MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review

MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio Review (2024)

Around 2019, the laptop industry realised that many designers were buying gaming laptops because their discrete, 3D graphics processors were great for rendering and design tasks and, subsequently, Creator laptops were born. They’re essentially gaming laptops with slower, designer-friendly screens and drivers that eschew information about gaming performance for design-oriented tools and features. MSI uses the ‘Studio’ designation to identify such laptops while the Stealth moniker denotes its place with MSI’s premium, ninja-suit-covering-RGB-bling, thin-and-portable(ish) gaming line. Step forward the 14-inch MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio.

On the surface, it seems relatively portable and yet, its internals rival powerful gaming laptops, meaning it’s a potential unicorn laptop with something to appeal to all buyers. Will this Stealth make your next choice of laptop easy?

Specs

Screen14-inch, glossy, 120Hz, 2,880 x 1,800, OLED, HDR display
Processor1.0-5.1GHz Intel Core Ultra 9 185H CPU
Memory32GB DDR5-5600 RAM
Graphics8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
Hard drive2TB
ConnectivityWi-Fi 7
Bluetooth 5.4
1 x Thunderbolt 4
1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (with PD)
1 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
3.5mm audio jack
HDMI 2.1
Speakers2 x 2-Watt Speakers
2 x 2-Watt Woofers
Extra SecurityTPM 2.0 Module
Windows Hello (webcam)
Webcam privacy shutter
WebcamFull HD
Battery72Wh
Dimensions316 x 246 x 22mm
Weight1.64KG
SKUA1V
Full specs here.

Features, Ergonomics and Design

MSI’s Stealth laptops were originally all part of its gaming laptop range – powerful but svelte machines that were impressively portable and very powerful (and they got very hot!). The Stealth 14 AI Studio is part of the designer-friendly Studio segment but the design could fit into either camp.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Rear Quarter
MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Rear Quarter

Its dark-grey-looking (called ‘Star Blue’), magnesium-aluminium alloy chassis feels more classy than boring and the printed Dragon logo on the lid looks understatedly cool. Opening it up reveals a relatively sober looking keyboard and screen until you turn the per-key, RGB, SteelSeries keyboard’s backlighting on – it instantly goes from being boardroom friendly to gamer magnet.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review RGB Keyboard
The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s RGB keyboard has many pleasing pre-set patterns that are configurable in the SteelSeries GG app.

The almost-pastel hues of the keyboard’s backlight attracted impressed glances from everyone, wherever we used it, and it’s simple to turn it all off (or transform it into a corporate-friendly, uni-coloured hue) when you just need basic illumination.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review RGB
The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio has some impressive, understated RGB flourishes.

An easily-missed detail is the stealthy ‘Stealth’ cut-out which hides among the air vents on the A1V’s derrière. This presents itself – along with two side lights – when the RGB is turned on. It’s decorative without being ostentatious and could even impress the clients of the designers that this laptop is aimed at, when sitting opposite them. The screen can fold-down flat to easily show them your work, too. Tl;dr it looks awesome.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Flat
The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s screen is designed to easily show your work to collaborators and clients that are sitting opposite. Just use the F12 key to flip the display when needed.

Screen

The OLED screen itself has a very-high, 2,880 x 1,800 resolution which means it offers-up plenty of sharp and clear Windows Desktop real estate. Plus, you can have multiple apps open at the same time for a genuine productivity boost – whether that’s looking at Excel spreadsheets, browser tabs, Word documents or Photoshop images – we regularly used a combination of each.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Screen
The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s display will delight designers and gamers alike.

Being designer oriented, the target market will be delighted to know that the colours are impressively vibrant and the OLED-derived, true-black contrast is as good as one would expect. It also supports 100 per cent of the difficult DCI-P3 colour gamut for chromatic accuracy.

Best of all, it’s Windows HDR compatible. This works so well on the MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s implementation, that we found we could leave it on constantly without hurting our eyes, when doing office work. However, when you fire-up multimedia and videos, details suddenly appear in bright and dark areas where none were visible before; both colourful and monochromatic gradient and transitions are rendered completely smooth and step free; and bright lights jump out of dark scenes for maximum immersion.

The flip-side of this, of course, is that the OLED screen’s glossy nature means it can turn into a black mirror when looking at dark content or if you’re outside or near a Window.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Oblique
The Achilles Heal of the MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s OLED screen is its glossy reflectivity in certain environments.

However, matters are further enhanced by the refresh rate which can be set at 60Hz, 120Hz or to dynamically switch between the two, when either performance or power-saving needs preferencing. The speedier setting marries with the fast pixel response time to keep fast-moving objects relatively smooth and blur free. It’s not the fastest screen we’ve seen, but only competitive FPS players would grumble. Generally, it’s excellent.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard uses low-travel, Scrabble-tile keys and these are comfy and accurate to type and game upon for extended periods. The 14-inch chassis is naturally too narrow for a number pad but MSI has added numerous function options to the top row’s F-keys, so you don’t feel like you’re lacking. Highlights include Power Mode switching, RGB lighting brightness, Fan Speed adjustment, On-screen CrossHair display and Screen Flip for when the lid lies flat.

One reservation regards the squished arrow keys which, despite being isolated at the bottom right, are mixed in with squished Page Up and Down keys – if you’re fat fingered (like us) expect to hit the wrong button occasionally. We’re not fans of this layout, but your mileage may vary.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Keyboard
The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s keyboard is mostly excellent. But, take note of the arrow keys and heed those spiky corners.

Another, more-minor issue is that we found our wrists would dig into the surprisingly sharp corners of the chassis when we sat in certain positions. These are minor gripes, though, and we happily used it for hours at a time.

Meanwhile, the trackpad is smooth and accurate and the buttons are well-weighted and quiet.

Webcam and Conferencing

Above the screen is a Full HD webcam which captures an impressively sharp image, even in low light where relatively little noise starts appearing. The webcam’s advanced ‘Windows Studio’ settings facilitate features like extra-sharp Background Blur, forced creepy eyes Eye Contact and Automatic Framing, while the Ai element of the 14th-Gen Intel processor – the NPU – enhances these enhancements with its more-power-friendly-processing of them, when compared to a regular, non-NPU CPU. Turning any of the features on sees a typical CPU increase of less-than two per cent. Turning them all on at once adds a total three per cent load. That’s low.

The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio’s accompanying IR camera powers Windows Hello, facial-recognition log-on and there’s a hardware privacy cover, which is a high-contrast orange, that makes it easy to see when it’s activated or not.

Speakers

Despite the diminutive chassis, there’s a quad-speaker array that features twin, 2-Watt modules plus twin, 2-Watt woofers. They produce very impressive audio that gets loud and punchy without distorting or losing fidelity at either end. There’s also an impressive amount of bass.

Connectivity and Ports

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Left Side
On the left of the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio is an HDMI 2.1 port and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port (with Power Delivery).
MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Right View
On the right is a 3.5mm audio jack, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port and a Thunderbolt 4 port.

Inside there’s the impressive, new Wi-Fi 7 chipset with Bluetooth 5.4 That’s a great, all-round connectivity combination but some may be a little miffed at there not being an SD card reader on a Creator laptop. Hopefully, the insane file transfer speeds, afforded by Wi-Fi 7, will more-than make up for this.

All in all, the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio is fantastic to interact with – except for the spiky corners and arrow keys.

  • Features, Ergonomics and Design Score: 4.8/5

MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio Review: Photo Flourish

The creature in our MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio review is some kind of rainbow unicorn thing. The author’s daughter had several of them and donated one to this article.

Performance

Inside the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio there’s a new-fangled, 14th-Gen Intel Core Ultra 9 185H processor which has 6 Performance cores, 8 Efficient Cores and 2 Low Power Efficient Cores that operate across 22 threads. There’s also Intel’s new-fangled Neural Processing Unit. It’s flanked by 32GB of fast, DDR5-5600 RAM and a speedy, 2TB, NVMe, solid-state storage drive (in the only available slot – MSI says you can call the supplier to expand this if needed).

We ran our regular benchmarks along with our new, real-world Procyon benchmarks to test the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio.

General Computing Benchmarks

In the general-computing-focused PCMark 10 test, the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio scored 7,227 which is well above average for a laptop, but perhaps a little down on something with a top-tier-sounding Core Ultra 9 processor inside.

In the Procyon Photo Editing benchmark, which uses Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom Classic to retouch and batch-process photos, the Stealth 14 AI scored 6,809 which equates to completing the tasks in 132 seconds. For comparison, its big brother Raider (with a desktop-grade, i9-14900HX processor) scored 7,204 and completed the same tasks in 111 seconds. Venom’s BlackBook Zero 14 Phantom business ultraportable, which sports a 13th-Gen, quad-Performance-core, i7-1360P processor, scored 4,240 which reflects it taking 320 seconds. So, it’s fair to say that the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio is very good for photo editing for a 14-inch mobile PC.

In the Procyon Video Editing benchmark, which involves editing and exporting four video files using Adobe Premiere, the Stealth 14 scored 18,703 which reflects a range of between 52.4 and 114.3 seconds. The Raider scored 45,674 which is a range between 21 and 57 seconds. The Venom scored 2,772 which is a range of 158 and 3,546 seconds. While it’s behind the powerful Raider, it’s not by much and the combination of a fast processor and decent, discreet GPU (see below) help keep it leagues ahead of the business-class ultraportable. Mobile videographers should be enthused.

2D Rendering Tests

In the Cinebench CPU-based rendering tests, the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio scored 3,055 in the rapid R15 test and 19,835 in the longer R23 test. These are above average in the scheme of things but, again, perhaps a little low for something with an Ultra 9 processor.

3D Performance

The discreet graphics processor in the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio is the upper-mid-range Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 which has 8GB of GDDR6 RAM.

In the difficult 3DMark ray-tracing tests, Speed Way and Port Royal, the Stealth 14 AI scored 2,824 and 6,967 respectively. These results equate to average framerates of 28.2fps and 32.3fps which illustrate that, while the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio will be able to play the most eye-candy rich games, you’ll likely have to drop resolution and detail settings to keep everything running smoothly.

In the 3DMark Time Spy and Fire Strike Extreme tests, the Stealth 14 AI scored 11,586 (average 71.5fps) and 13,382 (average 62.7fps) which demonstrate that it’s fully capable of playing the most popular AAA-titles.

In the much-simpler 3DMark Night Raid test, the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio scored 63,060 which is an average of 610fps. So, it won’t have any problems playing casual and competitive games and most of them will look brilliant on the quick, OLED screen. Only elite FPS may gripe about blur at extreme framerates.

Cooling and Throttling

In the past, MSI’s Stealth range could arguably be called something like the Celsius range as they got so hot. Fortunately, the evolution of silicon chips has helped improve power efficiency and thermals in the intervening time, but this pocket rocket can still get warm when under load whether the fans are manually dialed down or ramped right up. For minor, office tasks, it can avoid straying into too-toasty territory, though.

We ran the 30-minute version of Cinebench R23 and found that performance dropped by 3.1 per cent due to thermal throttling. That’s more than we’ve seen from recent rivals, but none of them packed so many powerful components into such a diminutive chassis. Lesser spec’d variants than our top-end review sample, will suffer less in this regard. Still, it never felt unstable or crashed.

Nonetheless, we suspect that future testing of similar silicon will demonstrate that performance on our review unit has been dialed down a bit, to guarantee stability and fend-off China Syndrome meltdowns.

Portability and Battery Life

The MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio isn’t the slightest 14-incher: it’s 22mm thick and weighs 1.62KG. We can certainly forgive it for some extra density, considering the beefy chips and cooling paraphernalia inside, though. It still feels small and portable.

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Underneath and PSU
The (dark) MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V has an anti-fingerprint coating. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than many laptops we’ve seen in recent times.

Though we didn’t think the PSU was supplying as much power as it potentially could, it still needs more than most rivals and so, be aware that the PSU and cables add another, not-inconsequential, 750g to the mix.

You’ll likely need them, too, as, the above-average sized, 72Wh battery only ran our PCMark Modern Office test for a modest 5 hours and 54 minutes.

We also ran the Procyon Office Productivity Battery Life benchmark for 5 hours and 54 minutes. This is likely due to the fan’s insistence on kicking in (to a very light whir) under minor workloads and the screen not getting particularly dark. This dents its portability score somewhat, but then it’s not an uncommon occurrence for souped-up, small-chassis computers to work extra hard to stay cool.

We were pleased with build quality, though. The magnesium-aluminium alloy chassis is very stiff and solid and so is the hinge, so it should survive a transient life on the road. It’s certainly small enough to stow in a small, discreet bag along the way.

Price and Availability

Our review unit (SKU: A1VGG-045AU) of the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio is available now at an RRP of $4,299 but, if you’re quick, you can nab it with one of MSI’s launch discounts for $3,999.

Other variants include a version (SKU: A1VFG-046AU) with an Nvidia RTX 4060 GPU ($3,099) and there’s one with an RTX 4050 although we can’t find that locally. We also expect these versions to offer fewer thermal issues, albeit at the expense of performance.

Also note that, at the time of going to press, MSI is offering a $50 Steam voucher to all purchasers of its latest-gen laptops. See here for more information.

Conclusion: Should I buy the MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio?

MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio A1V Review Lid
The MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio will appeal to many laptop buyers.

We really enjoyed our time with the MSI Stealth 14 Ai Studio as it really felt like a laptop that could do anything. That said, we were nervous about being away from the mains for hours at a time due to the battery life. That aside, any criticisms are minor and this laptop will indeed appeal to just about every buyer on the market. We’re more than happy to recommend it.

Pros

Looks great
Pocket rocket
Excellent screen

Cons

Sharp corners
Squished arrow keys
Modest battery life

Awards

Highly Recommended Creator Laptop

Scores

MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio Results
  • Price
  • General Performance
  • 3D Performance
  • Features, Ergonomics & Design
  • Portability & Battery Life
  • Value
4.2

Summary

The MSI Stealth 14 AI Studio is a laptop that will suit many power buyers. It’s great for designers, it’s good for gaming and it’s generally brilliant to interact with. The only downside is battery life, but you’ll need mains power to make the best of it, anyhow.

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