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MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

MSI Stealth 15M review: "Powerful, portable, and piping hot'

(Image: © MSI)

Our Verdict

A mid-range gaming laptop that manages to pack some serious power into a super lightweight chassis - at the expense of battery and cooling.

Pros

  • Incredibly portable form factor
  • Reliable 1080p performance
  • Excellent everyday experience and connectivity

Cons

  • Cooling suffers from the compact design
  • Fans work at a near-constant hum
  • Still out of range for consistent ultra settings

The MSI Stealth 15M is the latest slimline gaming laptop to pack next-generation components into a lightweight, super portable form factor. The days of bulky rigs may be well and truly behind us, but while the Stealth 15M shows us what the path forward for the best gaming laptops can truly look like, cooling and battery shortcomings concede that we’re not quite there yet. 

Our unit combines an 11th generation i7 CPU at 3.3GHz with an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB RAM, and a 1TB SSD and retails at around $1,599. Considering the updated components inside, the expansive storage, and the 144Hz refresh rate display sitting on top, that’s a remarkably well-priced machine that follows MSI’s line of relatively affordable mid-range configurations. We particularly like that 'entry-level 30-series card: making use of one of the likely best graphics cards for budget machines of this year turns this machine into an excellent RTX 3060 laptop offering performance and wallet-friendly pricing. 

It’s certainly an impressive machine, with an excellent feel and strong performance to boot, aside from some thermal concerns. 

Design & features

Specs

Processor: Intel i7-11375H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
Memory: 16GB DDR4 RAM
Display: 15.6-inch, 144Hz
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Storage: 1TB PCIe M.2 SSD
Ports: 2x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1, 1x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 2 (with DisplayPort), 1x MicroSD card reader, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x 3.5mm audio jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 AX201, Bluetooth 5.1
OS: Windows 10 Home
Weight: 3.7lbs (1.67kg)

MSI hasn’t thrown out the rule book with this one, the Stealth 15M follows the same design language of many other releases in the line. The profile is still fairly blocky, with only the rounded hinge softening the harsh lines of the chassis itself. However, considering the amount of power hiding away in here, MSI continues to impress with its ability to shrink its builds down to incredibly lightweight form factors while still ensuring an effect of sturdiness and durability. That comes from the magnesium alloy casing which not only offers a solid base to an already stocky design but is also surprisingly fingerprint resistant considering the smooth finish. Overall, we’d feel just as happy throwing this machine into a backpack as we would giving it pride of place on a permanent setup just like a quality Razer laptop or Alienware gaming laptop.

A fully RGB lit keyboard feels great for typing, with the low profile typical of a laptop, but one that still offers a nice amount of travel and speedy response, like those on best gaming keyboard lists across the internet. That means each click still feels tactile, something not all gaming laptops under $2,000 can boast. There’s also a good range of keys on here, with a 65% design typical of a 15-inch model as well as delete, insert, page up and down, and print screen functions nestled around the side of the main deck. The trackpad is equally smooth for day-to-day use, and excellently responsive as well. 

MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

(Image credit: MSI)

It’s that everyday functionality that really makes the Stealth 15M shine. Not only are you picking up an understated design that will fit just as well into any office as it would a gaming desk setup, but using this machine for casual computing tasks also feels incredible. Plus, with a Thunderbolt 4 port, you’re getting all the connectivity you need for more demanding workflows as well.

Performance

Benchmarking

How does the MSI Stealth 15M fare on some industry tests?

Firestrike: 13994
Timespy:
6042
PCMark 10:
6204
Cinebench CPU: 
Multi-core: 6,207
CrystalDiskMark: 2,242 MB/s read; 1,918 MB/s write
Tom Clancy's The Division 2: Ultra at 1080p: 61fps; High at 1080p: 70fps
Red Dead Redemption 2: Ultra at 1080p: 55fps; High at 1080p: 59fps
Metro Exodus: RTX (ray-tracing on Ultra) at 1080p: 49 fps; High at 1080p: 51 fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Highest at 1080p: 75 fps; High at 1080p: 99 fps
Total War: Three Kingdoms: Ultra at 1080p: 58fps; High at 1080p: 65fps

It’s always remarkable to see high-end settings running smoothly on AAA games from a tiny little machine. The MSI Stealth 15M certainly doesn’t disappoint here, even if you’re not unleashing the full power of Nvidia’s latest GPU generation. While the 3.3GHz CPU won’t be holding up to high-end computing functions, graphical tests performed extremely well which means 3D modelling and gameplay are a real strength here. 

We found some particularly smooth gameplay in Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmarking, but also in day-to-day testing with Gears Tactics. Bumping up various detailing and reflection settings in both isometric gameplay and cutscenes here still allowed for a buttery experience, with only very few performance drops in ultra settings, and only when transitioning to a new scene. 

While it’s difficult to recommend using any gaming laptop on battery alone, it’s worth noting that unplugging that power cord will see a dramatic drop in performance here as well. While it’s not something many make a habit of doing, we did notice a severe decrease in reliability and framerate even when bumping those presets right down on battery power alone. Battery life itself won’t see you far in gaming, but using the laptop for everyday tasks on a more conservative power setting did see us through a full working day though.

MSI Stealth 15M review

(Image credit: MSI)

In testing other, more demanding titles, there’s no fooling anyone that this isn’t the lower end of some premium components. You’re getting a strongly playable 50-60fps with an excellent degree of reliability, but smoother gameplay that can fully take advantage of that 144Hz refresh rate does require some sacrifices. You won’t be diving into ultra settings too haphazardly here, but there’s still an impressive amount of power under the hood considering the form factor.

MSI has also included CoolerBooster 5 thermoregulation under the hood here as well, though it does work double time to keep this dense powerhouse running. There’s simply too much going on in such a cramped space for these fans to keep up and the result is a particularly loud, and hot, machine. While the fan sound certainly isn’t going to drown out any dialogue, it does take some getting used to, especially when things start to amp up during more intense scenes. Plus, the heat does seem to gather underneath the main board itself which can lead to some uncomfortable lap positions.

Overall - should you buy it?

The MSI Stealth 15M manages to pack the punch of one of the best gaming PCs into a super portable, lightweight rig, though there are some sacrifices to be made to achieve such a slimline design. Nowhere is this more apparent than the whirr of the fans or the burn of the underside during even lighter gameplay sessions. There’s a general hum about this machine that does take some getting used to if you haven’t used a compact rig before. 

All that power under the hood is working for you, though. You’ll be pushing 1080p gaming to the top end of 50fps and jumping into 60fps reliably here, though more graphically demanding titles like Metro Exodus do struggle to run free in that framerate range. If you’re looking to keep up with the latest games and don’t need that Ultra setting badge on your mantel this is an excellent pickup - just don’t expect to consistently push the boat out on more intensive titles. 

You can pick up cheaper rigs like the ASUS TUF Dash F15 with a similar 11th gen i7 / RTX 3060 setup, but this model's value really shows its worth when you consider that ultra-portable form factor. 

The Verdict
4

4 out of 5

MSI Stealth M15

A mid-range gaming laptop that manages to pack some serious power into a super lightweight chassis - at the expense of battery and cooling.

More info

Available platformsPC
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