Gaming laptops are finally great. Gone are the days of atrocious designs and ridiculously heavy machines with subpar performance. But the price to performance ratio makes them incredibly expensive and not worth spending that much money on. Dell knows this. That’s why it has the budget G-line sitting alongside the more expensive Alienware’s.
The Dell G3 15 is the ‘budgetiest’ of them all and it certainly surprised me. You’d expect a budget gaming laptop to be garish, flimsy and underperform. It’s the exact opposite and a stunning example of what budget gaming laptops can and should be.
The G3 has a fast Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB memory, a Solid-state drive and an NVIDIA GeForce 1660Ti. All this in a slim and light form factor that feels solid and is, dare I say it, beautiful. It almost sounds too good to be true, right?
From the office to the battle station
I wasn’t expecting what I took out of the box. The G3 is so small that I initially thought they’d sent me a 13-inch laptop. The chassis is only 14.4-inches wide, 10-inches deep and 0.85-inches thick. 15-inch laptops have shrunk. And it’s so light you’d be forgiven for thinking this is just a boring office laptop for running Microsoft Office 365.
But boring, it is not.
Dell has chosen some excellent styling cues that mark the G3 as a card-carrying member of the Fight Club. Our review unit was the Eclipse Black variant but you can also get the G3 in white.
It’s mostly plastic but doesn’t feel flimsy or creaky at all. Subtle blue highlights around the edges and the trackpad enhance the laptop’s design with panache.
Some aggressive angled exhausted grills also announce that the G3 means business. Underneath the G3 are four rubber grips that keep the G3 glued to your desk. I love that Dell didn’t just slap on some pieces of rubber but gave them a distinct styling that matches with the rest of the laptop’s design.
Open the lid and you get a sturdy hinge that requires two hands to open. That said, it doesn’t wobble or shake and stays rigid where you leave it. The lid houses a 15.6-inch FullHD (1920×1080) Anti-glare LED panel.
It’s a decent display with good colour reproduction for gaming, media content and web browsing. Above the screen is a standard HD webcam for your video calls.
Another surprise is the full keyboard that comes with the G3. What’s great about this is that you get a number keypad; what’s bad is that it means all the keys are smaller so it fits in the small chassis. This makes what would otherwise have been a good keyboard, not so much. Pressing the wrong keys is so much easier causing a ton of mistakes when typing.
It’s about the only complaint I have with the design of the G3. Otherwise, the keys have good travel and are backlit with blue light. You can’t change this but this is a budget laptop. Also, the WASD keys have blue accents and feel ever so slightly different than the others.
Below is a medium-sized trackpad that is nothing special but it will get the job done. On both sides of the chassis are a good number of ports for your peripherals. The left-hand side housed your Power port, a USB-C DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, a SuperSpeed USB 3.1 and an ethernet port.
You also have your audio jack points. To the right side of the G3, you have a standard SD card slot, two USB 2.0 and a lock slot in case you want to keep your G3 locked to a desk for security reasons.
For sound, the G3 has two speakers positioned on the left and right sides. Dell says it tunes them with Nahimic 3D Audio for Gamers, whatever that means. They sound ok, in as much as you can expect of laptop speakers. They get suitably loud but you will mostly use headphones or external speakers for sure.
Performs like a champ
All right, let’s talk performance because gaming is what we really care about and again, the G3 surprises pleasantly. The new GeForce 1660Ti Max-Q comes with 6GB of memory and a 9th Gen Core i5-9300H processor make the G3 a winner for 1080p gaming.
A run through our suite of synthetic benchmarks resulted in some decent scores. 13114 in 3DMark 11, 3896 Geekbench Multi-score, 2590 in Cinebench and 4635 in PCMark 10 productivity score.
It’s not the fastest laptop we’ve ever tested but it won’t choke because you’ve got Chrome open with 50 tabs. Serious content creators should give this one a miss though.
For gaming, the G3 comfortably ran everything I threw at it with ease. We set all games to 1080p, Ultra settings. Shadow of the Tomb Raider was the worst performer at 54FPS if that’s what you call bad for the highest possible visual settings. All other games exceeded the 60FPS barrier and could go much higher if you reduced settings from Ultra to High.
CounterStrike: Go hit a silly 174FPS at Ultra settings. The screen rendered the game exceptionally well with no screen tearing even though it isn’t a fast refresh panel. However, unless you are a pro gamer, I’m not convinced you’d ever want or need to play any game above even 80FPS.
However, if you want to, you can. For most people 1080p Ultra at 60FPS is a buttery smooth experience.
One thing to note is that although the G3 comes with a fast SSD, at only 512GB you will quickly fill that sucker up. With many games weighing in at 60–100GB, your drive will be wiped out with five AAA games. In saying that, you’ve got high-speed USB ports to connect an external drive.
Noise, Battery and everything else
In saying that, the G3 fans get noticeably loud even when under strain and, strangely, even when I was just streaming video to my TV via HDMI. That was a little, unexpected. Thankfully, the noise isn’t without benefit as the G3 never got too hot that it started throttling performance.
You can moderate the G3’s performance using the new GameShift key. A quick press kicks the G3 into overdrive without needing to fiddle with software. However, if you do prefer software, Dells Alienware Command Center should keep you happy. This will help you tweak system settings, save battery or ramp up the engine when you need to game.
And yes, you will need all the help to save battery life. The G3 has a four-cell 51WHr battery which doesn’t last long at all. In my testing, I was averaging around 2–2.5 hours of light to moderate use. I never even bother gaming on battery. Keep the G3’s power brick nearby at all times if you want to get anything serious done.
One other really strange thing I noticed with the G3 was the woefully slow WiFi. I test a lot of devices and it was immediately noticeable the difference in the G3’s download speeds of the same files when compared to my MacBook and the gaming desktop I had on hand. I couldn’t find out why this was so but it’s worth mentioning. Thankfully, there is a good ol RJ45 port so you can use an ethernet cable if you need faster speed.
Should you buy?
I started this review by saying the Dell G3 surprised me and I’ve shared why. Our review unit costs a very reasonable $1900 in Australia which is half the price of almost every other gaming laptop we’ve reviewed on the site. And you can save a further $300 by getting the GeForce 1650 model and still be able to do respectable gaming.
Dell has made some excellent choices around the processor, graphics, SSD and design that make the G3 a fantastic little companion for work and play.
The price to performance is, for once, one that I can comfortably justify anyone spending on a gaming laptop. If you can get used to the small keys and don’t need all-day battery life, the Dell G3 is an absolute must-buy.
Dell Australia provided the G3 15 to PowerUp! for this review.