UPDATE: Check out the 12th Gen MSI Stealth GS77 review! We’ve reviewed many iterations of the MSI GS76 Stealth over the years and always been left with the same impression – it’s a laptop that we want to love but fitting all those top components in a chassis that was too small to contain them made it hot and whiny. We always favoured the slightly beefier MSI GE76 Raider (or Tiamat) instead thanks to its superior cooling prowess. However, with Intel’s 11th Gen processors having impressed us with their low-temp power in recent months, could this 2021 version finally be the high performance laptop we’ve longed for?
Key specs of the MSI GS76 stealth
17.3-inch, matte, 360Hz, 1920 x 1080, IPS LCD display; 2.5-4.9GHz Intel Core i9-11900H CPU; 32GB RAM; 2TB NVMe HDD; Nvidia RTX 3080; 99Wh battery; 2.45KG. SKU: 11UH, Full specs here.
Design and Handling
The MSI GS76 Stealth is of the Space Odyssey school of design in that it’s a big, matte-black slab. Even the etched dragon logo is barely there – just a glossy outline on the lid. But this is not bad thing: it’s more understated chic than can’t be arsed with design and this is supposed to be reminiscent of a stealth fighter after all.
You can’t help but notice it’s very thin too – just 23mm thick which is impressive for a 17inch laptop with a top-tier gaming GPU and top-tier, Core i9 CPU inside.
It feels very solid and the screen barely flexes when a twisting force is applied. Typing on the (individually lit) RGB, Scrabble-tile keyboard is particularly comfortable and also noticeably silent – as though a muffler has been applied to the keys. There are full-sized arrow keys but the number pad keys are slightly smaller. Whether you’re gaming or typing for extended periods, you’ll likely like it.
The trackpad is smooth and accurate and the HD webcam has an infra-red partner to make it Window Hello compatible for face recognition log-on.
The matte, IPS screen – all 17.3 inches of it – only has a Full HD resolution but it counters this deficiency with a screeching 360Hz refresh rate. It leads to quite extraordinary smoothness in fast-and-frantic shooters and racing games. Colours aren’t quite as spectacular as with competitors and there can be noticeable stepping in both chromatic and monochromatic gradients, but you can’t have everything. Detail is visible in dark areas (exposing enemies in shadows) but can blow out in bright areas. In short, If you need even the most complex cinematic games to run at extremely high framerates, this is very attractive.
Ultimately, it’s a good-looking laptop, with attractive lines and dimensions that’s a real joy to interact with.
The thin chassis of the MSI GS76 Stealth packs in some serious computing hardware. There’s a top-end, octa-core, HyperThreaded, 11th Generation Intel 2.5-4.9GHz Core i9-11900H CPU, two sticks of 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM plus two, 1TB NVMe drives (one of which is PCIe Gen 3 and the other Gen 4). You can’t really get much better at this point of time. In PCMark 10 it scored 7025 which is only beaten by the Asus Zephyrus G15’s Ryzen and its sibling MSI Raider. In the Cinebench CPU rendering tests it scored an impressive 1987 in R15 and 11,930 in R23. However, we were a little concerned here… if it was running in a hot room without the fans forced to maximum, those scores could drop by 20 per cent. Still, we wouldn’t call this overheating, just that it’s a bit more prone to thermal throttling than rivals.
In our 3D tests, its Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU saw it thrive once again. It scored a mighty 10,444 in 3DMark Time Spy (an average of 61fps), 12,023 in FireStrike Extreme (average 56.5 fps) and 6,170 in Port Royal (28.6 fps). These are all top-tier results in the world of high performance laptops. It will be able to play even the most flamboyantly graphic’ed games at very high frame rates on the fast, Full HD screen.
Inside there’s Wi-Fi6E and Bluetooth 5.2. It’s all the latest technology.
Portability of the MSI GS76 Stealth
For a 17-inch laptop with so much inside, it’s very thin at 2.3mm. It’s relatively light at 2.45KG but not the lightest. The chunky power brick and cables add another 800g to that.
It’s very robust and will survive life on the road. The max-size 99.9Whr battery played PCMark 10’s Modern Office test for a reasonable 6hrs 25mins.
Audio and noise
The MSI GS76 Stealth’s two speakers don’t get particularly loud and are a mixed bag in terms of fidelity. On the one hand, top-end, mid-range and vocal performance is acceptable but there’s next to no bass response and heavy music comes out tinny.
We’ve found previous generations of the MSI Stealth range get loud and whiny no matter what you’re doing. In addition to that, the fan could ramp up and down annoyingly whatever you were doing. So, it’s good to know that this version of the GS76 Stealth represents a great improvement. If you’re casually doing office work it will stay silent. If it’s under load it will certainly ramp up and get audible but the consistent, low-level whine sounds more like the the background noise of an A380 cabin and is not distracting. Only when doing hardcore gaming does it get hard to ignore but that’s not uncommon with similarly powerful machines. We’re impressed.
Should I buy the MSI GS76 Stealth?
There’s a great deal of internet chatter about the latest Stealth and for good reason – it ticks most people’s boxes for a fantasy gaming laptop. It’s got top-end everything and represents the cutting edge of today’s technology. Not surprisingly though, it’s far from cheap – the $5,499 price tag makes it one of the most expensive laptops on the market. As always with MSI, you can buy other variants which generally differ in terms of processor, GPU and screen speed/resolution.
It’s main rivals are its funky-looking, chunkier sibling: the similarly priced GE76 Raider which is far less stealthy but arguably a more suitable container of such high power. It’s also worth noting you can save a lot of money with larger, 17-inch gaming laptops like the Gigabyte Aorus 17G YC which is some $1400 less but offers performance and features that are just a small step behind (the same goes for MSI’s awesome-looking Tiamat). But we’re not complaining, the MSI GS76 Stealth is the model to buy if you require uncompromising (gaming) performance in an understated ‘stealthy’ package.
MSI GS76 Stealth (11UH)
- 2D Performance
- 3D Performance
Powerful features and components packed into a thin body. Thermal throttling can occur though.