MSI GS76 Stealth review: big screen gaming for a better price

Tech

If you like the look of MSI’s powerhouse, the RGB-packaged GE76 Raider, but the price tag and massive chassis are too much for you, the GS76 Stealth might be more your speed. This laptop is the GE76 junior, in terms of specifications, weight and also price.

The GS76 isn’t the most powerful gaming laptop you’ll ever find, nor the quietest or most efficient. But it still offers some great features — including an excellent QHD, 240 Hz display, and a nice RGB keyboard — alongside a powerful RTX 3070 GPU that can handle all the games you need. While it’s not the best 17-incher on the market, it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a large-screen gaming laptop that should serve a lot of people well, especially if you can find it at a discount.

Among the 17-inch gaming laptops, this product is in an attractive place in terms of price. The configuration I have, with a Core i9, 1TB of storage, and 32GB of RAM, currently costs $2,199 at Best Buy. The most comparable GE76 Raider model I can find costs about $1,000 more – it has an RTX 3080 GPU and a higher refresh rate, but a lower screen resolution, which I don’t think is a good trade-off outside of fairly specific use cases. An Alienware X17 with similar specs (also with a lower resolution screen and with a Core i7 instead of an i9) is several hundred dollars more expensive than the GS76.

The MSI GS76 Stealth half open facing away from the camera on a dark wood table.

MSI calls the chassis color “core black”.

The MSI GS76 Stealth open, diagonally to the left on a wooden table.  The screen displays The Verge's home page.

“Just like the king of the metropolis,” MSI says of this laptop.

So the frame rates. With the GS76’s native QHD resolution, Red Dead Redemption 2 ran at 55 frames per second on the maximum preset. Bumped to 1080p (for comparison – there’s no reason you really should), that frame rate soared to 70 frames per second. The benchmark looked good in both cases, with no visible hitches.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider recorded 51 frames per second with ray tracing on Ultra (highest preset) and 80 frames per second with ray tracing off in QHD. Downsizing to 1080p resolution brought those averages to 77 and 114 frames per second, respectively. That’s another strong result, although it’s significantly lower than what we saw from the 1080p GE76 Raider.

the more recent Cyberpunk 2077 was the only game where I would have considered turning settings down. (cyberpunk doesn’t have a benchmark, so I was just playing around with it a bit.) With ray tracing on, the GS76 could only get 20 frames per second in QHD and 40 frames per second in 1080p. By disabling ray tracing, those numbers were increased to 42 and 65 frames per second, respectively. Of course, Nvidia’s DLSS can help smooth things out if ray tracing in QHD is a priority for you. And by contrast, the CPU-heavy CS:GO could take full advantage of the 240Hz display, averaging 336 frames per second in QHD and a wild 431 frames per second in 1080p.

To illustrate the delta between the GS76 and a more expensive 17-incher, the GE76 Raider averaged at least 20 frames per second better on almost any of these titles. That said, most of these games are still playable without many compromises on the GS76. Personally, as someone who likes immersive visuals, I’ll take a QHD panel over a 1080p experience every day (which our Raider test unit had) at a few extra frames per second.

The MSI GS76 Stealth keyboard seen from above, backlit in green and pink.

Have some RGB, as a treat.

The GS76 was also good, but not on the charts, when it came to other types of work. It took two minutes and 27 seconds to export a 50 minute, 33 second 4K video, losing to the GE76 but beating the Alienware X17 by almost a full minute. It also received a reasonable score of 817 on the Puget Systems Benchmark for Premiere Pro, which tests both playback and export performance. While that doesn’t hit the market’s top performers (the GE76 Raider still has the highest score I’ve ever seen from a test unit), it comes pretty close to the Alienware X17 with an RTX 3080.

And of course, my normal Chrome, Zoom, and Slack workloads ran fine on this device. The GS76 had no problem having a Zoom conversation across a massive amount of Chrome tabs, even with Battery Saver on. There are a few different fan profiles that you can switch between with F8. It’s worth noting that the most active Extreme Performance setting, which you’ll probably want to use during gaming and heavy work, is loud. Even when I wasn’t doing anything, the GS76 sounded like a box fan when this profile was on and was audible from other rooms.

The other significant drawback, as you might guess, is battery life. Battery life is never the top priority with these types of laptops that probably don’t get moved much. Still, I’ve only used this device on average for four hours and 15 minutes as my primary work driver with a brightness of 200 nits (although times were somewhat variable, and I saw up to five and a half with lighter workloads – our battery test average is always an approximation) . You can probably get better battery life if you lower the resolution and refresh rate. But that of course has a negative effect on the image quality. Charging was also on the slower side – the GS76 was 50 percent faster in an hour.

The speaker on the left of the MSI GS76 Stealth.

The speakers actually sounded decent and clear.

On to the chassis: While it’s barely small, it’s quite practical as 17-inch gaming laptops, weighing 5.4 pounds and 0.8 inches thick. The chassis is refreshingly understated (even the RGB keyboard is quite unobtrusive on most settings) – you could absolutely use it in public without turning every head in the room. I will note that while the keyboard deck was good in this regard, the lid was an absolute fingerprint magnet.

The port selection has no devastating omissions. There is a power jack, an RJ45 Ethernet port, two USB-A, a headphone jack, an SD slot, two USB-C and an HDMI. There is no dedicated DisplayPort, but the USB-C does support it. Gaming laptops of this size are starting to stick ports to the back of the chassis, but the GS76 still has them all on the sides.

The numeric keypad on the MSI GS76 Stealth keyboard.  The keys are illuminated in green and purple.

Number pad is useful, although a bit small.

The keyboard is quite comfortable, but there is one… quirk. I didn’t hit my fastest typing speeds ever, but the keys have solid spring travel and a click that isn’t too loud. The RGB per key is neat and not too distracting.

The main nitpick I have is that the GS76’s Fn key is in a weird location. It’s crammed to the right of the space bar, between the and Ctrl keys. It’s not at all easy to reach while typing – to press it I had to either take my whole right hand off the keyboard or do some twister-like twists with my pinkie finger. The reason this is annoying is that you have to press Fn to toggle pretty much everything – volume, brightness, keyboard profiles, fan profiles, airplane mode, etc. You can reverse this, but then you still have to press Fn whenever you want to access the arrow keys, where the switches for volume and brightness are. Anyway, having Fn inaccessible is annoying.

The ports on the left side of the MSI GS76 Stealth.

Ethernet, audio jack, two USB-A ports and power port on the left.

The ports on the right side of the MSI GS76 Stealth.

HDMI, two USB-C and an SD reader on the right.

Two other notes for potential buyers: One, the touchpad, while smooth to scroll on, has a bit of a thin click that takes some getting used to. Plus, the 720p IR webcam is terrible. It’s so grainy and full of noise that I ended up turning it off most of the time. It also made my face look weirdly bright red (which I confirmed with my phone camera is not what it looks like). It supports Windows Hello facial recognition, which is handy.

Stickers on the right palm rest of the MSI GS76 Stealth that read Intel Core i9 and Nvidia GeForce RTX.

In case you forgot what’s in here.

Sticker on the MSI GS76 Stealth bottom that says QHD 240Hz Ultra Fast Gaming Display.

Don’t forget the refresh rate either!

Ultimately, the GS76 hits a sweet spot of portability, affordability, and power that I appreciate. I can’t promise you’ll never have to disable a single setting, but I’ve experienced very few gaming issues. And the QHD panel combined with the refresh rate of 240 Hz provide a wonderful gaming experience. Even when you were regularly working or browsing Twitter, text and images looked noticeably sharper and scrolling was quite smooth. I wish the aspect ratio was larger than 16:9, but that’s not nearly as much of a problem for productivity on a 17-inch screen as it is on a smaller machine.

But it still won’t be everyone’s favorite 17-inch gaming laptop. Battery life is unfortunate, and that dampens the advantage of the thin and light chassis, as you’ll have to lug the 230W charger most places you go. The poor webcam, funkiness of the keyboard and volume of the fans can be a turn-off for those looking to double a device as a primary driver. Still, MSI has managed to pack decent gaming performance into a chassis that isn’t much to carry around, and it’s worth not overthinking.

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