CPU: Intel Core i7-1260P/i7-1280P
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 512 GB or 1 TB
Screen size: 16 in 1920 x 1080 IPS 144Hz
Weight: 3.73 lbs (1.69 kg)
Dimensions: 14.1 x 9.76 x 0.63 in (358 x 247 x 16 mm)
It's never been more important to have a versatile laptop — and, thankfully, efficient components and improved designs mean machines like the MSI Stealth 15M have never been so adaptable.
Take a look at what you get from this $1,399 (£1,199) portable. MSI balances one of Intel's latest laptop processors with the tried-and-tested Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU to deliver impressive pace inside a surprisingly slim and light rig.
A few years ago, you just wouldn't have got that kind of grunt inside a small machine. It means that the MSI Stealth 15M is a viable option for students who need gaming versatility, programmers who need lightweight power and creatives who want to work on the move.
The pricing undercuts rivals like the Dell XPS 15 and Lenovo Legion 5i Pro. But can the Stealth become one of the best laptops for students or a top laptop for coding and programming? Or should you stick with an existing contender?
MSI Stealth 15M review: Design & Features
- Slimmer and lighter than the competition
- Mediocre build quality and a hollow-feeling keyboard
- Acceptable connectivity, but both rivals are often better
The Stealth can straddle the student, coding and gaming worlds, so it's got to look subtle and versatile — and the design delivers.
On the lid there's a luminescent logo, and inside there's a smart speaker grille above the RGB LED keyboard.
This laptop doesn't have the flashy touches found elsewhere. It's not as elegant as the Dell XPS 15 and it doesn't have the brooding good looks of the Lenovo, but it's fine for everyday use.
The chassis impresses in other areas too. At 3.73 lbs (1.69 kg) it's lighter than the Dell and Lenovo, and its 0.63 in (16 mm) thick body is slimmer than either of those notebooks. That's handy if you want a machine for traveling to lectures or hybrid working.
It's not the sturdiest laptop, though. There's too much movement in the metal around the keyboard, and more flex closer to the speaker grille. Invest in a protective sleeve if you take this notebook out of the house.
The MSI has three full-size USB ports, but only one USB-C port and no Thunderbolt. It's got an HDMI output and audio jack, but no card reader. You get Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, but no Ethernet. The webcam's 720p lens isn't particularly sharp and you don't get Windows Hello sign-in.
That selection is fine for everyday use — whether you're a programmer or a student — but it's not ambitious, and probably not good for creatives.
The keyboard's typing is fast, but a bit flimsy thanks to the laptop's weak chassis. It's better suited to working than gaming, and you don't get a number pad, but it does have three-zone RGB LED backlighting for basic customization. The touchpad is fine for everyday use, but without the snap needed for precision work or gaming. In most situations, a USB mouse will be better.
The MSI might be slimmer and lighter than its rivals, but the rivals have better build quality. The Lenovo has superior connectivity, including Thunderbolt and Gigabit Ethernet. The Dell supports Windows Hello and has an SD card slot. Both also have far better keyboards and trackpads.
MSI Stealth 15M review: Specs & Performance
- Enough graphics ability for mainstream single-player titles and esports games
- The processors are acceptable everyday chips, but rivals offer faster chips
- Not the hottest or loudest laptop, but it sometimes generates noise and heat
There's plenty of life in the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 thanks to its 6 GB of memory and 3,840 stream processors, although the MSI's slim dimensions mean that the GPU uses a 75 W power envelope, rather than the 130 W it can hit elsewhere.
For games, expect enough power for everyday titles. You'll just about hit smooth 60 fps framerates in games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion and Cyberpunk 2077. In less-demanding titles, expect frame rates of 100 fps. The RTX 3060 will play all of the top esports games at speeds suitable for the 144 Hz screen.
However, you won't be able to run top-tier settings in the trickiest games and you won't get much joy if you want to output to faster or higher-resolution screens. Positively, it'll always outpace the RTX 3050 chips inside the Dell, but the Lenovo will always be faster.
Different versions of this laptop use different processors — some use the Intel Core i7-1260P, while others have the i7-1280P. Both are low-power chips for slimmer and lighter laptops. The i7-1260P is modest, with four Hyper-Threaded performance cores that peak at 4.7 GHz, while the i7-1280P has six cores and a 4.8 GHz top speed.
The MSI deploys 16 GB of memory, albeit in a DDR4 configuration rather than DDR5, and there's a 512 GB SSD with mid-range read and write speeds of 3,332 MB/s and 3,021 MB/s.
Expect mid-range pace from the MSI's CPUs. If you want to multitask, tackle coding or handle some creative tools then you should seek out the i7-1280P — its extra cores and speed deliver added grunt. But if that's not an option, the i7-1260P won't be far behind.
There's hardly anything between the two in single-threaded workloads, so there's no material difference between the CPUs in everyday tasks like word processors and web browsers.
For everyday use, it's fine, but if you buy the Dell or Lenovo laptops with a Core i7-12700H, you'll get more power, especially in multi-tasked workloads or multi-threaded applications. That's important for coding and creative apps. And if you opt for the more affordable versions with the i5-12500H, those laptops will still match the i7-1260P and i7-1280P.
Push the internals in games or trickier apps and the MSI produces high-pitched fan noise and the underside gets pretty warm. A headset will handle the noise and these issues aren't present during everyday use, but they're worth remembering.
MSI Stealth 15M review: Screen & Speakers
- The 1080p panel has a fine specification and includes a 144Hz refresh rate for games
- In most situations, though, it's underwhelming — a bit feeble and lackluster
- The speakers are fine and good enough for casual music
The 15.6 in panel has a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and 144 Hz refresh rate, which is ideal for everyday gaming. That resolution is fine for everyday work tools too.
Quality levels are underwhelming, though. The peak brightness of 280 nits is fine for indoor use, but not good enough for outdoor situations. That low figure undermines the reasonable 1,220:1 contrast ratio.
Colors are poor too. The wayward Delta E of 6.19 means that the display lacks accuracy, and the panel only rendered 52.9% of the sRGB gamut. The color temperature of 7,014 K is too cool.
The poor range of colors, chilly temperature and lack of backlight punch leaves the panel looking washed out. It's fine for browsing, coding and everyday workloads, but it doesn't make movies or games look engaging and it's not good enough for creative tasks. If you need a laptop for photo editing, look elsewhere as its rivals are better in every area.
The speakers are fine. They're loud, have decent mid-range clarity, and the top-end isn't too tinny. There's hardly any bass, but for background media duties they're acceptable.
MSI Stealth 15M review: Battery life
- An hour of gaming on the move means that the MSI matches other gaming notebooks
- The power pack falls behind rivals and won't make it through half a day
The MSI only has a 52 Wh power pack and that's small even by gaming laptop standards — so temper your expectations.
You'll only get an hour of gaming out of this notebook, and if you run everyday work benchmarks with the brightness reduced, then the Stealth will only last for about three hours. We got nearly four hours out of the MSI at its peak, but that was when we ran a movie with low brightness.
The Lenovo is only a little better, but the Dell is the undoubted leader here — the XPS 15 will often get through a whole working day.
MSI Stealth 15M review: Price
There's a bit of a price disparity going on when it comes to the MSI Stealth 15M B12U. In the U.S., at the time of writing, it's available for $1,399 (opens in new tab), and in the U.K. it costs £1,199 (opens in new tab).
In the U.K. the MSI offers good value. A Lenovo Legion 5i Pro with an i5-12500H and RTX 3060 will cost you £1,537, and £1,673 if you want an i7-12700H. A Dell XPS 15 with its i5-12500H starts at £1,549 with integrated graphics and £1,799 for a Core i7 processor and RTX 3050 GPU.
The Stealth is a trickier sell in the U.S. A Lenovo with an i7-12700H and RTX 3060 costs $1,559 and supplies more performance for a small price increase. The Dell only costs $1,349 if you want a Core i5 CPU and it's $1,499 for the i7-12700H version.
Should you buy the MSI Stealth 15M?
The MSI is almost always cheaper than rivals, and it has the processing power to handle programming tasks, everyday creative tools, browser-based applications and mainstream games. The Stealth will get the job done if you're on the hunt for a coding or student laptop on a budget.
Beyond that versatility, though, there's too much mediocrity. The screen is pallid, the chassis is flimsy and lacks ports, the keyboard feels hollow and the battery can't compete with rivals.
The MSI is cheaper than the competition, but it doesn't have the quality of those laptops. It'll get the job done, but you get what you pay for.
If the MSI Stealth 15M isn't for you?
The Dell XPS 15 is an ideal alternative if you want a coding, programming and work laptop. It's got a robust chassis and an excellent keyboard, its screen options are superb and the battery impresses. Prices start at around £1,600 (opens in new tab) at time of writing.
The Lenovo Legion 5i Pro should be on your shopping list if you'd like more power. It's got much better connectivity than the MSI too, and a high-resolution screen. You can pick one up from $1,949.99 in the U.S. (opens in new tab) and £2,049 in the U.K. (opens in new tab) at time of writing.