Dell's gaming laptops have always had to play second fiddle to their Alienware counterparts, but that has changed somewhat in the last year or so, and with the latest refresh of the G5 15 series, the bridge between the two product lines is shorter than ever before, especially considering that in the latest models there's a range of shiny new Nvidia RTX graphics cards powering the action.
Naturally, the form factor of the new-look G5 15 is not as premium as the Alienware line, and it weighs in at 2.68kg putting it on the heavier end of the scale. It's also rather thick at 23.7mm (that's just shy of an inch), but the whole thing is pulled together with an eye-catching design, which is even more striking if you upgrade to the Arctic White version (it's white on the outside, black on the inside).
There are some inputs on either side of the unit, with SD Card and USB ports on the right, and USB-C, USB 3.1, and a headphone jack on the left. However, the rest are at the back of the device, including the power-in, HDMI 2.0, Mini Display, and Ethernet ports. We regularly use a laptop tray so having the power cable hang out the back is a decision of which we approve. The hinge for the screen is now moved forward an inch, which gives the back of the laptop more room for fans and ports. All things considered, the revised design is a big improvement over last year's version.
While we're on the subject of the screen, panel quality and responsiveness is another area where the G5 15 has seen a big upgrade over last year's iteration. We tested the new 15.6-inch 144Hz IPS panel and it provides a bright and vivid colour gamut, and the narrower bezel means more screen space which is always appreciated on a 15-inch laptop. The hinge that fixes it to the laptop feels robust and should be durable given how it's more protected thanks to its new positioning, and overall we have nothing to complain about it.
There are options when it comes to the graphics cards that power the visuals. We tested the top-of-the-range Nvidia Geforce RTX 2070 with 8GB, but you can scale things all the way back to a GTX 1060Ti if your budget can't stretch to something with a bit more punch. Here are the various price points:
GTX 1050Ti 4GB GDDR5 / 8GB, DDR4, 2666MHz / i5 8300H / 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD = £949
GTX 1050Ti 4GB GDDR5 / 8GB, DDR4, 2666MHz / i7-8750H / 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD = £999
RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 / 8GB, DDR4, 2666MHz / i7-8750H / 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD = £1,349
RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 / 16GB, DDR4, 2666MHz / i7-8750H / 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD = £1,449
RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6 / 16GB, DDR4, 2666MHz / i7-8750H / 512GB SSD = £1,499
RTX 2070 8GB GDDR6 Max-Q / 16GB, DDR4, 2666MHz / i7-8750H / 512GB SSD = £1,799
Apart from the entry-level laptop, all G5 15 models boast a capable i7-8750H 6-core CPU, and the model we reviewed came with the standard single-clip of 16GB DDR4 2666MHz memory. Helping boost performance on the higher-spec models is a 512GB SSD, which is just about big enough for our gaming needs, but you might want to find some sort of external solution for your photos and whatnot.
Setup could have been smoother and it took a while to get everything updated and good to go; there seems to be an issue with the Alienware Command Center that means we can't fully update the software (we haven't quite sussed out which functionality, if any, is affected by this). That said, everything else seems to be working perfectly, and we were able to use the built-in software to monitor the performance of the CPU and GPU. Using this software that we were able to determine that the G5 15 runs a little on the hot side, with temperatures hitting the mid-80s on the CPU, and the GPU regularly floating around the 75-degree mark.
The dual-fan cooling system has to work pretty hard to keep the heat levels where they are, with the machine rather warm to the touch after a short time. On top of that, it's a loud beast when the system is running at full tilt. To that end, we decided to put the G5 15 through its paces via a selection of games, and it did pretty well in our testing, although it did fall short when compared to a similarly-specced Razer Blade. You can see the performance levels it was able to achieve during our benchmark testing below:
Fire Strike: 14,575
Time Spy: 6,249
Port Royal: 3,235
Monster Hunter World
Max: 76 FPS
Medium: 98 FPS
Max: 78 FPS
Medium: 110 FPS
Max: 79 FPS
Medium: 111 FPS
The backlit keyboard is acceptable (and there's an RGB version available on most models), and the blue-rimmed trackpad looks smart and is perfectly functional but, like the keyboard, it's not the strongest part of the G5 15's overall design (although we did get used to it pretty quickly). At least the exterior plastic casing (which doesn't feel cheap, it's just not premium either) is replaced by a metal finish around the palm rest, which boosted our overall impression of the laptop during everyday use (as did the fingerprint reader - a nice addition for anyone security conscious who wants to take their laptop with them on their travels).
Summing up, the G5 15 performs admirably across a range of games, although the temperatures can run quite high at times. With its powerful RTX GPU, the price when compared to more premium models makes this a competitive option for those looking to jump aboard the ray-tracing bandwagon early on, and the improved overall design of the laptop brings it closer to the Alienware line that sits above it. It's not a perfect gaming laptop, but it's a big step in the right direction for Dell and the G5 series in general.
Update: After just over one year of use, the wheels have started to fall off for this little laptop. I've started having constant issues with overheating, mostly due to slightly smaller vents on the under-side that are there to accommodate the design of the Arctic White special edition. I've now got it running on a cooling pad but sometimes that's not enough to stop the system protecting itself by shutting down. When it cuts out just as you're stalking through the long grass looking for someone to take down in Assassin's Creed, for example, that's a really terrible look. I tried to source a standard edition so I could compare performance across both but that wasn't possible. That being the case, it's my advice to avoid the white edition of the G5 15 at all costs. A shame, as it's a classy-looking piece of kit.
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