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MSI Stealth 15M Review

Verdict

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The MSI Stealth 15M is a gaming laptop light enough to be carried around on a regular basis – which is a sound concept. However, that angle is undermined by poor battery life, and the weak colour saturation is difficult to justify even when you consider that the Stealth costs less than some of the biggest names in laptop gaming.

Pros

  • Subtle, black, part-aluminium shell
  • Light and slim for a performance laptop

Cons

  • Poor display colour saturation
  • Low maximum brightness
  • Very short battery life

Availability

  • UKRRP: £1599

Key Features

  • Slim and lightweight designAt 1.8kg, the MSI Stealth 18M isn’t much heavier than some conventional 15.6-inch laptops. Lugging around this computer is more comfortable than doing so with a hulk of a gaming laptop
  • Nvidia RTX 3060 GPUOur review model has a 75W version of the Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, which is among the lowest-power variants of this series. Performance is good, but 130W models will naturally crank out higher frame rates in games
  • Spectrum backlightMSI positions this laptop’s keyboard backlight as an “exclusive” Spectrum design. This means it’s pink at the top, blue in the main area, and orange towards the right. You can’t customise its colour, though

Introduction

The MSI Stealth 15M is a thin and light gaming laptop – a category of portables that have become far more capable over the past couple of years.

But while the MSI Stealth 15M is wonderfully easy to lug around with you for a laptop with an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU, there are a few problems here.

The display suffers significantly undersaturated colour, making rich reds in particular appear weak. Battery life won’t get you through a full day of work – not even close. And, like many slim gaming laptops, heat and noise generation aren’t ideal.

It’s worth a look if you find the laptop selling at a good price, but the screen saturation in particular is jarring in a gaming laptop.

Design

  • Part aluminium build
  • Light for a gaming laptop at 1.8kg
  • Largely unimpressive speakers

The MSI Stealth 15M’s design is a bit less bold than other slim and light gaming laptops, such as the Asus Zephyrus G15. Its casing is all-black, and there are no supplementary LEDs, bar those that make up the keyboard backlight.

MSI’s dragon insignia on the lid and the oversized air intake above the keyboard are signs to those in the know that this is a gaming keyboard. But it doesn’t shove that fact in your face too much. In some areas of the build, MSI takes inspiration from non-gaming laptops, too.

Its lid and keyboard top-plate are aluminium, adding a touch of style. The underside is plastic, but this is a sensible move; aluminium would conduct heat faster, and this laptop’s underside already gets pretty toasty when playing games plugged in.

The rear of the MSI Stealth 15M
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The MSI Stealth 15M weighs 1.8kg according to my scales and is 17mm thick. Neither of these appear jaw dropping if you’re used to the specs of usual slim and light laptops.

However, you get a 15-inch laptop with a dedicated GPU that has a weight and thickness comparable with a non-gaming model.

The thick border below the display doesn’t give the MSI Stealth 15M the sleekest appearance, but it’s only there to match the air intake above the keyboard. Gaming laptops continue to use 16:9 widescreen displays almost exclusively, and the MSI Stealth 15M is no different.

The underside of the MSI Stealth 15M
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Connectivity is okay, but it lacks super-fast Thunderbolt ports. However, they’re perhaps less crucial when you get a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and a USB-C that supports DisplayPort. There’s also an additional USB-C with 10Gbps bandwidth and a two 5Gbps USB-A ports, plus a combi 3.5mm headphone/mic socket.

Its speakers use Nahimic processing and they don’t produce amazing sound. However, if you compare their quality to those of direct peers (rather than style laptops such as the MacBook Pro 14, which sound far better) the MSI Stealth 15M doesn’t come across too poorly.

There’s almost no real bass and the mids sound a bit boxy; but the sound isn’t entirely thin and weedy. They do the job for casual use.

The ports on the right side of the MSI Stealth 15M
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

MSI calls the Stealth 15M’s keyboard a “spectrum backlight keyboard”. This means it has a triple-tone colour backlight that, in an unusual move, delivers no control over the colours used. The bulk of the keys are blue; the Function keys and number strip up top are pink; and the right-most keys are orange.

While it’s a bit more fun than plain white, a single-colour arrangment might have been more sensible in what is otherwise a fairly sober-looking laptop. There are three intensity levels, as per the norm for less advanced backlights.

They keyboard and trackpad
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The Stealth 15M key feel is nothing too ambitious, but they have a fast character. While action is shallower than that of the best gaming laptops, long-form typing is actually quite comfortable on this keyboard.

The touchpad is nothing special, but matches most other decent mid-price gaming laptops. This is a plastic pad with a classic mechanical clicker, which results in a depress action that becomes much stiffer up towards the top of the pad. Moving your finger back and forth across the surface is “squeakier” than a glass pad, but cuts like this are the norm outside of very high-price gaming laptops.

Display

  • Weak display colour
  • Low maximum brightness at this level
  • Solid 144Hz refresh rate

Display quality is the most glaring issue of the MSI Stealth 15M. While I don’t think it looks flat-out poor in person, it’s significantly worse than I’d hope for from a £1500-1600 laptop.

Colour is the main problem. The MSI Stealth 15M covers a dismal 56.4% of the sRGB colour gamut – you’d expect to see close to 100% coverage, at the very least, and the shortfall is immediately obvious. Bright red app icons look timid on this screen, and rich nature scenes in movies just don’t pop as much as they should.

Maximum brightness of 284 nits is fairly poor, although should still prove enough for indoor play – as long as you don’t do so near a bright window. Like most gaming laptops the MSI Stealth 15M has a matte, reflection-scattering screen finish.

The MSI Stealth 15M sitting on a desk
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Contrast is also disappointing, hitting 781:1 at 150-nit brightness, and 934:1 at maximum brightness.

All three core elements – contrast, colour and brightness – are poor given the MSI Stealth 15M’s price. These are the kind of results I’d expect to see in a true budget laptop. Thankfully, this screen doesn’t look as bad as most of those panels in person. The display’s pixel structure isn’t particularly visible, raising it from “terrible” to “a bit disappointing”.

Note, too, that it’s a gaming-tailored screen, with a 144Hz refresh rate. This means it can correctly display frame rates of up to 144fps. Unusually, you can’t actually lower the refresh rate in Windows, which could help when you want to use the MSI Stealth 15M as a portable productivity machine. Higher refresh rates typically use more battery life.

The 1080p resolution doesn’t look ultra-sharp and smooth at 15.6 inches, either. While we’d once have said Full HD is the best fit for middle-rank and low-end gaming laptops, upscaling techniques such as AMD FSR and Nvidia DLSS means we’ll now take a higher-res screen if we can get it. The Asus Zephyrus G15 has a 1440p display, for example, and is likely to offer superior image quality in other areas too.

Performance

  • Uses the lower-power Nvidia RTX 3060
  • Impressive middle-weight 12th Gen Core i7 CPU
  • Feels hot in use, but the cooling system appears effective

The MSI Stealth 15M is among the first waves of Intel 12th Gen processor laptops, featuring the Core i7-1280P chip.

It delivers great results, netting the MSI Stealth 15M 10,772 points in Geekbench 5 – a roughly 15% bump over the Core i7-11800H while using less power. Marvellous stuff.

This chip is paired with 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU and 1TB PCIe 4 SSD capable of 3633MB/s reads and 3471MB/s writes. For all the complaints I’ve raised in this review, the specs make the Stealth 15M sound a good deal at £1499. A new Razer Blade 15 with the RTX 3060 costs £2599, although it does have the higher-spec i7-12800H CPU.

MSI Stealth 15M Asus ROG Zephyrus G14Razer Blade 15
CPUIntel Core i7-1280PRyzen 9 5900HSIntel Core i7-10750H
Geekbench 5
Single / Multi Core
1626 / 10,7721470 / 82361147 / 5232
PCMark 10619366085405

You also need to take on board the kind of GPU this laptop features. It uses the lower-power version of the Nvidia RTX 3060, which can reach 75W of power draw rather than the up-to-130W seen elsewhere. You’ll see these lower power graphics cards in other slim and light models.

The Stealth 15M scores 7177 in 3DMark’s Time Strike, where a laptop with the punchier version of the RTX 3060 can achieve upwards of 8700 – a lift of up to 25%. “Thin and light” doesn’t come for free in performance terms.

This kind of power offers performance closer to a desktop-grade Nvidia RTX 3050 than the RTX 3060. You’ll be able to get decent performance at 1080p in most games, but in the majority of cases you’ll be better leaving those power-hungry ray-tracing lighting effects switched off.

MSI Stealth 15M Asus ROG Zephyrus G14Razer Blade 15
GPUNvidia RTX 3060Nvidia RTX 3060Nvidia RTX 3070
3DMark Time Spy717762417687

The Stealth 15M appears to draw in cool air from under the laptop and in through the grille above the keyboard, blasting out hot air from its sides and back. It isn’t a hugely quiet system, and one of the fans has a fairly noticeable higher-pitch whine.

However, you can switch to a “silent” cooling mode that dramatically improves fan noise and, somehow, still allows the RTX 3060 GPU to run at its peak 75W power draw. Playing Control, the high fan mode saw the GPU settle in at 71-73ºC, or 76-77ºC in Silent mode.

The MSI Stealth 15M folded down flat on a table
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

My first take on the Stealth 15M’s cooling was that it runs hot. Indeed, big parts of the casing get worryingly hot during play. However, you grow to appreciate it a bit more when you consider that outputting a lot of heat from vents is actually a sign of a good cooling system. The slim and light design here simply makes it more difficult to isolate these hot areas, and it causes the bottom of the laptop to heat up noticeably. It isn’t necessarily the cooling at fault, but the way the laptop’s frame ends up sucking up too much heat.

Use a Stealth 15M to type up documents and it will often run completely silent. That said, this isn’t your classic ultrabook. Use it resting on your knees and the fans are likely to rev-up, regardless of what you do, because you’ll at least partially block the air intakes.

Battery Life

  • Less than an hour of unplugged gaming
  • Poor sub-three-hour battery life for general use
  • Standard cylindrical socket PSU

The MSI Stealth 15M has a 53.8Whr battery and a 180W power adapter. This capacity isn’t that high for a gaming laptop, which often only lasts 90 minutes off a charge even with 99.9Whr capacity.

Play sessions with Control, maxing out the GPU but not the CPU, suggest a charge may last as little as 52 minutes. How about everyday productivity? It lasted 2hrs 50mins in PCMark 10’s Modern Office benchmark – an absolutely dismal result.

I thought there must be a way to get this laptop to last longer, so I tried YouTube streaming. The MSI Stealth 15M lost 57% charge in under two hours, a test that suggested a full battery is good for 3hrs 30mins. Once again, this is a dismal result.

Poor battery life isn’t necessarily a major issue in a pure performance laptop, but the Stealth is also positioned as an all-purpose portable machine. It’s a big problem in this regard.

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Should you buy it?

The MSI Stealth 15M isn’t that dissimilar to an ultra-desirable laptop such as the Razer Blade 15 in some respects – a slim and largely tasteful design without extraneous RGB LEDs. And it costs far less, too.

This laptop is weak in a couple of important areas. Its display is poor, with low maximum brightness and weak colour saturation. Battery life is short, even among gaming laptops, which counters the appeal of the slim frame and relatively low weight. It feels hot in use, too.

Final Thoughts

The MSI Stealth 15M looks and feels the part. It has a part-aluminium shell, a moody black paint job and capable internals, including a 12th Gen Intel P-series Core i7 CPU and Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU.

However, it isn’t one of the top options because of some more substantive issues that you may miss if going off the spec sheet alone. The MSI Stealth 15M’s colour saturation is poor; while the character of the screen itself is fine, you’re just not going to see those deeper colour tones in games.

Battery life is disappointing, too. While you can’t expect a gaming laptop to last at all long, or perform that well when running off the battery to play games, the MSI Stealth 15M feels like it should function as a solid all-purpose semi-portable productivity laptop. When it often lasts less than three hours unplugged, that clearly hasn’t panned out.

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How we test

Every gaming laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life. 

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how well it runs when running a AAA game. 

We used as our main laptop for at least a week.

Tested the performance via both benchmark tests and real-world use.

We tested the screen with a colorimeter and real-world use.

We tested the battery with a benchmark test and real-world use.

FAQs

Does the MSI Stealth 15M have Thunderbolt ports?

There are no Thunderbolt ports, but one of the USB-C connectors supports DisplayPort.

How long does the MSI Stealth 15M’s battery last?

Our testing suggests it lasts around three hours of general use, or 50-odd minutes of demanding gaming.

Does the MSI Stealth 15M have a 4K screen?

Our review unit has a Full HD display; at present, MSI’s website doesn’t detail a 4K version.

Trusted Reviews test data

Brightness
CrystalMarkDisk Write Speed
CrystalDiskMark Read speed
3DMark Time Spy
Geekbench 5 multi core
Geekbench 5 single core
Contrast
sRGB
Adobe RGB
DCI-P3
PCMark 10

Full specs

UK RRP
CPU
Manufacturer
Screen Size
Storage Capacity
Battery
Battery Hours
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Operating System
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Resolution
Refresh Rate
GPU
RAM
Connectivity
Display Technology
Screen Technology
Touch Screen
Convertible?

Jargon buster

GPU

The graphics processing unit is designed to render graphics, which is particularly important for gaming, creating 3D models and editing video.

Refresh Rate

The number of times the screen refreshes itself per second.

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