The Razer Blade has always had one serious competitor. It’s not Alienware, Predator, or even ROG. Those brands all make great gaming laptops in their own right, but none that seek to do exactly what the Blade does. MSI has evolved its approach to overcoming the Razer Blade, and its most recent model, the GS66 Stealth, seems to check all the boxes. Has it beaten the Razer Blade at its own game?
There’s a fine line between simple and bland. Brands like Razer or Apple are able to play up their look with some elegance. The MSI GS66 Stealth struggles to pull off the same subtle trick. It avoids the bombastic style of other gaming laptops, but isn’t quite as refined as laptops like the Razer Blade. Even some ROG Zephyrus laptops have a more consistent look.
MSI has even reeled the design back from last year’s GS65 Stealth, removing the gold highlights that played up the racing stripe theme. It’s now colorless, outside of the RGB keyboard, keeping to the standard aluminum chassis, painted black.
The keyboard and touchpad fit that theme. It’s a large, comfortable keyboard with a set of springy keys that are as good for typing as they are for gaming. There are quirks in the keyboard layout, however. The function key is only located on the right side, probably for close proximity to the full-sized arrow keys, which also double as volume and screen brightness controls. Weirdly, though, it’s only half the size of a normal key.
The MSI GS66 Stealth offers plenty of options for port connections. On the left, you get USB-A, HDMI, Thunderbolt 3, and a barrel plug power port. On the right side, the GS66 Stealth offers two more USB-A ports, an additional USB-C port, an Ethernet jack, and a headphone jack. That’s everything you need to hook up multiple accessories, output to an external monitor, and even hardwire your internet connection.
Like the Predator Triton 500 or Razer Blade, the MSI GS66 Stealth features not only an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q graphics card but also a 300Hz refresh rate screen. The combination of the two means strong GPU performance and a screen that never limits the number of frames per second you can see. The MSI model also offers screens at 240Hz or 144Hz refresh rates when matched up with slower GPUs like the RTX 2070 Super or RTX 2060.
The matte 1080p screen is fantastic for gaming, thanks to its 3 millisecond response time and 300Hz refresh rate. Gaming is fast and fluid. For other activities, it’s only serviceable. The screen maxes out at only 262 nits, for starters. That’s 15% dimmer than the Razer Blade, and under the 300-nit level, I expect from premium laptops. The matte finish helps temper reflections, but I would have liked to see a brighter screen here.
The MSI GS66 Stealth is in step but not ahead of many of its rivals in several areas. One exception to that rule is battery life, where it pulls ahead. I don’t mean that it can compete with nongaming laptops, though. It still only manages around five and 40 minutes on a single charge — and that’s on a light web browsing load. You can’t work away from the wall for too long without worrying about battery life.
The MSI GS66 Stealth faces an uphill battle. It lacks the refinements of the Razer Blade and isn’t as affordable as the Acer Predator Triton 500. Its advantages don’t go unnoticed, though. The cooling is impressive, and the gaming performance is fantastic. It doesn’t double as well as the Razer Blade does for work, but as an ultra-portable gaming laptop, the MSI GS66 Stealth makes a case for itself.