One of my biggest annoyances when it comes to gaming laptops has for a long time been the appearance and proportions of such devices. The hefty chassis and the usual large weight loads have always made me question why you'd choose such a device over a regular more transportable system, but then again to support the hardware and technology that makes a laptop able to play the latest games, you need more capable cooling systems and so on - hence the proportions. Occasionally, a device comes my way that looks to both be a gaming laptop but also a regular laptop, and that's precisely what the MSI Stealth 15M is, a system that looks and feels like a more run of the mill productive laptop but is powered by Nvidia RTX 30-series graphics and a 12th Gen i7 CPU.
The Stealth 15M has a small form and is sleek and easy on the eyes. It doesn't scream 'gaming' and if it wasn't for the bright green Nvidia GeForce RTX label, you probably wouldn't think it was a gaming laptop at all. The body comes completely in black, and the chassis, due to it being rather thin, doesn't have enormous vents that draw your attention. If it wasn't for the blue, orange, and pink back-lit keyboard, you would probably say that the Stealth 15M is actually a little too boring in appearance.
But fortunately, MSI has decided to dial it back on looks so it can better focus on what's under the hood, which is actually quite an impressive and powerful selection of hardware. The 12th Gen Intel i7-1280P CPU comes clocked to 2000MHz, and this combined with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU and 16GBs of RAM, means that you can play the latest games at a fluid and smooth frame rate. Granted, this is possible because of the 1080p display, which means that you don't get the crisp visuals of say 2K or 4K graphics, but it does make it demonstrably easier for the system to run more demanding games.
And in this vein, I tested quite a few different video games during my time with the Stealth 15M, across a variety of genres. As I often do with gaming laptops, Playground Games' Forza Horizon 5 proved to be an interesting starting point, with benchmark testing showing that the title on Ultra graphics dipped to a low of around 59fps, peaked at 83fps, and averaged 69fps. Rebellion's Evil Genius 2: World Domination on the other hand showed far better performance, and peaked at 190fps, dropped to 110fps, and averaged at 159fps (despite the display capping at 144Hz). And then to add to this, I also mucked around in Arkane Lyon's Deathloop, and found the frame rate to hold to around 60fps, even if the RAM was often throttled due to 16GBs being a bit too little to run that game on the most demanding of settings.
Performance out of the way, I would like to add that the visuals of each game looked fantastic, even for basic HD, and this was helped because the thin bezel allowed the 15.6" display to be fully utilised to its potential, without much, if any, real negative and unused space. And this is a similar story with the rest of the entire chassis, as the keyboard and trackpad are placed well and don't feel too big or small for the body, and the various ports (including a couple of USB Type-As, a couple of USB Type-Cs, a HDMI port, and an audio jack) are all crammed on the sides of the system. It is a bit of a shame that the small body doesn't allow any space for an ethernet port though.
But then again, the core idea of what the Stealth 15M is, basically affirms that it doesn't need to have all the doodads that define gaming laptops. It's this simplistic and more basic design that makes it unique and likely more appealing to a wider audience who are looking for something to both be able to work and play on, and still be able to carry around without feeling like you're lugging around a cinder block all day. Unlike some of the devices that I have reviewed over the year, this is not a device that will break the bank either. It's not cheap in a general sense, but when compared to a lot of PC gaming hardware and tech, it's absolutely on the cheaper side of things, and for that reason I can see this being a far more approachable system than some other offerings.
I like the design and how it can kill two birds with one stone, but it should be said that the double-focus does mean that there are a few things the Stealth 15M doesn't do too well. While it will stay cool thanks to its Cooler Boost 5 technology, you will notice the fans and the noise they make when the laptop is under stress. Likewise, as this is a smaller system with some still powerful hardware, this laptop slurps up its battery, meaning you're going to want to keep a charger nearby if you plan on doing any form of gaming.
But otherwise, as far as a starter gaming laptop goes, this one ticks a lot of the boxes. It won't deliver the same level of performance as the premium systems, and does lack in its visual offering because of the HD display, but it's also thin, highly portable, subtle, and light, and for that reason, the Stealth 15M has grown on me over my time testing it.