later than other websites, I can also tell you how this compares to the other 15-inch notebooks in the same niche, which I’ve also tested in the meantime.
Long story short, the GS66 is a brand new product for 2020, with a new exterior design, new internal chassis, a new keyboard, and updated hardware specs over the 2019 GS65.
Unlike some of the other OEMs, MSI offers potential buyers multiple hardware configurations of this laptop, with i7 or i9 processors, RTX 2060 to 2080 Super graphics, and several types of screens. That makes it competitive at the higher end with the best 15-inch performance ultraportables out there, but especially in the lower-tier SKUs, where the competition normally comes in with somewhat compromised products, such as the Zephyrus M15, the Blade 15 Base or the Predator Triton 300.
That brings us to our test unit, which is one of those lower specced models with an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 1TB of storage, Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics, and a 240 Hz 3ms IPS screen. At the time of this review, this sort of configuration goes for around $1800 in the US and around 2000 EUR over here in Europe, but you can follow this link for updated prices and configurations.
Specs as reviewed – MSI GS66 Stealth
|MSI GS66 Stealth 10SF|
|Screen||15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS 240 Hz 3ms, 16:9, non-touch, matte, Sharp LQ156M1JW03 panel|
|Processor||Intel Comet Lake-H Core i7-10750H CPU, 6C/12T|
|Video||Intel UHD + Nvidia RTX 2070 8 GB (80-90 W Max-Q, Overclocked) – Optimus mode|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||1x 1 TB SSD (Samsung PM981) – 2x M.2 NVMe 80 mm slots|
|Connectivity||Wireless 6 (Killer AC 1650i), Bluetooth 5.0, 2.5 Gigabit LAN (Killer E3100)|
|Ports||3x USB-A 3.2 gen2, 1x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1x USB-C 3.2 gen2, HDMI 2.0, LAN, mic/earphone, Lock|
|Battery||99.9 Wh, 230 W power brick, USB-C charging support|
|Size||359 mm or 14.14” (w) x 248 mm or 9.76 (d) x 19.8 mm or .77” (h)|
|Weight||4.78 lbs (2.17 kg) + 2.02 lbs (.92 kg) power brick and cables, EU model|
|Extras||per-key RGB backlit keyboard, HD + IR webcam, stereo 2x 2W speakers|
MSI offers this laptop in a multitude of configurations, starting with 6Core Intel i7-10750H processors and RTX 2060/2070 graphics and a 240 Hz screen at the lower end, and up to an 8Core i9-10980HK configuration with RTX 2070/080 Super graphics and a 300 Hz display.
Design and build
As mentioned already, MSI have completely redesigned this 2020 generation of the GS Stealth, and they had to, given the overall precarious craftsmanship quality of the previous GS65 chassis launched in 2018, and then slightly patched for 2019.
The GS66 feels overall much sturdier than the GS65, with almost no flex in the main chassis and one of the strongest screens in the segment. However, I still noticed some creaking sounds when pressing harder on the arm-rest, or when grabbing the laptop in hands and picking it up from the corners. They’re subtle, but their still there, at least on our sample.
I was kind of expecting these small imperfections, knowing that the GS66 is not a unibody design as some of the other options in its class, and instead still made out of sheets of metal added onto a plastic inner frame. For what is worth, though, the build quality has been improved and shouldn’t be a concern for most of you, unless you’re expecting the kind of feel and quality you’d get with a MacBook or Razer Blade, which you’d have to pay a premium for.
That aside, this 2020 GS66 is also slightly thicker and heavier than the GS65 generation, as a result of its tougher construction, redesigned thermal module, and the inclusion of a 99.9 Wh battery, the largest in the segment. At 2.2 kilos (plus about 1 kilo for the power brick), it’s still within the segment’s limits, and its compact form-factor makes it a fine option for every day commuting.
MSI also made sure to minimize the bezels around the screen, but still allowed enough space for a dual IR+webcam at the top, with support for Windows Hello. There’s no finger-sensor option, though, but you do get up-firing speakers. I remember MSI taunting dual-direction speakers in their launch materials, but from what I’m seeing, there are no speaker grills on the bottom and the sound only comes out through these tiny cuts at the right and left corners of the arm-rest. These speakers get loud, but don’t expect much in terms of audio quality, they’re among the tinniest in this segment.
This new GS is also a more spartan design than the previous GS65. Black aluminum is used for the entire casing, with no other accents and a very subtle black Dragon shield branding on the lid, plus Steelseries and DynAudio logos engraved on the interior. I wish that MSI logo under the lid would have been smaller or in a darker shade as well, it kind of sticks out as it is. This aside, though, the GS66 is a very clean and muted product, or will be once you peel off those stickers on the arm-rest.
At the same time, some might argue that this series looks a bit bland and has lost its personality, but I’m not in that camp. It looks simple, clean, and professional, just as I’d expect from a versatile work/play computer. Those black surfaces still show smudges, though, even if perhaps not as badly as on other dark-metal laptops, so you’ll want to keep a cleaning rug at hand.
I’m not a big fan of that glossy front edge, though. I understand that they had to put the wireless antennas somewhere, but why behind a shiny piece of cheap-looking plastic that’s going to scratch easily? Furthermore, the design leaves a fairly sharp front edge and annoyingly pointy corners, the kind that can aggressively dig into your wrists with daily use. MSI should have put more effort into this small, but otherwise prominent part of the chassis, as something that you’ll come in contact with every day when picking up the screen or using the laptop.
The GS66 is otherwise fairly practical. Large and grippy rubber feet keep it well anchored on a desk, the screen can be easily adjusted with a single hand and it goes all the way back flat to 180 degrees. However, there’s no notch on the front lip, so picking up the screen is not as seamless as I’d expect, and would often require the use of both hands or your fingernails. Again, a small quirk, but the kind that will annoy you every day during your lifetime with this notebook.
I should also add that MSI went with a fairly narrow arm-rest on this notebook, with the keyboard being pushed down onto the chassis in order to reserve the top for the thermal module. Air is drawn in through the grill at the top of the keyboard, as well as through the wide-open back, and pushed out through the exhausts on the back edge and the sides. This is a fairly good implementation, but also the kind that will easily gather dust inside, something to keep in mind. In fact, as you’ll see down below, there’s plenty of dust inside our unit after about 2-3 months of use.
Finally, let’s touch on the IO. It’s entirely placed on the left and right edge, with the DC plug and video connectors on the right, outside of your mouse area. The laptop includes USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as a Thunderbolt 3 port with data, DP, and up to 100W of Power Delivery, but there’s still no card-reader here, something professionals looking into this sort of a business-friendly design would have appreciated.
Keyboard and trackpad
MSI have redesigned the inputs from the previous GS65 generation, with a slightly different feeling keyboard and a larger clickpad.
They still stick with their annoying layout particularities, such as that big left CTRL key that sends the Fn key to the right, now squashed into the right CTRL, and cramping up what was already a cramped area around the directional keys. They’ve also included the power button as a key in the top right corner with this generation, and put an always-on red light into it that doesn’t make any sense to me. At least it’s a tiny LED, unlike on other laptops that go with lit Power keys.
On the other hand, this layout adds extra secondary functionality to the top right of the F keys compared to their previous implementation, and keeps the functions column at the right side.
As far as using this keyboard everyday, back when they launched the GS66, MSI taunted a changed and improved keyboard feedback, and as someone who got along fine with their previous design, I was worried they’d mess this up. Luckily, they haven’t, but there’s a catch.
This is right now the softest keyboard in this 15-inch niche of premium performance laptops. With 1.5 mm of travel and little effort required to register a stroke, this keyboard feels a lot like an ultrabook keyboard, so those used to stiffer inputs might have a hard time getting used to it.
I for one can see myself using this as a daily typer, though. It’s very quick and very quiet, but also rather unforgiving on any straying fingers with those soft actuations, and that took a slight toll on my typing experience. Overall, though, this is among my favorite types in this niche.
The per-key RGB illumination carried over from the previous generations, with bright enough LEDs, good uniformity, and almost no light creeping out from under the keycaps. The design also includes physical CasLock and NumLk indicators, and MSI notebooks also offer this neat trick that only lights up the available functions when you press the FN key.
On the other hand, while still mostly functional once you understand how it works, MSI’s Steelseries Engine control software looks and feels dated, with antique graphics and minuscule, hardly usable interfaces. In fact, their entire software suite could use a complete revamp, bringing all the control options into a unified modernly designed interface.
For mouse, MSI went with a wider, but what looks to me like a shorter clickpad than on the previous generation, as a result of the narrower arm-rest and reserving most of the top-area for the thermal module. I was OK with the size and overall feel and performance of this glass implementation with Precision drivers, especially appreciating the smooth clicks and sturdy construction that prevents rattling when tapped firmer. This shorter format might be limiting with some gestures, though.
I’ve also seen some complaints of poor palm-rejection with this wider clickpad, but I haven’t noticed any glitches during my time with this sample.
As for biometrics, there’s an IR camera on the GS66, but no finger-sensor.
For the screen, MSI offer either a UHD IPS option or two kinds of FHD IPS panels for the GS66 series: a Sharp-made 240 Hz model for the lower-tier configurations, the one on this unit, or an AU Optronics-made 300 Hz panel on the higher-tier variants, the one we’ve already tested in the Zephyrus S15 and Predator Triton 500.
The UHD panel is a bright and punchy option for creators and professionals looking for a 100% AdobeRGB ready screen, but is also expensive, takes a toll on the battery life and is not ideal for gaming, with its 60 Hz refresh and slower response times.
The FHD options are more versatile for both gaming and daily use, with the 300 Hz offering slightly increased color coverage, deeper blacks, and improved contrast, but the kind you’ll hardly notice even when having the two options side by side. On top of that, fairly serious degrees on light bleeding have been reported for the AU Optronics B156HAN12.0 300 Hz panel, and we’ve also experienced it in various degrees in our tests, while the 240 Hz options we’ve tested showcased less pronounced bleeding. In fact, there’s almost no light bleeding on this sample.
So if you were set on the 300 Hz screen, but those configurations are not within your budget, I wouldn’t worry, this Sharp-made 240 Hz panel is nearly as good on most levels, and even better at uniformity. In fact, it’s last year’s top-tier panel option, previously implemented in devices such as the MSI GS65, Razer Blade 15, and Gigabyte Aero 15.
If we’re to nitpick, I do have to mention that there’s no GSync support here, and in fact on any of the GS66 configurations, and this panel’s maximum brightness only goes up to around 300-nits at the highest settings, which might not be enough for brightly lit environments.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: Sharp SHP14C5 (LQ156M1JW03);
- Coverage: 98.7% sRGB, 69.9% AdobeRGB, 72.3% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.16;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 299.37 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 15.69 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1074:1;
- White point: 6800 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.27 cd/m2;
- PWM: 24 KHz, < 19% (source) – to be confirmed.
- Response: ~14ms GtG (source) – to be confirmed.
The panel is well calibrated out of the box on the included sRGB setting, and further running our calibration software in order to address the minorly skewed White Point and Gamma lowers the brightness by about 5-8%. The panel returns solid color and brightness uniformity once that’s done.
As a side note, we don’t have the right tool to test for PWM and response, that’s why above we’ve listed Notebookcheck’s results for the same 240 Hz panel implemented in the 2019 MSI GS65 Stealth as a reference.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a lower-specced configuration of the MSI GS66 Stealth, with an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 16 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz of memory, 1 TB of fast Samsung PM981 storage and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 2070 dGPU and the Intel UHD within the Intel platforms, with Optimus.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit was sent over by MSI, running on the software available as of Mid-June 2020 (BIOS E16V1IMS, Dragon Center 18.104.22.168, GeForce Game Ready 446.14 drivers).
Spec-wise, MSI offers the GS66 in a multitude of configurations. Ours is a lower to mid-tier variant, with the 6Core Intel i7-10750H processor, while the top models get the 8Core i9-10980HK, which is going to outperform it in demanding loads by a fair margin. Make sure to look into reviews, though, these Comet Lake 10th gen Intel processors require a lot of power in order to support the higher speeds.
As for the GPU, what we have here is the 2019 Nvidia 2070 in a Max-Q implementation, running at 65 to 80 W between the performance modes. Higher-tier RTX 2070/2080 Super are also available, as well as an RTX 2060 on the base configurations.
The updated Intel platform also supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 memory. However, our configuration only gets 16 GB of DDR4 2666 MHz RAM, in dual-channel, with 2x 8GB DIMMs. The two DIMMs are easily accessible inside for upgrades, where you’ll also find two M.2 SSD slots and the WiFi chip. Our unit came with a single 1 TB SSD, a fast Samsung PM981 drive.
Getting to the components is fairly easy, you just need to pop out the back cover, hold in place by a handful of Philips screws. Careful there’s a warranty sticker on one of these screws, so you might want to inquire about warranty conditions in your region if you plan to open this up. As far as I’m concerned, these sorts of warranty stickers preventing users from performing upgrades should be banned!
As mentioned already, MSI’s software suite is fairly functional, but dated in terms of design and interfaces. The Dragon Center app controls the main performance/fans/screen/battery settings, while the sound and keyboard are controlled through separated apps. There’s also an option to select between a Hybrid and Discrete GPU mode in Dragon Center, and we’ve run all our tests on Discrete, which disables the iGPU and hooks up the internal monitor straight into the Nvidia GPU. There’s no GSync support on this laptop, though.
The GS66 is not just a performance laptop, it can also handle everyday multitasking, browsing, and video, while running quietly and coolly. Two of the fans remain active with daily use, but they’re pretty much inaudible in most situations.
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
The i7 processor stabilizes at 53+W on the standard Extreme Performance setting, which translates in frequencies of 3.5+ GHz and temperatures of 90+ C, scores of 1550+ points, and fans ramping up to 45-47 dB at head-level.
Undervolting is disabled by default, but you can enable it in BIOS. For that, reboot in BIOS mode and press Right Ctrl + Right Shift + Left Alt + F2 at the same time to unlock the Advanced BIOS functions, and then scroll down to Overclocking settings, enable Overclocking and XTU support, and then reboot back into Windows.
Our sample ran stably at up to -120 mV, but we dialed back to -80 mV to prevent any stability issues and keep a consistency between the undervolted profiles we’re using in most of our reviews.
On this undervolted Extreme Profile, the CPU runs at 3.6+ GHz and a TDP of only 50+ W, with similarly high temperatures of 90+ degrees Celsius. As a result, this profile only returns a roughly 2-5% increase in scores over the stock profile, with power being the limiting factor on this sample in both cases.
Switching over to the Silent profile limits the CPU at 45W, with lower frequencies and scores, but the same kind of temperatures. The fans run much quieter in this case, though, at only 35-37 dB at head-level. Finally, the CPU power is limited at 25+W on battery, with matching scores. Details below.
Overall, this GS66 sample performed poorer than the other i7-10750H notebooks we’ve tested in this same class, with the CPU running at lower power and higher temperatures, as well as returning 3-8% lower scores in this Cinebench loop test. It does have a slight noise advantage over some of the competitors, though.
Nevertheless, the i7-10750H processor can theoretically sustain up to 4.3 GHz Turbo clocks in all-core loads, and our unit only does up to 3.6+ GHz sustained at 50+W of power once undervolted, which is about 80% of the platform’s potential.
Nonetheless, the results are better than I would have expected judging by the limited amount of CPU power, with the other tested implementations returning slightly higher frequencies, but at 63-70W of power. In fact, XTU shows a 65W TDP limit set for this laptop as well, yet our sample runs significantly below that, due to a combination of both thermal (at first) and power (later on) limitations. For what is worth, though, our unit is not a retail model, so you should also look into other reviews of final retail models if these sorts of details matter to you.
With that out of the way, we then went ahead and further verified our findings with the longer Cinebench R20 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95, on the Extreme Performance profile with the -80 mV applied undervolt.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it without a problem. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time. The CPU stabilizes at around 40W, with the GPU running at around 80W.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock Extreme Performance profile in Dragon Center.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 15164 (Graphics – 16738, Physics – 16613, Combined – 8261);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 3772;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 6336 (Graphics – 6310, CPU – 6488);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: Read: 48461 MB/s, Read: 44732 MB/s, Latency: 57.3 ns;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 3878;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 12234;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 34.87 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 6525 (CPU mark: 16033, 3D Graphics Mark: 11609, Disk Mark: 24418);
- PCMark 10: 5481 (Essentials – 9092, Productivity – 7500, Digital Content Creation – 6555);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5658, Multi-core: 25267;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1227, Multi-core: 6231;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1222 cb, CPU Single Core 193 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2737 cb, CPU Single Core 460 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 222.38 fps, Pass 2 – 71.88 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 50.21 s.
The default Extreme Performance profile doesn’t impact the GPU in any way, that’s why we also reran some of the tests on a -80mV Undervolted Extreme Performance profile, alongside an overclocked GPU in MSI Afterburner, at +120 MHz Clock and +200 MHz Memory. We’ll further call this the Extreme Tweaked profile. For what is worth, the GPU still runs at up to 80W of power even on this profile, and not at 90W as on other 2070 Max-Q implementations.
Here’s what we got in this case:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 16085 (Graphics – 17725, Physics – 17691, Combined – 8790);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 3979;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 6767 (Graphics – 6734, CPU – 6965);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 4086;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 12597;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 36.13 average fps;
- PCMark 10: 5637 (Essentials – 9495, Productivity – 7542, Digital Content Creation – 6787);
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1248, Multi-core: 6651;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1241 cb, CPU Single Core 194 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2964 cb, CPU Single Core 462 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 48.12 s.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the Extreme and Extreme Tweaked profiles:
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 5m 9s (Extreme), 4m 42s (Extreme Tweaked);
- Blender 2.82 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 1m 20s (CUDA), 36s (Optix);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 15m 56s (Extreme), 14m 50s (Extreme Tweaked);
- Blender 2.82 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 5m 44s (CUDA), 3m 45s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: 28841;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 152.4 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 99.05 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 145.69 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 16.67 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 187.7 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 43.93 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 88.21 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 15.05 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 71.28 (Extreme).
Finally, here’s how this i7-10750H + RTX 2070 configuration of the MSI GS66 compares to a few other devices in the same niche in terms of benchmarks scores.
With these out of the way, let’s look at some games. We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the stock Extreme and Extreme UV profiles, with the fans on Auto. Here’s what we got:
|i7-10750H + RTX 2070 Max-Q||FHD Extreme||FHD Extreme Tweaked||FHD Silent *||QHD Extreme|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing OFF)||95 fps (81 fps – 1% low)||106 fps (91 fps – 1% low)||81 fps (67 fps – 1% low)||69 fps (46 fps – 1% low)|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Ray-Tracing ON, DLSS OFF)||49 fps (41 fps – 1% low)||56 fps (49 fps – 1% low)||43 fps (34 fps – 1% low)||36 fps (29 fps – 1% low)|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)||91 fps (68 fps – 1% low)||96 fps (70 fps – 1% low)||89 fps (62 fps – 1% low)||66 fps (42 fps – 1% low)|
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)||156 fps (94 fps – 1% low)||162 fps (112 fps – 1% low)||131 fps (84 fps – 1% low)||104 fps (78 fps – 1% low)|
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)||66 fps (52 fps – 1% low)||73 fps (57 fps – 1% low)||62 fps (47 fps – 1% low)||48 fps (39 fps – 1% low)|
|Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)||94 fps (54 fps – 1% low)||106 fps (58 fps – 1% low)||78 fps (42 – 1% low)||72 fps (52 fps – 1% low)|
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)||76 fps (60 fps – 1% low)||83 fps (63 fps – 1% low)||56 fps (41 fps – 1% low)||54 fps (43 fps – 1% low)|
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Ultra Preset)||118 fps (88 fps – 1% low)||129 fps (99 fps – 1% low)||90 fps (65 fps – 1% low)||90 fps (72 fps – 1% low)|
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4||80 fps (53 fps – 1% low)||87 fps (65 fps – 1% low)||72 fps (50 fps – 1% low)||61 fps (34 fps – 1% low)|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5, Battlefield V, Red Dead Redemptions 2, and Witcher 3 on the stock Extreme Performance profile.
The CPU runs at very high temperatures, in the 88 to 95 degrees between the tested titles, while the GPU runs at excellent temperatures of 72-76 degrees, with the fans spinning at around 45-47 dB at head-level, which is about average for this class.
The performance is solid across the board, however, this implementation keeps the CPU running at high power settings and frequencies, which leads to those high temperatures.
Raising the laptop from the desk doesn’t make any significant difference in the performance or temperatures here.
However, undervolting the CPU and especially overclocking the GPU slightly push up the overall frequencies by 2-5%, with a slight increase in GPU temperatures and a roughly 5-10% increase in framerates in all the tested titles.
MSI also offers a Cooler Boost fan profile for this laptop, which allows the CPU to run at even higher clocks, but still at high 90+ degrees Celsius in FarCry 5, but more comfortable 83+ Celsius in the less CPU demanding Witcher 3 title. This also has a positive impact on the GPU’s temperatures and frequencies, especially in the Tweaked profile. However, this Cooler Boost profile also pushes the fan noise to unusable levels of 52-53 dB.
Normally, if I were to get this laptop I’d look into limiting the CPU in order to reduce those high temperatures while keeping the fans at bay, but that option was disabled in Throttlestop on this sample. There might be a way to enable it in the Advanced BIOS settings, though, but I couldn’t figure it out, so just gave up on any further tweaks.
Switching over to the Silent performance profile quiets the fans to below 38 dB, but with an increase in temperatures and a toll in performance. Both the CPU and GPU are thermally capped in this case, with the CPU running at around 22W and the GPU at 65W. Games are still playable, but the laptop’s chassis reaches very high temperatures and I can’t recommend using this mode for long, especially with demanding titles.
Finally, the GS66 is also a good candidate for external monitor use, although the CPU runs hot in this case as well. Most of the air is sucked in through the bottom, so temperatures shouldn’t be a concern when using the laptop with the lid closed, but I’d recommend placing it in a vertical stand to improve air intake.
Overall, this GS66 sample performed well, but those high CPU temperatures in all our tests and in games are a reason for concern. Once more, our test unit is not a retail model and I’d like to retest one of those final products if given the chance. In the meantime, I’d suggest double-checking our findings with other sources if possible.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The MSI GS66 Stealth gets a complex cooling design, with three fans and a multitude of heatpipes spread over the CPU, GPU and VRMs, but without a Northbridge thermal plate. On a closer look, though, most of this module is designed around the GPU, and the CPU only benefits from two rather-narrow heatpipes, which might explain those high CPU temperatures.
As an extra note, the wide-open back design allows dust to easily gather inside, and you’ll want to blow this clean quite often. You can already see the dust accumulating on the heatpipes and withing the fans’ blades on our sample, which is about 203 months old
The fans run quietly with daily use and you won’t notice them in a regular school/work environment, but they’re always active and audible in a quiet room, even on the Silent profile. I haven’t noticed any coil winning or electronic noises on our unit.
Here’s what to expect in terms of noise, at head-level.
- Extreme Performance, fans on Cooler Boost – 52-53 dB with games;
- Extreme Performance, fans on Auto – 45-47 dB with games, 45-47 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Silent, fans on Auto – 37-38 dB with games, 32-35 dB with daily use.
With games, the fans ramp up to only about 45-47 dB at head-level on the standard Extreme Profile, which is about average for this sort of a notebook. Ramping up the fans to their max pushes the noise to unusable 52-53 dB levels, while switching over to Silent lower the noise under 38 dB when running games, but with an increase in internal and especially external temperatures.
Speaking of, this GS66 heats-up a fair bit with longer gaming sessions.
The outer temperatures are about average. We’re looking at temperatures in the low-50s in the middle of the keyboard on the Extreme Performance profile, high-40s around the WASD area, and low-60s in certain spots on the back. The Silent profile further pushes those temperatures a fair bit, while on Cooler Boost these drop by around 5 degrees. Even so, with the WASD region in the higher 40s and still 50s in the middle of the keyboard, longer gaming sessions aren’t going to be very comfortable on this laptop, regardless of the selected profile.
Keep in mind we’ve run our tests in a controlled environment with the AC set at 24-25 degrees Celsius, so these temperatures might jump even higher in hotter rooms.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 32-35 dB
*Gaming – Silent – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Silent profile, fans at 37-38 dB
*Gaming – Extreme Performance, fans on Auto – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Extreme Performance profile, fans at 45-47 dB
*Gaming – Extreme Performance, fans on Cooler Boost – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, Extreme Performance profile, fans at 52-53 dB
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 through an Intel AX201 chip on this unit, as well as 2.5 Gigabit Lan. Our sample performed well near the router, but then the speed and signal quality dropped at 30+ feet away with obstacles in between, so the range might be a problem here. Again, something you should once more double-check with other reviews.
Audio is handled by a pair of punchy speakers that fire through narrow cuts at the left and right side of the arm-rest. These can get loud, at about 90 dB at head-level, but the quality is tinny, lacking in both mids and lows. A pair of headphones is a must with this laptop if you care about sound quality, and overall I feel this implementation is a step-backward from the GS65.
The webcam is placed at the top of the screen flanked by microphones. The image quality isn’t much, though, choppy and washed out, so I doubt you’ll want to use this often.
There’s a 99.9 Wh battery inside the GS66 Stealth, the largest legally allowed on a notebook, and that translates in fair runtimes on a charge, as long as you use the laptop in the Discrete mode that enables Optimus.
However, keep in mind that the system down not automatically switch the screen to 60 Hz when unplugging the laptop, which you might want to when looking to maximize runtimes, as running it at 240 Hz takes its slight toll.
Here’s what we got on our unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120-nits (60%) and 240 Hz refresh:
- 24 W (~4 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 19 W (~5+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 19.2 W (~5+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 24 W (~4+ h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 65 W (~1h 20 min of use) – Gaming – Witcher 3, Extreme Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON, no fps limit.
And here’s what happens when switching the screen to 60 Hz:
- 16 W (~6+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 16.2 W (~6+ h of use) – Netflix, fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
- 22 W (~4-5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Overall, this GS66 sample required more power than other i7-10750H notebooks in our tests, and thus our runtimes ended up slightly shorter than I expected, given the size of the battery. Other reviews mention better battery life results, so take our findings with a grain of salt.
MSI pairs the laptop with a generic and fairly-compact 230W power-brick, which still weighs around .83 kilos with the included cables in this US version. Refilling the battery takes 2 to 3 hours, and up to 100W of USB-C charging is also supported through the Thunderbolt 3 port with a compatible charger, for the occasions when you might not want to bring along the main power brick.
Price and availability
The 2020 MSI GS66 Stealth is available from select retailers around the world, in a bunch of different configurations.
The base models start at 1600 USD / 1800 EUR for i7-10750H / RTX 2060 80W GPU/ 16 GB of RAM / 512 GB SSD and 240 Hz screen. 200 USD/EUR more will get you the RTX 2070 Max-Q model tested here, with 1 TB of RAM, while RTX 2070 Super versions go for around 2200 USD.
As for the highest tier variants, the i9-10980HK model with the RTX 2080 Super GPU, 32 GB of RAM, 1 TB of SSD storage and the 300 Hz display goes for around $3000.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading this article.
I’m going to draw my conclusions based on my experience with this sample, but take some of our findings with a grain of salt, especially our battery life findings and some of the CPU performance/temperatures results.
For the most part, I feel this is a good laptop that should meet the design, performance, and battery life requirements of its potential buyers, but it’s also affected by many small imperfections and quirks.
MSI improved the overall craftsmanship quality from the previous generation, but somehow still left a prominent and annoying front lip that makes no sense to me. At the same time, this is also a clean and practical laptop, with a pretty good set of ports, an IR camera, reliable inputs, and good screen options, starting with this base-level 240 Hz FHD implementation.
I’m not entirely convinced by MSI’s thermal design after spending time with this laptop. The CPU runs hot in most demanding loads, and that takes a toll over its performance and spreads onto the exterior chassis, which runs uncomfortably hot in games and other such combined tasks that push the entire hardware system. Sure, cramming powerful components inside a narrow chassis will lead to high temperatures, that’s just psychics, but based on our findings, the GS66 is a notch behind its competitors at this level, while also a notch behind in performance.
Speaking of, undervolting the CPU and overclocking the GPU makes a fairly big difference on this laptop, and MSI should do a better job at implementing those by default withing the power profiles, something most competitors offer in various degrees.
That’s why these lower-tier i7 + 80W 2060/2070 implementations are the better value options here, as more versatile all-around options for school/work and only some occasional gaming. There’s still plenty of competition in this lower segment a well, though, yet the GS66 benefits from being a higher-tier chassis with a large battery and some extra features that you might not normally find in this class, on laptops such as the Blade 15 Base or the Predator Triton 300 or the Zephyrus M15, which you should nonetheless look into as well. Gigabyte’s Aero 15 is the close competitor in this niche, though, the same kind of higher-tier chassis with lower-tier specs.
That wraps up our review of the MSI GS66 Stealth, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and impressions on it, both if you’re looking to get one and especially if you’ve already bought it and can share your ownership experience. Please get in touch in the comments section down below.