There has been a huge trend among the best gaming laptops over the last year or so: make them as thin and light as possible, while shoving in as much power as you can. And, if you have the cash, laptops like the Razer Blade and MSI GS65 Stealth are absolutely worth it.
For a lot of people, though, these options can get expensive. So, if you’re looking for a laptop that isn’t so expensive, where do you go? Well, budget options like the Dell G3 gaming laptop can deliver competent gaming performance at budget prices – just don’t expect too many bells and whistles.
For instance, you’re not going to get Thunderbolt 3 or Windows Hello on the Dell G3 gaming laptop, but with a Coffee Lake H-series processor, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics and a keyboard that’s too good to be true – is it worth the low price of admission?
Price and availability
Like most laptops around right now, the Dell G3 gaming laptop is available in a wide range of configurations. Today, the US, UK and Australia all have different options available in a bunch of different prices.
In the US, the Dell G3 gaming laptop starts out at $749. This gets you an Intel Core i5-8300H, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400RPM hard drive and a GTX 1050 graphics card. If you want to go all out, you can get a GTX 1050 Ti, an Intel Core i7-8750H, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for $1,199.
Still, the configurations on offer are kind of awkward. You can pick up the same model we reviewed to the right, with a more powerful graphics card for $150 (about £110, AU$200) extra. That’s the model we’d recommend for anyone in the states.
Things are a bit odd in the UK: the entry model is about the same as the US version, only with Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows 10, priced at £748. You can upgrade to a model running Windows 10 for about £50 more. The UK model tops out with the configuration we ran here, but with a Core i7 8750H, and it can be yours for £949.
In Australia, you can pick up the exact configuration we reviewed here for AU$1,599 . Or, you can beef it up with a Core i7-8750H, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for AU$1,999 (about $1,475, £1,115).
The Dell G3 gaming laptop is a good deal, especially compared to some other budget gaming laptops. Just take a look at the $799 (£649, about AU$1,082) Asus TUF FX504 with a weaker GPU. The Dell G3 also compares favorably to the $999 (£749, AU$1,149) Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming.
Whenever you’re picking up a budget laptop, you’re going to be making concessions somewhere to make up for the lower price. With the Dell G3 15, the concessions are entirely in the build quality and the gigantic bezels.
This laptop is entirely built of plastic, and while this is generally not a bad thing, there is a good amount of flex underneath the keyboard, and the unit we received had a warped section near the power button. Luckily, Dell’s warranty will cover any defects as long as you don’t cause them yourself.
The device has good aesthetics, however, with a blue pinstripe design accentuated by the blue lighting on the keyboard. It’s not quite the same as some of the gold-trimmed designs of some high-end gaming notebooks, but you’re not going to need to hide it away in shame, either.
And, while it’s not exactly what we would call ‘thin and light,’ it’s also not too bulky. It weighs in at 5.57 pounds (2.53kg) and measures in at 0.89 x 14.96 x 10.16 inches (H x W x D). You should be able to take it around with you wherever you go, but it might start weighing down on you for longer trips.
Then there’s the keyboard. There is no way that a keyboard this good should be on a laptop this cheap. The keys offer satisfying, deep travel and plenty of tactile feedback. The layout is top-notch as well, fitting a full-sized keyboard without having to resort to any weird key placements. We can type on this laptop for hours comfortably, which is rare in a laptop in this price range.
The trackpad, however, is just OK. It does what it needs to do and is accurate enough that we didn’t really run into any actual problems while using it. The only issues are that it’s too small for a 15-inch laptop and it has this sort of textured surface that we didn’t really jive with – your mileage may vary.
As for the screen, you’re looking at a 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display with a matte finish, so you can comfortably game in bright environments. That matte finish is especially important, though, because the screen doesn’t really get all that bright. In our time using this machine to play games and watch some YouTube, the display got us through everything we needed to do without any real complaints – other than the bezels.
Yes, even in 2018, when thin bezels are making their way onto practically every device under the sun, the Dell G3 15 looks a bit out of date with its massive bezels. Now, while they won’t really intrude on your day-to-day usage, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the footprint of the laptop could have been significantly reduced by using smaller bezels. It’s kind of a nitpicky complaint but, from the manufacturers of the XPS 13, it’s just a bit of a shock.
For its price, you’re simply not going to get a more powerful laptop. In our daily usage, the Dell G3 15 totally destroyed most everyday tasks we threw at it, only slowing down when we overzealously loaded Chrome tabs in the background while trying to play Grand Theft Auto V.
Speaking of, we were actually able to play GTA V on high settings while consistently getting a solid 60 frames per second (fps). Things slowed down a bit when we played Middle Earth: Shadow of War, but with the GTX 1050 Ti, we weren’t expecting the world.
The Dell G3 15 managed to perform admirably on all benchmarks, only slowing down when we tried to max out the previously mentioned games while running their benchmarks. That’s all thanks to the Coffee Lake H-series processor here. Even compared to last year’s Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming’s score of 3,151 points, the Dell G3 15 managed to score 2,500 in 3DMark Time Spy. Considering the Inspiron has a much faster GPU, that gap really isn’t as big as we thought it would be.
When we look at CPU performance, however, things pull a complete 180. The 7th-generation Kaby Lake processor found in the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 just can’t keep up with the Coffee Lake chip in the G3, scoring 513 points in the Cinebench CPU test, compared to the G3’s impressive 790. If you’re going to be playing a lot of CPU heavy games, the G3 15 is definitely worth looking at.
At the end of the day, the Dell G3 15 is going to be a great purchase if you’re looking for a laptop that will get you through some esports and the occasional AAA game. And, with a processor as powerful as the one found here, this will be a great laptop for anyone looking to get back into World of WarCraft for the upcoming expansion.
Battery life and storage
We’d be lying if we said we weren’t a bit disappointed with the battery life on offer with the G3. While it’s not so abysmal that you can’t even check your email without a charger, you will quickly run out of battery when you’re trying to play games. If you’re putting it under heavy loads, you can probably only expect about three hours of life out of this thing.
Our battery test reflected this. While looping Guardians of the Galaxy at 50% brightness and volume, the G3 lasted about 4 hours and 21 minutes on a single charge. This is about what we expected out of this product, but with how well everything else was running, we were kind of hoping we’d be blown away by the battery life as well.
However, if you’re just trying to get some work done away from the charger, you should be able to get around four to five hours off of a charge. It’s not enough to get a full day’s work done, but it’s enough to get a short project out of the way.
Now, let’s talk about the storage. The model we reviewed came with a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive, spinning at 5,400 RPM. Now, while this is a ton of space, and we didn’t need to worry about running out – games loaded incredibly slowly on this spinning drive. When we first set up the laptop and got Doom (2016) running, it took nearly 5 minutes for the game to fully load. It’s not great.
However, that’s not enough to really detract from the laptop’s value. Luckily, you can actually upgrade the G3, so if you’re not satisfied with the slow drive, you can drop $100 (about £75, AU$134) and upgrade the drive with the much faster Samsung 860 Evo. And, honestly with that slight upgrade, this laptop becomes one of the best gaming laptops you can buy today, just in terms of value.
Look, while the Dell G3 15 cannot hold a candle to something like the MSI GS65 Stealth, we don’t think it really needs to. Sitting at a bargain price, it’s going to be a great option for anyone looking to save a few bucks and game on the go. It’s not going to let you play something like Far Cry 5 at max settings, but if you’re looking to do some light gaming you’re not going to do much better.
We’d like to have seen some USB-C included on the model sent to us for review, but you can pay a bit more for a model with Thunderbolt 3. It just would have been nice to at least see USB 3.1 Gen 1 here for compatibility purposes.
But, at the end of the day, you’re getting what you pay for here. For under $1,000 (about £750, AU$1,350) you’re getting a competent gaming rig. And that, in itself, is enough to earn a recommendation from us – just do yourself a favor and throw an SSD in there after you buy it.