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One of the best gaming laptops of the year is $250 off for Memorial Day weekend

The MSI Stealth 14 Studio is a powerhouse laptop for gamers and creators alike, and right now it's $250 off at Best Buy; a steal for this well-rounded machine.
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer
An MSI Stealth 14 Studio in front of a TV showing the ZDNet YouTube channel
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

What's the deal?

You can pick up a new MSI Stealth 14 Studio gaming laptop with a 13th generation Intel Core CPU, Nvidia RTX 40 series graphics card, and a 1TB SSD at Best Buy for $250 off. You can also grab a one-month subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and a 6-month subscription for Norton 360 Deluxe with VPN for free with your purchase.

Also: The best gaming laptops

Why this deal is ZDNET recommended:

I had the exclusive opportunity to go hands-on with the MSI Stealth 14 Studio, and in my opinion, it's a one-size-fits-all device for streamers, content creators, and creative professionals. This is thanks to key features like the ability to switch between graphics drivers, enhanced audio, and an understated design that will be just as at home in the office as it is in your gaming space.

I don't often use laptops for work, and it's even rarer for me to use a laptop for gaming. My go-to rig is a custom AMD-based tower that I originally built in 2015 and then overhauled in 2020. While I love my tower, the MSI Stealth 14 Studio has tempted me away from desktops. It's built with an Intel Core i7-13700H CPU, either an RTX 4060 or 4070 graphics card, DDR5 RAM, and a solid-state storage drive, which provides all the power and performance required for gaming, digital art, video production, and 3D modeling and animation.

The laptop itself is fairly compact and lightweight, measuring just 12.4 x 9.7 x .75 inches and weighing about 3.75 pounds. This makes it great for slipping into a bag or backpack for a commute to work or class, or when you want to hit up a local game shop for a League of Legends or Apex Legends tournament. The 14-inch display uses an IPS panel with 1920 x 1200 resolution and a 165Hz refresh rate, which delivers buttery smooth motion and enhanced detailing over regular 1080p FHD displays. You can also use the included MSI True Color app to switch display modes to suit different use cases.

A close-up of the MSI True Color app on the Stealth 14 Studio laptop
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

For example, if you primarily work with video, images, or graphic design elements, you'll want to enable the AdobeRGB or DCI-P3 screen modes for more accurate colors. And the dedicated gaming and blue light-filter modes reduce eye strain when you need to spend hours staring at the screen either for everyday work or marathon gaming sessions with friends.

Also: The best laptop for every type of person and budget

The screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is excellent for gaming, as it provides a bit more viewable area to avoid missing critical items or ammo refills on the ground. However, note that older TV shows shot in 4:3 may look a bit odd, as they will stretch to fit the screen. Nevertheless, the stretching is not severe enough to ruin the viewing experience; it just makes some characters and scenes appear slightly warped at times.

The Stealth 14 Studio has an 8-watt sound system with dual speakers and subwoofers powered by SteelSeries' Nahimic audio drivers. Nahimic is similar to Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual:X in that it is capable of creating virtual spatial audio that lets you pinpoint in-game audio cues without a headset. The integrated speakers and subwoofers sound decent enough, even at top volume, without any annoying "tinniness" or buzzing that's indicative of poor-quality builds. You can also create custom EQ settings for games, music, and video calls so you never miss a note or line of dialogue. And the Nahimic drivers work with the integrated microphone to eliminate background and white noise to isolate your voice for cleaner voice chat in Discord, games, and video call apps like Zoom or Skype. 

Close-up of the MSI Stealth 14 Studio keyboard with RGB lighting enabled
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

Gamers everywhere will also appreciate that the dreaded audio clicking and static issues that seem to plague MSI laptops were nowhere to be found during my testing rounds. Since you have to restart your laptop every time you switch graphics sources, I had plenty of opportunities to accidentally-on-purpose break the audio. But I was relieved and pleasantly surprised that the audio stayed stable and clear on every startup.  

Also: The best gaming laptop deals right now

Speaking of which: I absolutely adore the MUX switch, which is what lets you choose between integrated, discrete, and hybrid graphics sources. With the MSI Center desktop app, you can set the laptop to use the integrated Intel CPU graphics, the RTX 40 series graphics card, or a combination of the two. This helps adjust power consumption and lets the Stealth 14 Studio be an exceptionally versatile laptop. I found integrated graphics best for video streaming, typical office work, and web browsing, while the discrete mode was the obvious choice for gaming. The hybrid graphics setting seems to be best suited for streamers, content creators, and creative professionals who may need to run different types of programs at once and need the flexibility of having a laptop that can automatically use integrated or discrete graphics to handle power loads.

A close-up of the MSI Center app's MUX switch menu on the Stealth 14 Studio
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

My only real complaint

The battery life is the only real complaint I have for the Stealth 14 Studio, especially when using the hybrid graphics mode. I ran several different battery tests for each graphics mode, and was only able to squeeze a little over 4 hours of use out of the laptop in integrated graphics mode. Discrete mode gave around 3.5 hours and the hybrid mode was the worst at just about 2 hours. However, I was expecting a short battery life since the laptop does use very power-hungry components. And if you're a content creator or creative professional using hybrid graphics mode, chances are you'll be plugged in any way while working on important projects or streaming and only needing to rely on battery power for short periods of time for tech demos or client meetings.

And for a full disclosure: I was sent an engineering model to test, which has a slightly different build and hasn't been optimized. So if you decide to pick up a retail build of the Stealth 14 Studio, chances are you may get closer to the 5 to 6 hour range for battery life. And if you tweak your settings, enable the battery saver mode, or browse the web, you could get a substantially longer battery life. 

I ran all of my tests with the screen set at AdobeRGB and at 50 percent brightness, streaming season 2 of Spongebob Squarepants on Prime Video because I'm an adult, and if I was going to have to run tests, I wanted to at least be entertained while doing so. The Stealth 14 Studio does have a battery saver mode, and screen brightness and picture modes do have at least some impact on battery life. So if you decide to pick up this laptop, it's definitely worth taking a weekend to tweak settings to get the most out of the battery.

Close-up of the connectivity ports on the right-hand side of the MSI Stealth 14 Studio
Close-up of the connectivity ports on the left-hand side of the MSI Stealth 14 Studio
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

The laptop also has a decently fast charging time, taking about an hour to reach full charge from completely dead. This is perfect for situations when you forget to charge overnight or need to quickly top up the laptop during a lunch break or meeting. As with all fast-charging devices, you'll notice a slowdown in power transfer as the battery approaches full charge. This helps prevent damage from overcharging, which can shorten the overall life and performance of the battery.

How it handles gaming

And now we come to the part that everyone wants to know: How does it handle games? While I've never been one to try to keep up with all of the latest triple-A releases (mostly because I don't have the time to sink into a 100+ hour title), I do have an extensive Steam library to put any laptop through its paces.

I started simple with The Long Drive, which is a procedurally generated open-world game where you drive toward the horizon and try to keep your car from falling apart.  As an unstable Early Access build, TLD runs about as well as I ran the mile for the Presidential Fitness Test on a good day. But with the i7-13700H and RTX 40 series card, I was actually able to play for several hours before I started slamming my Totally Not A Geo Tracker into invisible rocks in the road and fighting off zombies and jackrabbits that got stuck to my tires. I also booted up DayZ with the Livonia DLC, since it's another resource-hungry game that doesn't play well with my Franken-tower's GTX 1060 for very long. And while I still ran into prevalent issues like rampant asset pop-in and rubber-banding, these are more due to the stability of the game build than the Stealth 14 Studio's performance. 

Close-up of the MSI Stealth 14 Studio. The screen shows an image from the game The Long Drive
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

The laptop even was able to handle the ARMA III base game, which is notorious for requiring Herculean efforts from graphics cards and CPUs to even be able to load you into a server. I'd bought ARMA III years ago to play with friends over Discord, and this was the first time I'd been able to just load into the lobby and mess around with controls, settings, and mods before finally being able to play a match after all this time. So the Stealth 14 Studio gets extra points in my book for letting me spend time with and stay connected to friends I don't get to see very often in-person.  

A worthy investment

The base configuration of the Stealth 14 Studio starts at $1,699, which is fairly in line with what I would expect to pay for a gaming or content creation laptop with a comparable build. However, keep in mind that adding more RAM, storage drives, or a more powerful graphics card will significantly raise the price. So, make sure to carefully review build selections before purchasing to stay within your budget. The laptop is available in Starlight Blue, with the white chassis option releasing later in 2023. The Starlight Blue model will start at $1699, and the White model will start at $1899. The 16-inch Stealth Studio will also launch later in 2023, and retail for $1,999.

Ultimately, the Stealth 14 Studio is an excellent dual-purpose laptop that I would recommend to anyone looking to upgrade their current gaming setup or seeking a laptop that they can use for work as well as gaming at home.

Close-up of the Stealth 14 Studio RGB taillight which spells "STEALTH" in blue and purple lettering
Taylor Clemons/ZDNET

Both 14 and 17-inch versions are available at retailers, and you can snag one at Best Buy for just $1250, letting you save $250. However, beware that more powerful configurations will be more costly, with RTX 40 series graphics cards, high-capacity SSD storage, and 13th generation Intel Core CPUs. But it's a worthy investment if you're looking for a laptop that can handle games, content creation, streaming, and everyday work for years to come.

Correction: This review has been edited to reflect accurate information as provided by MSI. I edited the review to be more clear that I was sent an engineering model for testing, which won't be as optimized as retail builds. I also edited the review to remove mention of AMD-based models launching in late 2023. The Stealth Studio will not have an AMD version, but the Alpha, Bravo, and Delta laptop lines will.

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