Desktop replacement laptops are traditionally heavy and bulky units, but MSI aims to banish convention with its MSI GS70 Stealth. It might have a 17in full-HD screen, a quad-core Intel processor and a discrete nVidia graphics processor, but it's all contained in a chassis that's just 22mm thick. See all: laptops buying advice.
It's a stunning headline figure, bolstered by a relatively impressive weight of just 2.6kg. Other gaming laptops just can't compare to the svelte MSI: the Alienware 17 weighs 4 kilos and is 50mm thick.
The GS70 doesn't just impress with its vital statistics – it's also one of the best-looking gaming laptops we've seen. It's largely made from brushed aluminium, and the metal's gunmetal grey finish is paired with smooth, curved corners and restrained details throughout.
Getting to grips with the MSI reveals excellent build quality: the base is sturdy, and there's little flex in the lid – admirable attributes considering the wide screen and slim dimensions.
The lid houses an MSI logo and an illuminated red badge, while the base is strangely devoid of the typical tacky Windows, Intel and nVidia stickers that still disturb the design of high-end machines.
Instead there's a modest SteelSeries logo below the keyboard and a small power button above. The speaker grille is milled from the metal, and there's a discreet row of status LEDs along the front edge.
There's only one concession to the sort of ostentatious design that prevails in many gaming notebooks: the backlit keyboard. Its lights are divided into three sections, and each can be lit with a different colour – or made to pulse with several different patterns.
Thankfully, tasteful colours can be selected, and there's a gaming mode that only illuminates the left-hand third of the keyboard. Or if you prefer the lights can be turned off entirely.
The keyboard itself is excellent. The base is rock-solid, and the entire keyboard is slightly sunken, which allows the keys enough travel to provide consistent feedback and a comfortable typing action. The keys are light, which helped us quickly get up to speed, and the wide touchpad below is responsive and accurate.
The 17in screen impressed, too. Its measured maximum brightness was a high 318 cd/m2, and the panel could deliver punchy, vibrant images. The measured 1096:1 contrast ratio is a superb figure – it indicates the wide span from searing whites to inky blacks.
It has an anti-glare matt finish, and despite being the cheaper TN type has good viewing angles that helps games leap from the screen. There main issue is colour accuracy – a Delta E figure of 7.6 is merely average. See also: 7 best laptops for games reviewed: best gaming laptops 2013.
MSI GS70 Stealth: components
The GS70 is superb on the outside – and it's a stunner under the bonnet, too. Windows 8 64-bit motors along thanks to a Core i7-4700HQ. It's one of Intel's most potent mobile parts: four 22nm cores, a stock speed of 2.4 GHz, a top Turbo pace of 3.4 GHz, and 6MB of L3 cache.
The storage is just as notable: two 128GB SSDs are combined in RAID 0 for 237 GB of capacity and we measured the array's sequential read speed at 826 MB/sec – stupendous speed, and approaching twice as quick as the best standalone SSDs.
It's understandable, then, that the MSI returned one of the best PCMark 7 scores we've ever recorded from any Windows PC, let alone a laptop: 6060 points. That's only a little slower than the Alienware, which had a marginally quicker Haswell processor.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 765M is one of the the firm's most powerful mobile GPUs – it's based on the architecture from the desktop GTX 660 card – and in this incarnation it has 768 stream processors clocked at 850 MHz and 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. It's one of the best chips currently to be found inside laptops, although the chunkier Alienware's GTX 780M is even more powerful.
MSI GS70 Stealth: performance
It's only fitting that this machine recorded stellar games results. Our standard Stalker benchmark runs at 1280 x 720 and Medium quality settings, and the MSI brushed this aside with an average framerate of 85.7 fps – a superb score, although it's unable to match the Alienware's 130fps. We loaded Stalker's top graphics settings, added anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, and upped the resolution to screen-native 1920 x 1080. The GS70 still didn't balk, with an average of 37.3 fps.
The MSI handled more demanding titles without breaking a sweat, too. It averaged 42 fps in Bioshock Infinite at the game's top settings and 1920 x 1080, and it scored 30 fps in Crysis at similarly high graphics settings.
It's a tribute to Haswell's increased efficiency that this powerful machine lasted for 3 hours and 31 minutes in our battery test – a reasonable result that's not far behind the Alienware.
The rest of the specification is suitably high-end: a 750 GB hard disk, Killer DoubleShot networking and 8GB of memory in our review model, which MSI has subsequently doubled for the GS70's retail release.
There are four USB 3.0 ports, two Mini DisplayPort connections, HDMI and VGA ports, plus an SD card slot.
The speakers are good, too: the bass is punchy, and the high-end is filled with snappy, clear sounds. The mid-range is fine, although it tends to be slightly drowned out by the rest of the mix.
It's not all good news, though: high-end components crammed inside such a slim chassis creates both heat and noise. The processor and graphics card hit toasty top temperatures of 82 °C and 87 °C – high, if not dangerous. The pair of fans inside churned out a high-pitched whine when the machine was stressed, although some noise might be drowned out by the machine's speakers.
The MSI impresses in almost every department, with class-leading benchmark results, a superb screen and a slimline build quality that raises the bar for gaming notebooks. You'll have to pay for the privilege of owning such a machine, though, and that price is £1679. Take a look at best laptop of 2013.