An unimpressive display and a short battery life detract from the Stealth’s sleek look and solid performance.
A person’s tastes and preferences change with time, which is only natural. I’ve therefore started to choose more subtle all-rounders that don’t scream “Look at me” after years of craving large, powerful gaming laptops with flashing lights. And MSI’s Stealth 15M line has been among the finest in recent generations at striking a balance between strong performance and a covert appearance. However, it appears as though MSI is coasting with the 2022 model. There aren’t many significant problems, but the Stealth’s display, battery life, and audio aren’t as good as I would’ve expected.
The Stealth 15M is as covert as they come for a gaming laptop. It has a straightforward, rather boxy design with a matte black finish (which is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, by the way). The MSI dragon logo, which will have a new holographic makeover for 2023, is the only aesthetic flourish, at least from the outside.
When you open it, you’ll find MSI’s gorgeous Spectrum backlit keyboard, a large speaker grill that spans the deck, and a touchpad that is quite modest. Four USB 3.2 ports (two Type-A and two Type-C, one of which supports DisplayPort), a full-size HDMI 2.1 connector, and a combo headphone/mic jack are all included on the sides of the MSI. Yet the Stealth is actually a little lighter than most other 15-inch gaming laptops, at just under four pounds (3.96 lbs) (and some 14-inch systems too).
Display, sound and webcam
On paper, the Stealth 15M’s screen appears to be the ideal complement to its specifications. It has a 15.6-inch IPS panel with a refresh rate of 144 Hz. Even the finish is matte to lessen blinding reflections. The problem is that movies and video games appear rather lifeless due to its tested brightness of about 250 nits and relatively flat colors. Certainly, it’s not a big deal if you enjoy playing video games in gloomier settings. But, because to its subpar light output, it might be challenging to view text in bright environments, especially if you like dark mode apps.
Regarding music, the Stealth has dual two-watt speakers that may be rather loud but lack some bass. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine, but for the size of its grille, I had hoped for a little bit more. A 720p webcam that is perched above the display is also present, although it does not provide the quality you would want for live streaming. The main benefit is that you can appear in Zoom meetings, and that’s about it.
I feel like MSI is only doing the bare minimum in this case, even though nothing is egregiously wrong. Its webcam can’t even record in full HD, and the large chin beneath the display makes the entire laptop look cheap. Its speakers are just acceptable, too.
Performance-wise, the Intel Core i7-1280P CPU and NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU give the Stealth plenty of punch. Even yet, the review unit has a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM, which may be excessive considering the rest of the system’s specifications. But, you’ll want to make sure you locate the Stealth’s fan speed settings in the MSI Center app since you’re going to hear more than just a quiet whoosh when this thing starts spinning up.
The Stealth averaged 106 frames per second in Shadows of the Tomb Raider at 1920 x 1080 at the highest settings, which is marginally higher than the 102 frames per second we obtained with the comparably sized Alienware x14. In contrast, the Stealth’s performance in Metro Exodus was on par with the Alienware’s, with both devices achieving 55 fps at full HD and ultra settings. So while it may not have the power to melt your face, it is still more than sufficient to play current AAA games with all of the graphical bells and whistles turned on.
Keyboard and touchpad
The Spectrum keyboard on the Stealth 15M is one feature I really appreciate. The keys not only press softly and comfortably, but they also allow just the proper amount of light to flow out the sides, adding a bit of glitz without burning your retinas. Of course, if you want to go completely undetected, you can turn everything off. Underneath that is a touchpad that is only four inches broad and two and a half inches tall, which can occasionally seem a little claustrophobic. Having said that, a little touchpad is not as problematic as it may be on a more commonplace computer. Although touchpads aren’t the best for gaming, the majority of players will probably travel with an external mouse.
The Stealth 15M’s battery life is arguably one of its biggest flaws. Despite both computers being roughly the same size, it has a battery that feels disappointingly little compared to the Alienware x14, whose battery is 50% bigger at 80Whr. As a result, the Stealth only lasts four hours and fifteen minutes on our local video rundown test, compared to the x14’s ninety-five minutes and the more potent Razer Blade 15’s five minutes.
After using the Stealth 15M for some time, I’m just dissatisfied rather than angry. I adore the overall aesthetics and design, and the Stealth strikes the perfect balance between portability and performance. In many aspects, it resembles a more sophisticated version of the thin-and-light gaming laptop.
The problem is that the Stealth line virtually seems to have been ignored by MSI. The primary improvements for 2022 over prior years include a redesigned emblem on the lid, coupled with a refurbished CPU and GPU. That’s not insignificant, but I know MSI is capable of more, so I truly hope the Stealth has a complete overhaul soon.
In the end, assuming you can live with the limited battery life, the Stealth 15M’s value mostly depends on its cost. This item has been offered as high as $1,700 at stores like Walmart, which is just way too expensive. The Alienware X14, which has a slightly smaller screen and offers almost same performance, or the Zephyrous G14 from Asus, which will save you a few hundred dollars, are both far better choices at that time. But, many of the system’s trade-offs become much more tolerable if you can purchase the Stealth for under $1,400. I simply wish that the Stealth in this iteration seemed more James Bond-like and less Agent Cody Banks-like.