Think of gaming laptops and you probably imagine hulking beasts with sharp edges and glowing alien faces. It ain’t necessarily so: the Dell G3 15 Gaming Laptop is nothing like that whatsoever. This machine’s DNA is more IT admin than the Dell-owned gaming brand Alienware, but – as you’ll discover in the rest of our Dell G3 15 review – there’s still much to admire.
Dell G3 15 review: What’s not to like?
First, and let’s not sugar-coat this, the Dell G3 15 is boring to look at. Yes, Dell has put a blue trim around the touchpad and there’s a hexagonal pattern on the palm rest that catches the eye, but it’s as if Dell’s designers were told to take the week off when this was being whizzed through R&D.
Alienware is Dell’s true gaming brand, so all the juicy stuff goes into those machines. For example, the highest-spec graphics card in the Dell G3 15 right now is a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. Compared to Intel’s built-in graphics, that’s a fine graphics chip – but it’s no GTX 1080.
This feeling of second best extends to the lacklustre screen. It’s been a while since I’ve tested a panel that produced such poor results during calibration tests, covering only half of the sRGB colour space and with awful colour accuracy. It’s also hampered by a maximum brightness of 244cd/m².
In Dell’s defence, this lowly screen is reflected in the price – which I’ll come to later.
Dell G3 15 review: What’s okayish?
Then there are the aspects of the Dell G3 15 which are fine but not great. The keyboard being the obvious example. All the keys are adequately sized, despite Dell squeezing a number pad to the right of the main keyboard, and there are no stupid mistakes made around layout.
But I just didn’t enjoy typing on it. Some of that is due to the keys’ limp action, some being the way the Enter key sits among all the rest of the keys. That makes it more difficult to pick out compared to the keyboard on my Surface Book, where it’s double-width and right at the edge of the case.
One other thing to note about the keyboard: unlike the US version of the Dell G3 15, as shown in the picture at the top of this article, the G3 15’s keys are white not blue, and there’s no edging around the WASD keys.
While it’s hard to get excited about the G3’s ports (come to think about it, there’s probably something weird about you if you get excited about ports), I have no complaints either. Two conventional Type-A USB 3.1 ports sit on the left-hand side, along with a sensible RJ-45 port for a wired network connection. You’ll also find a 3.5mm headphone jack and full-size HDMI 2.0 port.
A third USB 3.1 port sits on the right along with an SD card slot. All fine, but it doesn’t look to the future much: the lack of USB-C ports is a particular drawback.
Before I move on to what to love, let’s talk weight and size. As I said right at the top, the Dell G3 15 is much more portable than most gaming laptops – but this is no ultraportable. It still weighs 2.5kg and measures a portly 380mm wide. Its 22.7mm height is pretty good for the power inside, but at 258mm deep you may struggle to shove this into your travel bag.
Dell G3 15 review: What’s to love?
Then there are the things I really, really like about this machine. Top of the list is its upgradeability. When I was checking out the different specs Dell offers, I noticed that some configurations included two storage devices – and yet mine only included a 256GB M.2 solid-state disk (SSD). Intrigued, I turned the G3 over and noticed a number of screws on the rear. Could the cover be easily removed, I wondered?
A check online found a 104-page document that detailed not only how to swap out hard disks yourself, but also how to replace everything from the keyboard to the screen to the wireless card. Sadly, while you can remove the fans keeping the processor and graphics card, there’s no documented way to upgrade those.
Anyway, that’s not top of my list of upgrades. Instead, I’d definitely consider adding a 2.5in SATA SSD and doubling the memory: the supplied 8GB of RAM is OK, but you can’t go wrong with 16GB. As you can see from the picture, it’s also possible to swap out the battery if you’re careful. This is a standard part, and only costs £33 from the cunningly named delllaptopbattery.co.uk.
Dell G3 15 review: So how fast is it?
The GeForce GTX 1050 sits right at the bottom of Nvidia’s GTX range. It’s still significantly faster in games than the graphics chip built into Intel’s mobile processors, but it won’t run virtual reality headsets (other than Windows Mixed Reality) and it will struggle to run modern games at high settings. For instance, when my son tried the G3 15 on Overwatch it spluttered and stuttered. He had to dial the settings to their lowest possible quality to get playable frame rates.
In older games, though, the GTX 1050 is fine. For instance, I tried in Dirt: Showdown at 1080p, and at High settings it hit an average of over 70 frames per second. Only the very top Ultra settings tripped it up, reducing rates to just over 30fps.
If you want a bit more then consider the Dell G3 15 with a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti chip inside. This boosts frame rates by between 15 and 20%, which can be the difference between playable and unplayable.
One final word on speed: this system is supremely fast in general tasks. It’s the first laptop I’ve seen with Intel’s new H series mobile processors, and they look like winners. For instance, in Geekbench 4 it scored 4,708 and 15,013 in single-core and multi-core benchmarks, which is even higher than the much more expensive Core i7-7700HQ suffix chips released last year. Bear in mind my Dell G3 15 came with the Core i5 version, so the Core i7 will be a notch higher still.
Nor do you need to worry about battery life. The G3 15 lasted for seven-and-a-half hours when I left it running a video at 75% brightness. When most gaming laptops struggle to last three hours, that’s a brilliant result.
Dell G3 15 review: Should you buy it?
The Dell G3 15 isn’t a standout, must-buy product. It’s a solid, low-to-mid-range gaming laptop that’s about as exciting as tapioca pudding. But Dell has priced it competitively, with the bottom-of-the-range version I tested costing £799 (£749 if you choose Linux rather than Windows 10 Home). There are cheaper laptops with a similar specification – I found the PC Specialist Cosmos for around £50 less – but I haven’t laid my hands on this to test for build quality, speed or battery life.
Bearing in mind the overall quality of the Dell G3 15, £799 seems like a fair price. You can’t upgrade the graphics card, though, so I’d be tempted to choose a 1050 Ti version. The lowest priced version costs £949, but you get a Core i7 processor and 1TB hard disk as well (although the M.2 SSD drops to 128GB).
If you aren’t looking for a looker, but do want the comfort of buying a laptop from an international vendor like Dell, then the Dell G3 15 is a safe, middle-of-the-road choice.
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Dell G3 15 verdict
An unusually upgradeable laptop that’s powerful for everyday tasks and capable of light gaming too