As is customary, Dell announced earlier this year that their G-series gaming laptops were getting a refresh. So, I wondered, how much gaming do you get for $2000?
That's the cost of the top line Dell G3 15, which is the manufacturer's entry level offerings for those who can't afford to pick up something with the Alienware brand. It comes in five stock configurations, with the cheapest setting you back $1600 for an i5-8300H and a GTX 1050, while the $2000 model gets you 16GB of RAM, an i7-8750H, a GTX 1050 Ti and some more storage.
The model we had sent in was the top of the line offering, with the full specs as follows:
• CPU: Intel i7-8750H @ 2.2Ghz/4.1GHz
• RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz
• GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
• Storage: Micron 1100 256GB SSD, Western Digital 1TB 5400RPM SATA
• Screen: 1920 x 1080p 15.6" IPS display, 60Hz
• Battery: 56Whr 4-cell
• Dimensions: 22.7mm x 380mm x 258mm (h/w/d)
• Weight: 2.53kg
• Ports: 1x USB 3.1 gen 2, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x 3.5mm jack, 1x gigabit ethernet, 2x SuperSpeed USB 3.1
• Webcam: 720p
At this price point, you're going to have to make some tradeoffs — it just depends what you're prepared to sacrifice. The biggest change with the higher end laptops this year has been smaller bezels, a thinner chassis, and a bit of a reduction in noise.
The Dell G3 15 is a bit of a hark to the olden days in that regard: at 2.53kg, you won't be lugging this around with any regularity, at least not comfortably. The keyboard and trackpad aren't anything to brag about either. They're functional at best, and the 1080p 60Hz display is rather dull — the Skaven benchmark for Warhammer 2 was difficult to see at anything but the highest brightness levels, and I'd loathe to think what something like Alien: Isolation or a horror game would be like.
But entry-level gaming laptops aren't known for their brightness or comfy keyboards. They're designed to get people into PC gaming at a reasonable price point. A lot of those users will commonly plug the laptop into a second, more competent screen, and the G3 15 does the job relatively well in that respect.
Provided you're happy to play at lower presets, the GTX 1050 Ti and i7-8750H should have no qualms getting 60fps in most blockbuster titles. Ghost Recon: Wildlands was one area where even the Low preset was a bridge too far, but Ashes of the Singularity and Warhammer 2 ran comfortably at the right settings, and less intensive titles like Overwatch, Dota 2 and League of Legends will be no problem given their lower hardware requirements. The more modern CPU in the G3 15, compared to the 7th-generation options in Dell's budget Inspiron line, will also be a huge boon if you're playing something like Civilization 6.
That said, if you do use the 1TB drive for your Steam library, don't expect fast loading times. Dell will let you configure the G3 15 to your heart's content, though, so if you're looking for something in this price range I'd seriously consider a good SSD upgrade.
For the record, all tests were run with Nvidia's 398.36 drivers (26/6/2018), which are still relatively fresh. I did have some issues initially with getting games to recognise the Nvidia GPU, but that was resolved by setting the Nvidia Control Panel to use the 1050 Ti exclusively, and disabling the Intel onboard graphics in Device Manager, and a couple of hard restarts.
I tried searching through the G3 15's BIOS to see if the iGPU could be turned off there, but that wasn't an option. It's a handy tip to note if you do run into issues gaming on a laptop: some games are smart enough to pick up the Nvidia GPU automatically, but every game is different. (And you'll notice the difference otherwise: Intel's onboard graphics have come a long way, but not quite far enough to run games like Warhammer 2 at anything beyond the single digits.)
Something worth calling out is that the G3 15's battery life isn't bad for a laptop in this price range. You'll get about four to five hours, depending on whether you're stress testing or just browsing a bunch of Chrome tabs. Gaming on the go while unplugged will absolutely tank the battery life, but that's par for the course for laptops like this. (Precisely how much battery you get will depend on what game your playing, and how much power it's drawing from the GPU.)
For more info about the Dell G3 15 and the available configurations, you can check them out at the Dell website.