MSI Stealth 14 Studio (2023) Review

The MSI Stealth 14 Studio: A Portable Powerhouse for Gamers

The MSI Stealth 14 Studio (2023) is part of MSI’s line of ultra-portable gaming laptops, but don’t be fooled by its small size. While it easily fits into a bag, it packs a punch when it comes to gaming performance. The latest redesign has made it even sleeker and more portable, striking a balance between power and portability. Although it’s not the cheapest option out there and battery life remains a concern, the MSI Stealth 14 Studio delivers on both performance and form factor.

MSI Stealth 14 Studio Design and Features

The MSI Stealth 14 Studio is the newest addition to MSI’s Stealth series, offering a slimmer and more powerful alternative to its predecessor, the Stealth 15M. This new version comes with significant updates, including a smaller and lighter design, a better display, and an overall stylish aesthetic. While the shift to a 14-inch display may seem like a downgrade, it actually provides more vertical space and offers a brighter and more vibrant viewing experience. The base model features a Full HD screen with a 165Hz refresh rate, but you also have the option to upgrade to a QHD display with a 240Hz refresh rate. The QHD version boasts impressive peak brightness and color coverage, surpassing the previous generation by a significant margin.

The smaller screen size of the Stealth 14 Studio perfectly aligns with its goal of portability. As someone who has reviewed other 14-inch laptops, I can attest to the fact that it strikes a good balance between screen real estate and portability. MSI has managed to shave off some weight, making the Studio version only 3.75 pounds, which is about a six percent reduction from its predecessor. It’s also more compact, saving nearly two inches in width, making it even easier to carry around.

Powerful Performance in a Small Package

Despite its small size, the Stealth 14 Studio doesn’t compromise on performance. Equipped with an Intel Core i7-13700H processor capable of clocking up to 5GHz, it delivers impressive in-game frame rates. The system intelligently allocates its 14 cores, dedicating six to high-performance tasks and eight to more efficient ones. This ensures that games get the processing power they need without losing performance to background tasks like streaming. The laptop comes with either the Nvidia RTX 4050 or RTX 4060 mobile graphics card. Opting for the more powerful RTX 4060 model provides additional video memory (8GB vs. 6GB) and is recommended for smoother performance in newer games. The upgraded graphics card also offers a bigger 1TB SSD, which is essential as modern games often require more than 100GB of storage space.

While the Stealth 14 Studio excels in gaming and content creation, its memory options are a bit puzzling. Regardless of the model you choose, you can only select 16GB of memory. This might be sufficient for gaming and light multitasking, but it falls short for heavy content creation tasks. Applications like Adobe Premiere Pro can quickly use up 16GB, especially if you work with motion graphics or video effects. On the bright side, you do have the option to expand the memory yourself, although it would have been preferable to have a 32GB option from the start.

A Sleek and Sturdy Design

This year’s model brings significant changes to the chassis compared to its predecessors. The previous Stealth 15M laptops had a matte finish that was prone to fingerprints and quickly looked messy. The Stealth 14 Studio, on the other hand, sports a magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis that is solid, lightweight, and more resistant to smudges. The white version, in particular, looks fantastic, with a silver logo on the lid and black hinges for contrast. When the laptop is powered up, subtle RGB lighting inside the rear vent and in each corner adds a touch of style. The backlit keyboard, developed in partnership with SteelSeries, is another standout feature, providing customizable per-key lighting effects and programming options. The keyboard layout is a bit cramped, but it feels great to type on, and the touchpad is reliable and responsive.

However, the speakers and webcam are not spectacular. The audio quality is passable for casual use but lacks depth and clarity. Higher frequency sounds, in particular, can be harsh and unpleasant. The 720p webcam is also mediocre, producing soft and grainy images. Considering that the laptop targets creators, these shortcomings are disappointing. That being said, the webcam does come with a physical shutter and supports Windows Hello for added privacy.

Battery Life and Connectivity

Battery life is another area where the Stealth 14 Studio falls short. With a 72-watt-hour battery, it’s nearly 34% larger than its predecessor, yet it only lasts around four hours and 43 minutes in our battery rundown test at medium screen brightness. This is definitely disappointing for a laptop designed for portability. It’s advisable to carry a charger with you if you plan on using it throughout the day. However, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can take advantage of the USB Type-C port on the right edge, which supports 100W PD charging. This eliminates the need to carry the bulky power brick and allows you to use your own charger. The laptop also offers other useful ports, including USB Type-A, Thunderbolt 4, and a full-size HDMI output.

Software and Performance Management

The MSI Stealth 14 Studio comes pre-installed with a few software applications, as well as the usual Microsoft bloatware found on most Windows laptops. Notable software includes Nahimic for audio customization, Killer Intelligence Center for network traffic monitoring and prioritization, and SteelSeries GG for keyboard programming and lighting control. The MSI Center software, which is the main tool for performance management, provides a system monitor to keep track of resources and temperatures. You can also choose your performance profile and graphics mode for optimal usage.

In conclusion, the MSI Stealth 14 Studio offers impressive gaming performance and portability in a sleek design. It’s a versatile option for gamers and content creators alike. While it has some drawbacks like limited memory options and below-average battery life, its strong performance and stylish design make it a standout choice in the ultraportable gaming laptop market.