MSI Stealth 15M review: gaming laptop has its ups and downs

The MSI Stealth 15M is slim and light laptop that can handle the latest games

MSI Stealth 15M review
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The MSI Stealth 15M concept is great, a slim and light laptop that can handle the latest games. However, the gaming side is let down by the undersaturated screen, the portability angle by the Stealth’s short battery life.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Low weight

  • +

    Much easier to cart around than most gaming laptops

  • +

    Metal body plates add a touch of class

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Poor battery life

  • -

    Weak display colour

  • -

    Keyboard is fairly insubstantial

  • -

    Uses a lower-power version of the Nvidia RTX 3060

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This MSI Stealth 15M review will leave you thinking that its sell-in is pretty simple. You could probably guess it from the name. This is a slim and light gaming laptop, one not much thicker than an ultraportable, and only as heavy as a sleek 15-inch laptop without a dedicated graphics card. It tries to compete with the best gaming laptops in the world. 

It pairs a great Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU with a recently released 12th Gen Intel processor.  On paper, it’s a winner but as I continued using the MSI Stealth 15M I found a bunch of issues that make it hard to recommend unless you find it at a tasty price. The portability factor is undermined by the poor battery life. And the gaming side is diminished a bit by the limited colour reproduction. 

Such issues wouldn’t matter so much if the MSI Stealth 15M were a flat-out bargain, but with an RRP of £1599, this particular model is not really a red-hot deal either. Still, if you find it on sale for well below the asking price — as it actually is at the time of review — it may be worth a closer look. Let’s dig into the specifics. 

MSI Stealth 15M: price and availability

MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

(Image credit: Future)

As I review the MSI Stealth 15M, it is available in just the one spec. In the UK, anyway. 

It has a 1TB SSD, 16GB RAM, an Intel Core i7-1280P CPU and the Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card. This is a good all-rounder spec that offers plenty of storage, and enough power for 1080p gaming. 

The MSI Stealth 15M costs $1599/£1599, less than slick headline-grabbers like the Razer Blade 15, but enough to make you expect a good step-up from entry-level design in all areas. However, we have seen the laptop sold for £1099, making it much more appealing than parts of this review may suggest. Price always matters. 

MSI Stealth 15M review: design and display

MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

(Image credit: Future)

MSI's explicit aim with the MSI Stealth 15M was to make a super-thin and light gaming laptop. These laptops gained a lot of prominence a couple of years ago with series like the Asus Zephyrus G14. 

Making these laptops smaller is a dangerous game, as a significant part of their thickness and weight is added by the cooling system. These, in part, use big chunks of metal to move heat away from the most heat-generating components. 

There’s still a limit to how light you can make something like this, but the MSI Stealth 15M avoids one not-so-nice effect of classic gaming laptop designs: that just moving them from room to room can feel like a chore. It weighs 1.8kg and is 17mm thick. 

The MSI Stealth 15M won’t seem as slim as outright portable laptops of 16-17mm thickness, because there’s very little tapering to the design. But if you want a large-screen gaming laptop you can carry around with you, the Stealth is just that . 

MSI has also tried to inject a few bits and pieces of ultraportable style here. The MSI Stealth 15M’s lid and keyboard surround are metal, leaving only the bottom plastic. Until fairly recently it was quite common to see even quite expensive gaming laptops use all-plastic shells, or perhaps just an aluminium lid. 

Unfortunately, the effect of that low-key gloss is largely lost when you turn the laptop on. The MSI Stealth 15M has a surprisingly poor screen for a fairly pricey laptop. 

Colour saturation is weak, with depth closer to that of a budget productivity laptop than a specialist gaming one. Those deep red and orange tones in particular just look willowy and underfed here. While your eyes will get accustomed to the limited colour, it’s going to be a problem if you’ll use a laptop as an accompaniment to a desktop plugged into a good monitor or TV.

Switching from my LG OLED TV to the MSI Stealth 15M to play games is jarring.  

Maximum brightness isn’t great, contrast is below average. It’s significantly worse in every area than the Gigabyte G5 I’m also using at the moment, and that’s a self-described “budget” gaming laptop. 

The (partial) saving grace of the MSI Stealth 15M is that while it’s mediocre in a bunch of respects,  the panel’s basics are OK. Viewing angles are sound and the pixel structure is not obvious — which could potentially become a problem when stretching the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution over a 15.6-inch screen. But I expected better from the MSI Stealth 15M.

MSI Stealth 15M review: keyboard and touchpad

MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

(Image credit: Future)

The MSI Stealth 15M keyboard is better than the screen, but also has an unusual compromise. 

Gaming laptops with colourful backlights usually fit into three categories. You can either set a colour across the entire thing, set different shades for a small number of “zones”, and the pricey models let you pick a different colour for each key. The MSI Stealth 15M has a multi-colour keyboard backlight, but there appears to be no way to change the colours. 

One part is pink, another kind of orangey, and the main section is blue. MSI sells this in as a unique “Spectrum” design, but it really just means you had better be happy with that triple hit of colour. It’s not super-rich colour backlight either. 

All that aside, the keyboard itself is fine. The keys are a little light, shallow and insubstantial by top gaming laptop standards, but it is fast to tap away on and of decent quality.

The MSI Stealth 15M’s trackpad is, like many laptops in its class, not as good as that of a non-gaming laptop at the price. Its surface is plastic, not glass, creating a higher-friction surface that doesn’t fare too if you end up needing to make frantic back and forwards moves on the thing. 

Still, I’d usually recommend plugging a mouse into any gaming laptop, so it’s a sensible place for MSI to save a bit of money. The clicker feel is also fine, not too loud or laboured. 

MSI Stealth 15M review: performance and battery life

MSI Stealth 15M review

(Image credit: Future)

The MSI Stealth 15M has a 12th Generation Intel Core i7-1280P CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card. 

This is a great combo for 1080p gaming, but it is worth mentioning some of the concessions MSI has made here, primarily to cut the size of the laptop down. The MSI Stealth 15M’s CPU is part of Intel’s “P” family, which uses less power — and consequently offers lesser performance — than one of the “H” chipsets found in larger 2022 gaming laptops. 

I only think this is a major problem if you intend to do seriously CPU-intensive work with the MSI Stealth 15M, like certain types of game emulation or video editing. With games you are far more likely to be limited by the graphics card. The Intel Core i7-1280P is still damn punchy. 

There’s a GPU limitation here too. Not all Nvidia RTX 3060 laptop cards are alike. They can scale from using as little as 60W in slim and light laptops, and 130W is the most I’ve seen them draw, in last year’s Lenovo Legion series. 

Double the power doesn’t mean double the performance, but those high-power cards can run games a heck of a lot quicker. The MSI Stealth 15M sticks towards the bottom of the league table, and 75W was the most I could squeeze out of it when playing a GPU-melter like Control. 

This means you’re not going to want to turn on features like Ray Tracing in most cases, as the hit to frame rate is just going to be too severe. I find the MSI Stealth 15M’s performance to still be good at 1080p, but your laptop is going to run better for longer with future games if you give up the slim and light concept. 

Despite the more power-frugal components, I also find the MSI Stealth 15M gets reasonably hot after playing for a while. You’ll find this in all gaming laptops to an extent, of course, but a couple of design elements exacerbate the situation here. 

As I said at the start of this review, there’s not going to be as much “room” in the case or the weight budget for as large heat sinks as in a monster gaming laptop. And the metal top plate will conduct nearby heat more quickly than a plastic one would. 

I don’t think it’s necessarily a major problem as long as you come to the MSI Stealth 15M expecting parts to get toasty. And the fans seems to be adept at shifting heat once you stop play but, yeah, the heat may get on some nerves. 

Battery life was the part I found more of an issue. This laptop has multiple performance modes, including a “Super Battery” one for better stamina, but I couldn’t get the MSI Stealth 15M to last more than about 3.5 hours when doing nothing more than streaming YouTube. 

I did get it to last maybe an hour longer when doing literally nothing more than writing a document in WordPad, but you simply can’t expect anything like all-day use here. The funny thing is MSI’s Prestige 14 Evo has the same processor, but can last more than double the time off a charge. It’s far smaller and lighter. You can blame the graphics card, but I’ve seen laptops with dedicated GPUs last far longer. 

I even tried disabling the graphics card, but had no luck there in eking out anything like all-day use. Battery life usually doesn’t matter all that much in most gaming laptops. Even ones with huge 99.9Wh batteries won’t last longer than about 90 minutes off a charge during play, and then will run games far worse than they do plugged-in. 

However, it does matter here as the whole premise suggests you can treat the MSI Stealth 15M a bit like an ultraportable if you need to. It fails at the job. And if you’re wondering how long it will last off battery when playing a tough game: expect around 55 minutes. 

The MSI Stealth 15M has a 53.8Wh battery, the kind of capacity that works in a normal slim and light laptop, but it doesn’t stretch too far when also towing an Nvidia RTX graphics card. 

MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

(Image credit: Future)

You get an OK spread of connections in the MSI Stealth 15M, with some obvious missing bits. There are two USB-C ports, but neither is a super-high bandwidth Thunderbolt connector. One does support DisplayPort video out, though. There’s a dedicated HDMI specced to the 2.0 standard, ready for 4K at 60Hz, and a couple of old-school fat USB-A connectors. 

There’s no memory card slot. We’d say this will matter for all the photographers out there, but that group should already have been put off by the MSI Stealth 15M’s poor colour reproduction. 

The MSI Stealth 15M’s speakers are not terrible, but they are quite bass-light and low on volume. Most gaming laptops have largely unimpressive speakers, though, and at least these aren’t entirely tinny. 

A webcam sits above the screen, but it is pretty poor. While it shares its 720p resolution with its little sister the MSI Prestige 14 Evo, that webcam holds up far better in poor lighting. This one turns faces into a bad artist’s impression in dodgy indoors lighting, and doesn’t do a great job in strong light either. 

MSI Stealth 15M review: verdict

MSI Stealth 15M gaming laptop review

(Image credit: Future)

The MSI Stealth 15M concept is great. It’s a powerful gaming laptop you can take anywhere, with a design that won’t instantly attract dismissive side-eye if you whip it out at a Starbucks. 

However, that dream rapidly begins to evaporate as you discover its important shortcomings. The display colour is too weak to make games look their best. Its battery life is too short for it function well as a semi-portable productivity laptop, and like most super-slim gaming PCs, the graphics power takes a hit so the thing doesn’t drastically overheat in minutes. 

You have to expect compromises when gaming and portability collide, but the surprisingly weak screen is the step too far. Find it selling for well below the original asking price? It could still absolutely be worth a go if you’ll appreciate its low weight. 

Also consider 

The Asus Zephyrus G15 has become one of the best-known slimmer 15-inch gaming laptops. It costs a bit more at RRP, but is technically superior in almost every respect.

Its Nvidia RTX 3060 hits 120W rather than 75W, the battery is far larger and the display is miles better. Colour is drastically richer and the resolution is higher at 1440p. The weight is a wee bit higher, around 100g, and it’s a couple of millimetres thicker. But if their prices are close online, I know which one I’d pick. 

If you're more interested in a good deal and are happy to forget the whole “slim and light thing”, check out the Lenovo Legion 5 series. The standard and Pro versions are both much heavier at around 2.5kg, but have better displays and more powerful versions of the RTX 3060. Several good deals are available for these at the time of review.