Another thin and light MSI laptop that’s available these days is the Stealth Pro GS63VR. It’s actually a refresh of the Ghost Pro GS60, however MSI has decided to adopt the Stealth name instead for some reason. Either way, this is the 15” version of their thin and light series and boy is it an impressive machine.
After seeing the GS73VR in action I was also very interested about the GS63VR. On paper, it’s basically just a smaller, 15” version. Similar to the GS73VR, it also has a redesigned chassis. Being a former GS60 owner, I’m kind of interested in this model just to see if it’s something I’d want over the larger GS73VR. Luckily I had a friend of mine that bought one and lent it to me for a few days.
I actually only got to review the FHD version for a few days, but I liked it so much that I decided to give the 4k version a try. So in my review below you’ll actually get to see how I feel about both versions for a change. Check it your for my in-depth impressions, especially with the differences in the screen and battery life. Keep in mind that the FHD version I reviewed is the -001 model from Best Buy, which has some significant differences between the other models.
The specs sheet
|MSI Stealth Pro GS63VR|
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution, IPS, 60 Hz, Wide angle|
15.6 inch, 3840 x 2160 resolution, PLS, 60Hz, Wide angle
|Processor||Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ CPU, quad-core 2.6 GHz(3.5Ghz boost)|
|Video||Intel HD 530 and NVIDIA GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM|
|Memory||16 GB DDR4 2400Mhz (2 x DIMMs)|
|Storage||128 or 512 GB M.2 SATA + 1 TB 5200rpm HDD|
|Connectivity||Killer Wireless-AC 1535, Qualcomm Atheros Bluetooth 4.1(Intel for the -001 model)|
|Ports||3x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 1.4b, mini-DP, USB 2.0, mic, earphone, ethernet|
|Operating system||Windows 10|
|Size||380 mm or 14.96” (w) x 249 mm or 9.80” (d) x 17.7 mm or .70” (h)|
|Weight||1.8 kg or 3.96 lb|
|Extras||Multi-colored backlit keyboard, trackpad, HD webcam|
Design and first look
Picking up the laptop for the first time, I was immediately impressed. It really is a smaller version of the previous MSI Ghost Pro GS60. Not only is the thickness slightly smaller, but so is the weight and the overall footprint. Weighing just under 4 pounds and being extremely powerful are the two most appealing features to this laptop.
Overall, the build quality is very solid. I don’t think there are any weak spots that I would worry about on this one. My first instinct after using the GS73VR was to look for sharp edges, but I really couldn’t find any. No matter which way I hold it, it feels very sturdy and easy to handle. MSI did a very good job with this one.
The lid is pretty much just like all the other MSI laptops. It’s a brushed Lithium-Magnesium alloy, which is black in color. The lid is adorned with an MSI logo and their Gaming G series dragon logo. Like all the others, it glows when the screen is on and there is no way to shut it off.
The other side of the laptop has been changed though. It’s still a metallic cover, but for this model it’s almost entirely covered in black felt. This is most definitely to help dissipate heat. At first, I was taken off guard from this but I quickly started to like it. It feels pleasant to touch and also looks pretty good. It might get dirty over time, but nowhere near as bad as the fingerprints will look after using the laptop for only a few days.
Also on the bottom are the absurd amount of stickers MSI insists on placing on their laptops. Luckily, most of them can come off if you desire so, but one is a warranty sticker though, so beware of that. I learned the other day that US and Canada owners are free to remove that one though, as it is not enforced in those countries. If this were my unit, I would remove them all and relocate the S/N sticker to the inside of the lid. Personal preference.
The lid lifts from a single finger, which I really like. But it isn’t as sturdy as the screen on the GS73VR and is probably why the lid on that one didn’t lift with a single finger. I usually prefer a single finger lift, but the screen stability might be an issue for some who tend to move the laptop or lift it too fast. The screen can and will move if you do so. I had this problem with my old GS60, but it wasn’t something that really bothered me all that much.
The only criticism I have about the hinge is that it doesn’t exactly hold the laptop uniformly shut. On my unit, there was a small gap on the right front edge with the lid closed. The left hand side was flush with the palm rest. Again, my GS60 also had this problem as well and it never bothered me. It’s something worth mentioning though.
One special thing about the screen is the fact it opens up to just over 180°. So you can basically lay your laptop completely flat on a surface if you wanted. I honestly have no idea what I’d use this feature for, but there are a decent number of people who look for it.
Moving on, the keyboard and palm rest area is a little different than the previous models. For starters, the footprint is a lot smaller, so the keyboard has a little less space to deal with. There’s no gradual recess into the palm rest like on the other models, but it is recessed enough so the keys don’t touch the screen. Above the keyboard is the ventilation for both the CPU and GPU.
Centered in the ventilation is a very modest power indicator. This is where the power button used to be on previous models, but now serves to let you know which GPU the laptop is using. If red, it’s using Intel graphics, while orange indicates that the GTX 1060 chip is active. I like how this LED is small, but because of that, it’s actually really difficult to tell the difference between orange and red.
Below the keyboard, which I’ll discuss in more detail soon, is the trackpad. I’ll also discuss this in more detail, but I wanted to point out something in terms of the location. Because the laptop’s footprint got smaller, the trackpad is even more cramped than ever before. Like with the GS60, it’s extremely close to the edge of the laptop, but is also now even closer to the spacebar, so if you’re the type to prop this laptop up on your knees in bed, you might have some issues with accidentally hitting the trackpad.
Starting at the front, there’s no connectivity but there is a small groove for lifting the lid in the center. The right hand side also has a number of indicator lights. Like the 17” version, these lights are tiny, but also extremely bright. So bright that I find them annoying in a dark room actually, as they tend to make my shirt glow red.
There’s no IO on the back side either, but this part gets a pretty cool design, alongside the functional CPU and GPU exhausts. Centered there’s a “Stealth” name plate and the sides have some red lines. All these are initially covered in plastic film, so don’t forget to remove it so they shine even more. These accents are actually nice, given you like the color red.
The left side gets a secondary GPU exhaust. This is good because the more ventilation for the GTX 1060, the better. By the way, that GPU has two exhaust fans instead of the single fan it had with the GS60. Also on the left there’s also a Kensington lock, an SD card slot, 3x USB 3.0 ports, a HiFi headphone jack and a microphone jack.
The right side gets a second CPU exhaust. You’ll also find a poorly placed power jack here, in the middle of everything. I say poorly mainly because it’s on the right hand side and the cord can get in the way of your mouse, but at least the cord has a 90° elbow and is not sticking straight out. Beside the power jack, there are also an HDMI 2.0 port, a Thunderbolt 3 port and a USB 2.0 port on this right edge. Oh yeah, the power button here, towards the front.
That power button’s placement did worry me at first, but I actually got used to it. It’s pretty flush and in such a forward position that it doesn’t have much of a chance to get accidentally pressed. I definitely like it better than having a giant LED lit circle smack in the middle, above the keyboard, like on the GS60.
The only thing I was hoping for though was the ability to allow the power button to wake the laptop from sleep with the lid closed. In this unit, the button is disabled with the lid closed. I know most would actually want that button to be disabled, but I would like to just see an option to change that if I desired. That way the notebook could be easily hooked up to an external monitor and used with the lid still shut.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the design on the GS63VR. MSI did a very good job making sure the edges are all flush and rounded on this one. The only minor criticisms I can think of are the power cord placement and maybe moving one of the USB 3.0 ports to the other side. These are really small complaints though.
Keyboard and trackpad
The Steelseries keyboard on the GS63VR is identical to the keyboard on the GS73VR and the latest version of the GS60. There’s not a whole lot to add to what I think about it other than it’s one of the best laptop keyboards for such a thin design. I’m tempted to just cut and paste my opinions from previous articles, but I’m happy to say it all again.
The key travel is actually really impressive, at 2.2mm. The feedback is also stellar, at about 60 grams of force needed to apply a keypress. This all showed when I took my typical typing test and scored just above my average typing speed.
However, the only criticism I have for the GS63VR keyboard is there is some mild keyboard flex on the left hand side. I remember experiencing this with a GS60 as well and I think it was due to the lack of support where the battery sits. It might be the same with this model and I’ll have to do a little trial and error to see if I can fix it. Either way, it’s not horrible, but enough for me to notice.
The RGB backlighting options are another nice feature of the keyboard. There are three color zones with hundreds of different color options for each zone. There are also some color “effects” similar to Alienware’s that can be used within the Steelseries software. Unfortunately, there’s no per key color effects like Razer and Aorus use, but if you’re like me you probably won’t care about that all too much.
Like other MSI laptops, the key layout is a little…different. The Windows key is on the right hand side instead of the traditional left. If that bothers you though, you can switch the Fn and Windows keys in the bios. Apparently you can physically remove and change the key caps, but I haven’t dared do that yet. Another oddly placed key is detele, hidden away above the num pad.
The font is also the same unique look of the GS60. Most of the letters are squared off and definitely look different than the norm. It’s something you get used to, but it might attract some unwanted attention in a professional environment, if they aren’t too busy staring at the glowing dragon.
Another thing MSI has kept the same with the GS models is the trackpad. From what I can tell, it’s the same trackpad as on the GS73VR, GS70 and GS60. This is nice for me because I really got used to the trackpad on my old GS60 and eventually grew to like it a lot.
I’ll admit, I didn’t like the GS60 trackpad at first, mainly because of the plastic texture. If you have any moisture on your fingertips, the surface feels incredibly tacky. Once you get the hang of it though, it tracks accurately and also allows for a number of multi-touch gestures that work fine.
It’s a clickpad variant, so the left and right clicks can be actuated on the lower corners. The clicks are shallow to me and some people might find them unreliable. I personally don’t like clickpads for that very reason, so I immediately changed two finger taps to be used for right clicks.
It’s an Elan brand trackpad, so your typical Elan drivers work well, but for the most part the drivers MSI uses as default fit all my needs. I really like having three finger swipe forward and back for internet browsing, which this one includes. The thing it lacks is three finger swipe upwards for app switching, which instead they map for starting slide shows. Hopefully there’s a way to edit the registry to correct this, like there was in the past.
The only legitimate complaint I have with the trackpad is how close it is to the front edge of the laptop. If you look carefully in the pictures, you’d see it’s only a matter of millimeters away. The problem with this is you tend to accidentally nudge it if it’s pressed against you on your lap. Obviously you can adjust the laptop to compensate, but for some, that may be difficult to do.
In the end, both the keyboard and trackpad are highlights of the machine, in my opinion. It would be nice to have a glass trackpad someday, but it’s at least good to see things staying the same, rather than going in the wrong direction. There’s nothing I would change about the keyboard, except that MSI work on their QC and eliminate the keyboard flex.
The screen on the GS63VR FHD model I received isn’t as good as I hoped. I was actually expecting to get the exact same FHD panel that was in the GS60, but to my surprise, they put a different one on this latest model. It’s an IPS display at least, so the viewing angles are very good, but the brightness and colors leave something to be desired.
The panel is a 15.6” matte LG IPS display, with the model LP156WF6-SPK1, in case you want to look up the specs. The max resolution is 1920 x 1080 px and it has a 60Hz refresh rate.
Unfortunately, the color space is the main issue. Using a Spyder4Pro, I measured sRGB to be a mere 65%, NTSC 47% and aRGB 49%. This is significantly lower than the FHD panel in the GS60, which had sRGB coverage in the mid 90s. It’s not something I needed a tool to notice either – I noticed the dull colors the minute the computer hit the desktop for the first time. Some would be OK with this screen, but if you edit pictures/video and/or use it next to any decent monitor out there, you might think twice.
Screens – GS63(FHD) (left) and GS73(FHD) (Right)
The measured contrast ratio hovered around 600:1, which is pretty decent. But the maximum brightness was only measured to be 246 nits, which is weak in my opinion. Even with the matte screen finishing, using this laptop outdoors will be a struggle.
On a more positive note, the minimum brightness is amongst the lowest I’ve ever seen. A mere 4 nits brightness is excellent if you’re the type to wake up at 5am and surf the web or watch a movie the second you wake up.
Below is a chart showing the brightness distribution of the FHD screen.
There’s really nothing else to say, except that I’m a little disappointed in this panel. Considering the price of this GS63VR configuration being so close to the GS73VR, I was expecting a little more with the screen. Maybe not 120Hz but at least a bright and colorful IPS option.
The alternative for this notebook is a 4k screen, which is advertised to have 100% sRGB coverage. Without a doubt, go for the 4k model if you care about color space or screen brightness at all. Luckily I have a 4k model available as well, so you can make an informed decision.
The viewing angles on the 4k screen are about as good as they get. The images are crisp and the colors are a big step up from the FHD panel. I measured 98% sRGB, 68% NTSC and 74% aRGB. In case you were wondering, the model number for this panel is LP156UD1-SPB1.
My panel had only tiny amounts of backlight bleed on the bottom edge. The brightness is reasonable, with a maximum of 273 nits measured. The blacks were a little bright though, so it really throws off the contrast ratio, around 360:1. Also like the FHD panel, the minimum brightness was extremely low. I reached a minimum brightness of only 5 nits with blacks reading 0 nits.
Here is a chart showing the brightness distribution of the 4k screen.
At the original time of writing this article, I assumed that these were the only two screen options. This is not the case, however. There are actually other FHD options that are superior to the panel on the -001(Best Buy) model. A couple users have reported that they have a Samsung SDC324C, which is the same as the FHD panel on the old GS60s. I actually really liked this panel because it was both bright and had 100% sRGB coverage. It has PWM though, so that may be bothersome for some people who are prone to it.
Others have reported that they received a different LG panel that is pretty much equivalent to the Samsung model above except without the PWM. I haven’t gotten any definitive answers as to what model number has what panel yet. If you’re picky about your screen choices, I suggest seeking the forums to see what model people have bought and where they got it from. Had I gotten one of these, my review score would certainly have been a 4 out of 5.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
The Stealth Pro GS63VR comes with the Skylake i7-6700HQ quad-core processor. Until the quad-core Kaby Lake processors come out, this is pretty much the best one you’ll see in a laptop this thin, and it allows for programs to open and run at fast speeds. I’ve never had a complaint with this processor and this laptop is no different.
Before I continue, I want to note right away that my testing is being completed on a clean install of Windows. The MSI build has a lot of bloatware that really seemed to bog down the system, if you ask me. There was some major trackpad stuttering that was going on and some programs were very slow to load, but all that went away with a fresh install and a quick load of the latest drivers.
The GTX 1060 is a pretty hefty graphics card to fit into such a small package. I’ll admit I was a little concerned with thermals at first. But the graphics card really performs well and allows for some pretty excellent gaming performance. The GPU has 6GB of VRAM, which should be enough for almost everyone out there.
For battery life concerns, MSI opted for Optimus over G-Sync on this one. Probably a good choice with such a small battery. The power indicator light doubles as an indicator to what GPU is operating: red for integrated graphics and orange for the GTX 1060. Speaking of that light, it’s not on the power button for a change. Instead, it’s subtly located in the center of the intake vents, above the keyboard. This is a welcome change over the giant power button of the GS60, that switched from blue to orange.
The SSD is nothing special, in fact is actually SATA and not NVMe. The 128GB version is pretty slow and you’ll probably want to replace it. The 512GB is a little faster at least, but it still a SATA drive. Replacing the SSD can be quite challenging though, and I’ll get to that in a bit.
The included HDD is awfully slow as well. It’s only a 5200rpm drive and the speeds are pretty bad if you’re used to 7200rpm or even SSDs. Honestly, I don’t think I could survive with a 128GB SSD and this slow HDD, because I would immediately fill up the SSD and would avoid using the HDD at all costs. The HDD won’t slow down actual framerates in gameplay, but loading times are definitely affected.
So now that I brought up upgrading, let’s talk about what can be done. First off, to open the system, you have to break a warranty sticker. Fortunately for the US and Canada, that sticker means nothing. For everyone else though, opening that sticker means your warranty is void, so you’ve been warned, in case you decide to venture further.
Internals – HDD easily accessible, but the SSD and the RAM are behind the motherboard
Once inside, you’ll notice that the HDD is pretty easy to get to and swap out. The SSD and RAM are a different matter though, as they are actually on the opposite side of the motherboard, so in order to get to them you’ll have to disassemble the motherboard and flip it over. If patiently taking things apart and following directions aren’t your thing, I highly recommend not doing this. Otherwise, give yourself a lot of light, time and space before attempting it.
Once you get to the other side, you’ll find a single M.2 80 mm slot, which accepts SATA and NVMe drives. There are also two RAM slots, which can take up to 32GB of RAM. Because getting to these components is not a walk in the park, I think most people getting the 128GB model will just settle for upgrading the HDD, maybe to a 1 TB SSD or something.
I’ve put up together a step by step guide on how to access the internals on the MSI GS73 and MSI GS63, and you should check it out here if interested in upgrading any of the components.
I ran some benchmarks, which you can see below. Here’s what I got:
- 3Dmark 13: Time Spy – 3646 , Fire Strike – 9648 , Sky Diver – 22019; Max CPU temp 83C, Max GPU temp 75C;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3263, Accelerated – 3999 with 74 C max temp;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 100.60 fps, CPU 667 pts, CPU Single Core 115 pts.
I also benchmarked a number of games to give you an idea of how the GTX 1060 performs. All of the benchmarks were taken with the FHD version. The 4k model performed similarly, so I didn’t repeat any of them.
- Fallout 4– Around Lexington and Corvega Plant during a thunderstorm. Lots of fighting.
- Ultra settings, Max AA and AP 1080p – 48-60fps
- Default high settings at 1080p – 60 fps
- Witcher 3– Played through the opening scene and the battle tutorial
- Ultra, 1080p – 47-53fps
- High, 1080p – 65-69fps
- Peak CPU temp 85°C, peak GPU temp 75C
- Dragon Age: Inquisition– Walked around one of the first camps and got into a battle. Played for about 10 minutes for each session.
- Default ultra settings, MSAA x2 at 1080p – 50-53fps
- Default high settings, no MSAA at 1080p – 80-88fps
- Peak CPU temp 81°C, peak GPU temp 77°C
- Crysis 3– Played through the opening scene
- Very High, AA x1, 1080p – 45-67fps
- High, AA off, 1080p – 62-100fps
- Peak CPU temp 81°C, peak GPU temp 75°C
- No Man’s Sky– Running around on planet, getting on ship and rushing to another spot, forcing regeneration rapidly. This was after 1 hour session.
- High, FXAA, no Vsync, 1080p – 55-85fps
- High, FXAA, no Vsync, 4k – 28-35fps
- On battery, High, FXAA, no Vsync, 1080p – 30fps
- Peak CPU temp 86°C, peak GPU temp 75°C
As expected, the GTX 1060 makes a huge difference over the 970m version on last year’s GS60 and it’s impressive to see 60fps on AAA titles in such a small form factor. I’m also very impressed with the internal temps staying in the 70s and low 80s for the most part. I honestly thought the GS63VR would do worse than the GS73VR I tested a couple weeks back, but it turns out they both perform almost the same.
Again, the amount of bloatware is pretty bad on this one. If you decide to stick with it, you’ll get a lot of popups for registration, backing up your recovery partition, and worst of all, Norton. I personally find it easier just to do a fresh install, especially since there’s no registry key needed and odds are Windows needs major updates anyways.
If you do a fresh install, all of MSI’s drivers are on their webpage. You can also install the SteelSeries engine and the MSI dragon center. The latter is optional but I’d say it’s pretty nice to have if you like having fan control. There’s also an option to use “Eco mode” which stunts the CPU to 1.2Ghz. If neither of these things interest you, you can probably live without the Dragon Center.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The cooling system has improved a lot over the GS60. The CPU and GPU are independently cooled, like before, but this time the GPU gets two fans instead of one. The single CPU fan was upgraded as well though, as it actually runs at lower speeds than before and is much quieter, as a result.
I took some noise readings from my S7 Edge using the Android Sensor Box app. The ambient reading was 23dB. With the fan on during normal usage, I measured 25db at ear level and 30dB at the exhaust. Under full gaming load, the fans ramp up reaching levels of 35dB at ear level and 45 dB at the exhaust. The fan noise itself has a pretty low pitch, however there is a little bit of high pitched coil whine coming from the CPU fan on this unit, and that can bother you if you are prone to that kind of noise. This appears to be a wide spread problem with the GS63 and GS73 models.
As for heat, the laptop does tend to get pretty hot. It’s a good thing MSI put that felt on the bottom to make the laptop feel at least a little more comfortable on the lap. Under normal loads, it’s pretty tolerable, but gaming loads might require a cooling pad for many of you.
I took some temperature readings on the keyboard and underneath. Here were my results:
*Daily Use – 1080p Youtube clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing No Man’s Sky for approximately 30 minutes on high FHD settings
If these readings scare you, there are a couple things that can be done to improve the temperatures. First off, notice that the left side is significantly cooler than the right side. This is because there are two GPU fans and only one CPU fan. Under normal loads, the GPU is doing nothing, so there’s no heat. Under gaming loads, the GPU fans are working wonderfully, while the single CPU fan struggles a bit.
But there are a couple of solutions you can consider to lower the CPU temps. For one, you can utilize MSI’s Eco mode in the Dragon Center. This limits the CPU speeds and significantly lowers the operating temperatures. You’ll notice a little stutter in daily use, but it doesn’t affect watching movies at all and it also helps with battery life. When gaming though, this is not a viable option.
Another, and better performing method, would be to undervolt the CPU. It’s a pretty involved task and there are many guides to it, but I speak from experience that it can help. In fact, when I get to a point of doing it myself on this machine, I will post my results. If successful, you’ll have lower CPU voltages with the same performance. This will result in less heat generation and overall lower temperatures on the right hand side.
The last option is repasting. Again, just getting to the CPU and GPU requires a complete disassembly, and if you have the skills to get to this point, you have the skills to repaste. There are guides on how to do it. I’m not sure the heat buildup on the underside will be lessened, but it will result in lower internal temps for the CPU and GPU directly.
Moving on, the speakers are downward facing and are located on the bottom front edge. There’s only two of them too and they are nothing special at all. In fact, besides the substandard colors on the FHD panel, the audio is the low point on the machine. They get fairly loud, but you have to do some work for it by messing with the settings in the Nahimic software.
I measured a peak level of 70db at ear level while playing a song on YouTube. For reference, the ambient noise levels in the room was 24 dB. The treble pretty much dominates, as I could reliably not detect bass levels below 60Hz. So bottom point, there’s nothing impressive about these speakers, but they are better than nothing I suppose and at least the volume is audible.
MSI makes up for the crappy speakers with the headphone jack though. The GS63VR is equipped with a Sabre ESS HiFi digital to analog converter, which really improves the sound coming through the headphone jack. Even crummy headphones sound a little better than with a typical laptop connection. I’ve been using this connection for a couple weeks now and am very happy with it.
There are a number of connectivity options on the laptop, which I really appreciate. It would have been nice to have a USB 3.0 on the right instead of a 2.0, but if you’re like me, it’s going to be permanently be occupied by a USB mouse dongle anyway.
The 3x USB 3.0 ports are great if you have really low profile things plugged in over there. Otherwise, you might as well consider only two of them accessible at the same time, as the ports are so close together that I often found it impossible to plug things into all three of them. More than once I plugged something into the middle port and had to unplug it and move it to the end to get something else in the other end.
Like most newer, high end laptops, this one has Thunderbolt 3. I was able to connect to my Razer Core with a GTX 1080 and get a pretty significant performance boost over the laptop by itself. The GS63VR operated just as smoothly with the Razer Core as if it were the Razer Blade itself.
For internet connection, the Killer Wifi card is more than capable of providing what most people would need. I was able to max out my internet connection(90Mbps) in most parts of my house. About 100 feet and 3 walls away, the speed dropped to as low as 70Mbps. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also a Gigabit Ethernet connection.
Again, like with the GS73VR, I normally don’t have anything to say about the memory card slot other than its existence. This one falls short of expectations though, mainly because is limited to USB 2.0 speeds. Copying files to and from the card take a lot longer than most card readers I’ve seen. My Sandisk Extreme Pro card should be getting read speeds of up to 80MB/s, but unfortunately on this machine, I’m limited to 27MB/s.
Finally, the webcam is unfortunately another low point to note of. I think MSI fixed their specs and made it say HD instead of FHD. Most of the retailers still incorrectly say FHD though. Regardless, it’s a 720p (HD) webcam. It works, but it’s pretty low quality. The low light photos I took were really grainy and even the normal lit ones didn’t look to hot. I’m pretty sure the camera on my old GS60 was better than this.
My battery test for the FHD version consists of using the stock “Power Saver” power profile, 40% brightness (80 nits), WiFi off, Bluetooth off, and running a 720p movie in a continuous loop at full screen with the volume muted. I start the clock when it’s unplugged and stop it when the unit performs a self-shutdown. The MSI GS63VR FHD model lasted a decent 5 hours and 17 minutes before shutting down.
In the following test, we’ve set the screen’s brightness at 40%, which is about 80 nits. Eco mode is off for all tests except the one noted. Also the keyboard backlighting was set to minimal.
- 7.1 W (~ 8 h 1 min of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 13.5 W (~ 4 h 13 min of use) – light browsing and text editing in Microsoft Word, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.4 W (~ 4 h 36 min of use) – 1080p full screen video on YouTube in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 11.0 W (~ 5 h 11 min of use) – 1080p full screen .mkv video in Movie App, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 18.7 W (~3 h 3 min of use) – heavy browsing in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON, Eco mode on;
- 34 W (~1 h 41 min of use)– heavy browsing in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 55 W (~ 1 h 2 min of use) – heavy gaming in 1080p, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
And again for the 4k version the battery test consists of using the stock “Power Saver” power profile, 40% brightness (80 nits), WiFi off, Bluetooth off, and running a 720p movie in a continuous loop at full screen with the volume muted. I start the clock when it’s unplugged and stop it when the unit performs a self- shutdown. The MSI GS63VR 4k model lasted a mere 4 hours and 1 minute before shutting down.
In the following test, we’ve set the screen’s brightness at 40%, which is about 80 nits. Eco mode is off for all tests except the one noted. Also the keyboard backlighting was set to minimal.
- 12 W (~ 4 h 45 min of use) – idle, Power Saving Mode, screen at 0%, Wi-Fi OFF;
- 22.1 W (~ 2 h 36 min of use) – light browsing and text editing in Microsoft Word, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 34.4 W (~ 1 h 40 min of use) – 4k full screen video on YouTube in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 22.7 W (~ 2 h 31 min of use) – 1080p full screen .mkv video in Movie App, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 24.2 W (~2 h 22 min of use)– heavy browsing in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON, Eco mode on;
- 44.5 W (~1 h 17 min of use)– heavy browsing in EDGE, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 28.2 W (~ 2 h 1 min of use)– heavy gaming in 1080p, Balanced Mode, screen at 40%, Wi-Fi ON.
It’s clear that the trade off for having a 4k screen is having pitiful battery life. Personally, I would choose the screen, but I definitely wouldn’t like having only 2 hours of actual working time.
Also included is a 180 watt charger brick, which only measures 6.1”x3.0”x1.2” and weighs about 1.5 pounds. This one is smaller than the 150 watt brick on my GS60, so I really appreciate that.
Price and availability
The MSI Stealth Pro GS63VR is available at multiple retailers. Amazon has many units in stock ranging in prices from $1799 to $2000 at the time of this post, depending on the configuration. Follow this link for more details and updated configurations.
There’s also a Best Buy version for $1549, but I recommend steering clear of this unit if you don’t want to witness the below standard FHD screen. I’m not positive, but that screen could very well be specific to the models at Best Buy. Other reviews have reported a FHD panel with better colors, but until I can compare actual panel models, it’s all a big unknown. If anyone finds out, please let me know so I can keep people updated.
UPDATE: Josh left a comment below stating that he received a unit with a Samsung panel, which is equivalent to the panel in the old GS60. This is a really nice panel and I would highly recommend it over the LG model I received, if you care anything about color space.
The MSI Stealth Pro GS63VR starts at $1549, with the 4K configurations going for around $2000
In general, the MSI Stealth Pro GS63VR is a great successor to the Ghost Pro GS60. The design and build quality have both improved and the hardware inside is also a nice bundle to have in such a small package. It’s good to see MSI trim off some of the footprint and bezels, without skimping on thermals and performance.
The balance of power and portability is really the most outstanding feature in this model. During my use, I never frowned upon it’s handling or usability as a productivity machine. Even for gaming, it’s a very capable model, granted you can deal with the heat.
You’re going to be hard pressed to find a laptop as thin and light as the GS63VR that holds a GTX 1060. The closest competitors are the Gigabyte Aero 15, Asus ROG GL502, the Acer Predator Helios 300 and the Acer Aspire V15 Nitro series, but even those models are about an inch thick, while laptops like the Lenovo Legion Y720 and Eluktronics P650 are even more massive. There are pros and cons to all these options, but if minimal size is what you’re looking for, the MSI GS63 is the one for you. Of course the GL502 series also has a GTX 1070 option, which may lead you down that path.
Now that the differences between the Best Buy -001 model are clear, it makes sense why there is such a large price break between it and the other FHD models. Granted that I don’t like the screen at all, $1549 is not a bad price for an i7 quad core and a GTX 1060 in such a small package. But if you want a better FHD screen, more SSD space and a better Wi-Fi card, $250 is well worth the upgrade in my opinion. That’s why for the good FHD option, I’d score this laptop at a 4/5 while the others I’d have to ding them a little and only give it a 3.75.
If you want a powerful and ultra-compact 15-inch laptop, the MSI GS63VR must be on your list
The only other hang-ups I have on the GS63VR are pretty minor. The cramped USB ports are annoying, the slow SD card reader is also a minor irritation. The coil whine is also slightly annoying, but that’s just something you have to deal with in some of these models. In the end, if you’re looking for the most portable 15” option with a powerful GPU, this is pretty much your only choice for now, and it’s a pretty good one.
That takes care of this review of the MSI Stealth Pro GS63VR and I hope it was informative. I won’t have either model more than a few more days, but if you have any questions about either, I’d be more than happy to help. Please leave a comment in the section below.