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

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

Don’t let the name fool you – there’s nothing fancy about this device.

The MSI GS77 Stealth has long been the portable option among MSI’s gaming elite, and while that fact remained questionably true with last year’s 5.4-pound GS76 Stealth, this year’s 0.79-inch-thick, 6.17-pound GS77 has effectively launched that idea in the sun. This laptop is big, thick and bulky, and while it lacks the light strips and LED grids that other flashy gaming laptops boast, the RGB keyboard still makes it very clear that it’s for gaming above all else.

This isn’t necessarily a huge knock on the device – the GS76 was pretty light for what it was, and the GS77 has brought the Stealth range back in line with the rest of the 17-inch market. It now weighs slightly more than Razer’s Blade 17 and Asus’ Zephyrus S17. And it weighs almost the same as MSI’s more powerful GE76 Raider.

One can see why MSI might have wanted to go bigger because the chips inside have fried just about every chassis they touch this year. The model we were sent includes a 12th-gen Core i7-12900H – one of the most powerful mobile chips in Intel’s history – along with Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Ti, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, all of which drive a 240Hz QHD display.

But the new girth takes away a big advantage the GS77 used to have over those models: the GS77 Stealth seems to have lost some of what made it desirable as a “portable” purchase. The keyboard is on the flat side, the trackpad is uncomfortably stiff, the battery life isn’t great, and the device is too big and too heavy to take anywhere. What we’re left with is a computer that requires many of the same compromises as the most powerful gaming laptops on the market without offering the same exceptional frame rates.

For more information on our score, see how we evaluate.

The primary advantage Stealth has now is price. My test unit is currently listed for $2,899. To get this GPU in the GE76 Raider (which has an even more powerful Core i9 as well as a more advanced design) would be $100 more, while a QHD Razer Blade 17 with the 3070 Ti would cost a whopping $3,399.99. I’ve also been able to find GS77 models for as little as $1,799 (for a 144Hz 1080p display, an RTX 3060, and 16GB of RAM), while the cheapest Blade on Razer’s website is $2,799 and the 12th Gen Raider starts at $2,299. Still, $2,899 is hardly a budget price, and it’s worth knowing what compromises you’re making for the lower cost.

MSI GS77 Stealth top view half open on a green fabric bench.

The lid is quite fingerprint free.

Back left corner of the MSI GS77 Stealth.

So is much of the keyboard deck.

For the first aspect of the GS77 that is an undeniable improvement from last year: build quality. I’ve had issues with MSI’s chassis in the past, but the GS77’s base and lid are both solid and unyielding. The trackpad collected some fingerprints quite easily, but the rest of the chassis wasn’t too much of a magnet for them. It’s a nice looking computer and it didn’t pick up any scratches or dents after being tossed around in a suitcase for a few days.

Other advantages of previous models remain. There’s a good selection of ports, including two USB-C, two USB-A, a headphone jack, HDMI, Ethernet and an SD card reader. (However, the SD reader is oddly slower than it was last year, as other reviewers have noted.) The QHD display makes games look great. There are a whopping six speakers inside, and while they don’t deliver the best sound on 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 deck viewed from above on a yellow fabric bench.  The screen shows 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 main reasons: the keyboard and the trackpad. The keyboard has nice lighting, but it’s quite thin to type on, with more of a spongy than clicky feel. And while there is a numeric keypad, the keys are all a bit cramped as a result. The arrow keys in particular feel small.

And the touchpad is where I really had trouble. It’s big, but was as hard a click as I’ve ever experienced on a touchpad. (And it’s pretty loud, too.) I felt like I really had to push my finger down to register a click. I came close to plugging in a mouse (which I don’t do when testing for productivity use, as a general policy) because of how much I hated navigating with it. These aren’t unheard of compromises when it comes to 17-inch gaming laptops, but they underline how little I’d recommend this to function as a daily driver.

MSI GS77 Stealth closed on a yellow fabric bench top view.

The dragon is still there, but it is muted.

In terms of frame rates, how do these specs work? With all sliders maxed out, 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). It jumped up to 65 at 1080p. On Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 1080p we saw an average of 83 frames per second with ray tracing on Ultra (the maximum setting) and 121 with the feature off. At natural resolution, these translated to 58 frames per second (another number we can loosely call 60) and 86 respectively. All in all, more than playable.

The GS77 posted an absurd 400 frames per second on the CPU heavy CS: GO in 1080p and still quite high 286 at native 1440p. The only title that gave the game any problems was Cyberpunk 2077, which — at native resolution, at maximum settings, with ray tracing cranked up to “Psycho” — ran at 19 frames per second (but achieved 33 at those settings in 1080p).

All in all, these are certainly an improvement over the results of last year’s model, and show that you shouldn’t have any trouble running most modern games at QHD resolution, even if they’re below what you can get out of more expensive Core i9 and RTX 3080 machines. However, there is one disappointing omission: the GS77 does not support MUX. This component (which both the Raider and Blade have) allows laptops to support adaptive features like G-Sync and can also lead to a significant performance difference. It’s an odd thing to rule out at this price point, and something I’d imagine many people willing to pay $2,900 won’t be keen on compromising on.

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

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

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

The GS77 also beat the GS76, as well as the Blade and other creative workstations like the Gigabyte Aero 16, on Puget Systems’ benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests live playback and export performance in 4K and 8K. (It lost a lot to Raider). This isn’t a laptop I’d recommend people use for office work, so the GS77’s good 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 keyboard cover of the MSI GS77 Stealth seen from above.

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

MSI’s software is definitely not as buggy as it has been in recent years, which is an encouraging sign. I had no problems adjusting fan profiles and such with the pre-installed programs. I got an error where the screen started turning off when I tried to run games (a problem on a laptop). MSI sent me a replacement unit, which did not show that problem. Still, it’s not the kind of thing we love to see on $2,900 products.

And then we come to what I see as the biggest compromise here: battery life. I only averaged about two hours and 16 minutes of continuous use on this thing, with some attempts even lasting under two hours. That has to be close to the worst battery life I’ve ever gotten out of a portable gaming laptop. While it’s generally understood that cheaper laptops will have less powerful chips in them, having to give up battery life on top of that power is a tough pill to swallow (the Raider lasted me about two hours longer with the same workload).

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

But the Stealth designation, and the way the line has historically been positioned, may mean for some that this device is a good choice for more than just gaming. It is not; MSI’s changes to the Stealth line have made it more powerful at the expense of other features that made it, well, Stealthy. It’s too big and heavy to consistently carry around in a briefcase or backpack, the battery life isn’t usable for daily work away from an outlet, and the keyboard and trackpad just wouldn’t be my choice for everyday use. This is no longer really a portable alternative to the Raider. It’s just a cheaper version of the Raider.

Which is fine, if that’s what you’re after. But with the Raider delivering more powerful specs, better battery life, more RGB and a MUX switch for a couple of hundred bucks more, I think it offers an all-around better experience that will be worth the money for people shopping this range.

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