Whenever someone mentions gaming laptops, there are a few things that are always associated with them: heavy, thick, and most of all, unwieldy. With so many gaming laptops in the market that are as such, these associations are hardly surprising.
Enter the MSI GS70 Stealth Pro, which is part of MSI’s slim and light GS series of gaming laptops. While the GS70 is definitely a lightweight (well, relatively) and slim gaming machine, it is not exactly affordable. Retailing at RM8,999, how good is this 17-inch notebook?
Unlike many gaming laptops in the market, the GS70’s design is rather understated; this seems to be MSI’s design language for its gaming machines, which can be seen in the MSI GS30 Shadow as well, among others. Needless to say, the GS70 will not look out of place in a professional setting, aside from the glowing MSI emblem on the top cover, that is.
Once I lifted the lid of the GS70, it is evident that this is without a doubt a gaming laptop. This is mainly because of the SteelSeries keyboard, which features RGB lighting. What sets this keyboard apart from other offerings in the market is the fact that the keys feature “Silver Lining” printing, which makes the lighting effect that much more evident, which is very nice to look at.
And then we have one of the most standout features of the GS70: its 21.8mm thin chassis. While this is a rather impressive feat for a laptop this size, it doesn’t exactly make this laptop portable. After all, the GS70 is still a 17-inch gaming laptop, and its 2.6kg weight is very evident when carrying it around – though it is very light for a laptop of this size.
While a large laptop may not be that appealing, the GS70 does have plenty of connectivity options. These include two USB 3.1 ports, another set of USB 3.0 ports, two mini DisplayPorts, an HDMI 1.4 output, as well as an RJ45 ethernet port, among others. It’s a great move by MSI to take advantage of the extra space by fitting the GS70 with a plethora of ports.
All in all, the GS70 is a well-designed gaming laptop with a very impressive keyboard lighting, and I haven’t even mentioned anything about the typing experience yet. More on that in the next section.
When I first booted up the GS70, I notice that its display was…underwhelming. While it’s not exactly the worst display I’ve seen on a laptop, I expected something better from a RM8,999 machine. While MSI did not clarify if the GS70’s display is a TN panel, it is definitely not an IPS display. The viewing angles could have been better, and the display isn’t all that bright either. That being said, it’s a large 17.3-inch display, which is quite enjoyable to use.
Aside from the display, the GS70’s SteelSeries keyboard is impressive. For a laptop this thin, I’m surprised by how good it is to type on. The keys have decent amount of travel, and there is good tactile feedback as well. It’s also worth noting (again) that the RGB lighting is bright and vibrant.
As for the touchpad of the GS70, it is…functional. While it tracks my fingers accurately for the most part, I find myself just plugging in a mouse to navigate around the laptop more effectively. Why so? Because of the plastic textured trackpad: it feels cheap in comparison to the overall premium construction of the GS70, which slightly mars my overall impression of this gaming laptop.
Because the GS70 is a gaming machine with some serious hardware packed into a thin chassis, its noise level is something to take note of. In regular usage, I notice that the fans – this laptop features a dual-fan cooling solution – will start spinning quite audibly, even when I’m just surfing the web and writing several articles on Google Chrome. In extended gaming sessions, the fans are really audible. That being said, this is a 21.8mm thin gaming laptop, so the noise level is rather expected.
The heat management of the GS70, on the other hand, is good for the most part. In normal usage, I rarely feel any heat on the palm rest. When I’m gaming extensively on the GS70, however, the same area did get quite warm, but it’s not exactly to the point where it gets uncomfortable to the touch.
Surprisingly, for a 17-inch gaming laptop (with a subwoofer to boot), the speakers of the GS70 is rather underwhelming. Yes, it does get loud when I crank up the volume, but it’s not exactly bassy, which is surprising. That being said, the speakers will do in a pinch; it’s a slim gaming laptop, after all, and such laptops rarely offer good audio quality.
Packed with a sixth generation Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics card, the MSI GS70 Stealth Pro is without a doubt a capable gaming laptop. These hardware, coupled with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a speedy 256GB PCIe SSD, make the GS70 a fast and zippy machine. I love how MSI equipped a 1TB HDD to complement the 256GB PCIe SSD; it’s a good combination of speed and storage size.
While the GTX 970M is not the most powerful mobile graphics card in the market, it’s more than capable at running modern games well. I’ll just let the benchmarks do the talking:
As you can see, the GS70 only really struggled with Crysis 3 at maximum settings. In other games, it can run them well over 60 frames per second (well, with the exception of Battlefield 3’s highest settings). Needless to say, it’s very pleasurable to play demanding games at such a fluid frame rate.
Okay, so the GS70 is a capable gaming machine, but what about its processing power? In this aspect, I took a look back at our review of the Haswell Illegear Z5, and not surprisingly, the GS70 has better PCMark 8 Home, Creative and Work scores – albeit not by much. It seems like the Core i7-6700HQ processor doesn’t offer much of an upgrade over the Z5’s fourth generation chip. At least, that’s what these synthetic benchmark scores are suggesting.
Being a gaming laptop, it’s not all that surprising to find that the GS70 does not have a very good battery life. In our battery tests, the GS70 performed just like many other gaming laptops. After all, it has to power a 17.3-inch display, a GTX 970M graphics card and a very capable Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor.
As usual, our battery tests were done with the GS70’s display set to its maximum brightness with the keyboard’s backlighting switched off. The volume of the laptop was also set to 50%, its power setting set to high performance, and it was constantly connected to WiFi throughout the tests.
This is where things get interesting. As a slim and light 17-inch gaming laptop, the GS70 doesn’t really have similarly equipped competitors. That being said, there are a few great alternatives to the GS70, such as the recently refreshed Asus ROG G501.
Just like the GS70, the G501 is a slim and light gaming laptop, although it has a smaller 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 display, a less powerful GTX 960M graphics card, DDR3 RAM, and only 128GB of SSD storage, although it still has a huge 1TB HDD. The G501 does, however, have the same Core i7-6700HQ processor, not to mention a much more affordable price of RM5,499.
If you don’t care about how light or slim your gaming laptop is, the new Acer Predator 17 is another worthy competitor to the GS70. Priced at RM7,999, it retails for RM1,000 less than the GS70. Even so, the Predator 17 has a more powerful GTX 980M graphics card, the same Core i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 256GB of M.2 SSD coupled with a 1TB 7200rpm SATA HDD, and most importantly (to me, at least), a 17.3-inch 1080p IPS panel, which should be superior to the GS70’s display.
Of course, the Predator 17 is not as thin or light as the GS70, which explains the lower asking price. Acer’s offering is also almost twice as thick as the GS70 at 39.7mm at its thickest point, not to mention a hefty weight of 3.95kg. That being said, the Predator 17 will offer better gaming performance while costing RM1,000 less than the GS70, which is quite a difference.
The MSI GS70 is a tough proposition. On one hand, it is a lightweight and slim 17-inch gaming laptop powered by some of the latest hardware, which is a package not offered by other laptops in the market. On the other hand, its display is definitely not befitting of a laptop at this price point, not to mention you can find more powerful gaming laptops for the same – or even less – money.
In retrospect, the high asking price of the GS70 lies in the fact that it is a premium laptop with weight and dimensions many other gaming laptops simply do not have, especially for a 17-inch one. Yes, its display is subpar, and neither does it offer much value for money in terms of hardware. But it does have a very nice keyboard, not to mention how it is sleeker, slimmer and noticeably lighter than other 17-inch gaming laptops in the market.
At the end of the day, the MSI GS70 is positioned as a premium product, and its price tag definitely reflects that. Whether or not consumers are willing to fork out the money for it will depend on their preferences. Those who are looking for a slim and light gaming laptop with a sizeable 17.3-inch display will want to give the GS70 a thought or two.