Slim and Light, GeForce GTX 1060 Inside
MSI is the master of product naming. Their gaming laptops follow a well-established nomenclature where a random collection of numbers and letters is not at all confusing and certainly easy to remember. Hence why "GS63VR 6RF" is a great name for a powerful 15-inch notebook.
All kidding aside, the GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro is the latest in MSI’s thin and light 15-inch gaming laptop series. Like essentially all gaming laptops on the market today, the GS63VR uses current-generation GeForce 10 graphics and Intel Core i7 processors, along with modern technology like Thunderbolt 3 and PCIe storage. The hardware in this laptop is, first and foremost, geared towards performance.
Unlike other laptops from MSI and its competitors, though, the GS63VR tries to cram this powerful hardware in a portable chassis. At 17.7mm thick and just 1.8 kg heavy (3.96 pounds), this laptop is noticeably thinner and lighter than other gaming laptops of this screen size, which typically clock in over 2.2 kg heavy and 22mm thick. The GP62MVR Leopard Pro from MSI, for example, features largely the same hardware in a chassis half a kilogram heavier and more than 5mm thicker.
The size and weight advantage of the GS63VR Stealth Pro has a big impact on daily usage. While other 15-inch laptops are largely desk-bound, such as the Alienware 15 I recently reviewed, the GS63VR can be comfortably taken around and used in multiple locations. And the great thing is that you gain this portability without sacrificing performance.
Speaking of gaming-class hardware, MSI has kitted out my review unit with a GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, an Intel Core i7-6700HQ, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 128 GB SSD paired with a 1TB hard drive. This exact configuration is rare in North America, although a near-identical unit with a 256 GB SSD is available for around $1,680.
At this size, weight, and price, the GS63VR competes strongly with the latest Razer Blade, managing to narrowly beat it in all three categories. The GS63VR is perhaps more impressive as it packs a larger display into a body that’s marginally lighter than the Blade, although the footprint of the Blade is smaller thanks to its 14-inch display. Impressively, the GS63VR is considerably more powerful than the latest MacBook Pro at a similar weight and only a slight increase in chassis thickness.
While the GS63VR is one of the most portable 15-inch gaming laptops going around, it’s still not a small unit. It’s 29 percent larger than the 15-inch MacBook Pro in terms of volume, mostly due to larger bezels, and a modern 13-inch ultraportable is far more portable in general. With that said, the GS63VR (along with the Razer Blade) offer class-leading performance at this size, and this form factor is quite unlike most other gaming laptops.
It should be noted that to unlock the full power of the GTX 1060 in the GS63VR, you’ll need to carry around its massive power brick. This brick is almost twice as thick as the laptop itself and weighs a healthy 580 grams (1.2 lb), which needs to be factored in to portability calculations. Of course, the laptop does work without this power brick, although the 65 Wh internal battery isn’t all that impressive, and graphics performance is significantly reduced on battery power.
Portability aside, the design of the GS63VR is respectable. The overall style of this laptop is similar to other MSI offerings, with a generous use of brushed magnesium alloy around the keyboard and lid. The smooth black finish is a definite fingerprint magnet, although visually the design is good if a little bland. There’s essentially no ‘gamer’ elements to be found, but this laptop looks just like a range of other machines released over the past few years.
The mostly back design is complemented by a small handful of red highlights, including the rim around the trackpad, several red lines near the rear exhaust vents, the MSI gaming laptop on the lid, and the well-hidden power status LED above the keyboard. This subtle highlights approach works well, and fits in with MSI’s Stealth branding.
Most of the GS63VR’s interesting elements are more functional than aesthetic. The display hinge, for example, folds back slightly more than 180 degrees, which is more than most traditional gaming laptops. I’m not sure why you’d need or want to use the GS63VR with its display parallel to your desk, but it’s an option here.
The ports included on the left and right edges are also quite close to the front in order to accommodate the cooling solution. On the left is an Ethernet port, which MSI has managed to cram in, along with an SD card slot, three USB 3.0 ports, and two 3.5mm audio jacks.
On the right is another USB 2.0 port, Thunderbolt 3 via USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, mini-DisplayPort, and the proprietary power connector. The amount of USB ports on this laptop is fantastic, although the position of the power connector and display outputs may inhibit mouse usage in some circumstances.
The cooling solution used on such a thin yet powerful laptop is always interesting. This laptop needs to cool an 85W GPU and a 45W CPU, and does so with vents along the sides, bottom and top. Having a large vent above the keyboard is unusual for modern gaming laptops, but a lack of space for large heatsinks means MSI has switched to a cooler that relies on large airflow. In this design, air is drawn in through the top and bottom vents, and exhausted out the thin vents on the rear and sides. The CPU gets a single fan, while the GPU gets two fans to move more air.
Underneath the GS63VR has another interesting inclusion: felt. The bottom of this laptop is covered with this soft material, except where intake vents are located, to make the chassis more comfortable for lap usage. Felt also provides some insulation and prevents the GPU from simply channeling all its heat through the metal body and into your legs.
There are some aspects to this design that I’m not a fan of. The power button is in a very awkward location at the front of the right-hand edge, and the seven status LEDs along the front edge detract from the stealthy design. Having the caps- and num-lock indicators grouped here with the storage access and Bluetooth indicator lights is particularly strange; it’d make more sense if caps- and num-lock lights were on the keyboard itself.
The speakers on the GS63VR are located on the base of the laptop in the front left and right corners. Having speakers that fire directly into your desk is not an ideal solution, and this leads to poor audio quality and a reduction in volume compared to top-firing speakers. You won’t want to game using this laptop’s built in speakers; buy a good set of headphones or external speakers instead.