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Dell G3 15 Gaming Laptop review: A budget gaming laptop that plays it safe

Tim Danton
22 Aug 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
799
inc VAT

Dell's G3 15 is versatile performer thanks to the GeForce GTX graphics, but don't expect a great deal of excitement

Pros 
Good trackpad
Long battery life
Easy upgrade path
Handy SD slot and Gigabit Ethernet port
Cons 
Hugely disappointing display
Lacks USB-C ports
Poor quality keyboard
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Dell isn’t putting all its gaming eggs into the Alienware basket. Back in March, it announced the G3 and G5 gaming laptops, with the idea that these 15in and 17in laptops would offer a budget alternative to Alienware kit. A sensible move, it would seem, so we were keen to test an early example.

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Dell G3 15 Gaming Laptop review: Gaming on a budget

The G3 here is actually the lowest-spec model in the range. That means a quad-core Core i5-8300H processor and GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, along with a 256GB SSD, so hardly bargain basement. You can even specify a two-disk setup, but one of the beauties of the G3 range is that it’s easy to add this yourself further down the line. Remove eight screws, prise the base off, and you have full access to the empty 2.5in SATA drive bay (and an empty SODIMM slot). It’s also possible to remove and replace the battery from here, although you’ll need to treat the connectors with care.

Dell claims this is its slimmest ever gaming laptop, but don’t expect a svelte masterpiece of art deco design. The closest it gets to style is the backlit keyboard and blue edging around the trackpad, although I’ll admit the grey crosshatch squares on the base can catch the light nicely. Really, though, it’ a bog-standard Dell machine with a couple of visual flourishes. People won’t be queueing up to gaze at it.

Nor will they gasp in wonder at its frame rates. At the screen’s native 1080p resolution, the undemanding Dirt: Showdown managed 67fps at Ultra settings, while Metro: Last Light returned a 24fps average with settings turned to the max. Both games caused the fans to run at full throttle, too, which is unusual for this normally sedate laptop. Dropping each setting down a notch, but keeping the resolution at 1080p, saw a 72fps return in Metro, so it is playable. Start playing Fortnite or Overwatch, though, and you’ll quickly dial the settings to the lowest quality.

You may be tempted to upgrade to the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti model, which should give a 15% to 20% boost in performance, but that costs an extra £150. This upgrades the processor to a Core i7-8750H, and swaps your single 256GB SSD for a 128GB SSD plus 1GB hard disk, so it’s worth considering.

As a day-to-day system, though, this £799 model is more than fast enough. An overall score above 100 is great in a laptop and demonstrates the power of Intel’s new H series of laptop processors – these sit just above the U series we’re used to. All those easy upgrades mean this laptop should also keep going for years. My first upgrade would be to double the RAM, which should give it a push, but it’s by no means necessary.

Dell G3 15 Gaming Laptop review: Display

The one thing you’re stuck with is the screen. This is the only aspect of the Dell G3 Gaming that is disappointing, with a maximum brightness of 244cd/m2 and woeful colour accuracy: it covers less than 50% of the sRGB gamut, while its Delta E averaged at 7. The ideal is a Delta E of less than 2, so this is not the laptop for photographers on the go.

There’s a full-size HDMI 2 output if you have a screen handy, but note the lack of USB-C ports. Instead, you have one USB 3 port on either side, an SD card reader, and a handy Gigabit Ethernet connector. Dell provides some wireless smarts, too, with SmartByte software pre-installed so you can prioritise traffic by content type (such as streaming video) when connected via the 2x2 802.11ac card.

I can’t get excited by the keyboard. It’s full-size, with a number pad to the right, but the action of the keys is limp. In Dell’s defence, all the keys are well-sized and it makes no silly layout decisions, while the precision trackpad responds well to gestures.

Dell G3 15 Gaming Laptop review: Good on the go

Where it wins – even when placed opposite the similarly thin Acer Predator Triton 700 – is for portability. That may sound odd when it’s heavier (2.53kg vs 2.4kg) and thicker (22.7mm vs 18.9mm), but with a battery life of 7hrs 30mins in our video rundown test you can get away with leaving the power supply behind – you couldn’t do that with the Acer.

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This isn’t enough to earn the G3 Gaming an award – the screen is too big a letdown – but if every penny counts, and a GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card will deliver enough acceleration for the games you’re interested in, then don’t write it off. Yes, it’s boring. But it’s also powerful, practical and has an easy upgrade path.