Dell G3 15 (3579): This bud­get gam­ing lap­top makes the most of what it’s got

Just don’t ob­sess over the FPS counter.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews Samsung Galaxy Note 9 - BY BEN PAT­TER­SON

The Dell G3 15 gam­ing lap­top de­liv­ers solid per­for­mance in a pack­age that’s a lit­tle less than an inch thick. It’s very af­ford­able, too, at just $850 from Dell ( go.pc­world.com/ g315; at this writ­ing) for the Model 3579 con­fig­u­ra­tion we tested.

The G3 15 has its down­sides, in­clud­ing a Full-hd dis­play that isn’t as bright as we’d like, frame rates that strug­gle to reach 60 fps on top-tier games, and a weight ex­ceed­ing five pounds (although it’s not as mas­sive as some gam­ing lap­tops). But when we com­pared it to the Acer Nitro 5 ( go.pc­world.com/ant5),

an­other bud­get gam­ing lap­top we like, with an even lower price point, there was no con­test. The G3 15 posted stronger bench­marks and bat­tery life. In par­tic­u­lar, its GTX 1050 Ti graph­ics showed the lim­i­ta­tions of the Nitro 5’s mere GTX 1050. Noth­ing wrong with the Nitro 5, but if you can af­ford the G3 15 we tested, it’s the bet­ter choice.

PRICE, SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS AND FEA­TURES

The Dell G3 15 sys­tem we re­viewed

(Model 3579) comes with In­tel’s quad­core Core i5-8300h pro­ces­sor, a Cof­fee Lake CPU that—in a first for Core i5 chips— sup­ports Hy­per Thread­ing. That means it can lend un­used CPU re­sources to other tasks, max­i­miz­ing ef­fi­ciency and per­for­mance. Thanks to Hy­per Thread­ing, the G3’s 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core i5 pro­ces­sor can leave older Core i5 chips in the dust, and keep pace with pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion Core i7 pro­ces­sors.

The G3 15’s 1050 Ti graph­ics card (with 4GB of ded­i­cated GDDR5 RAM) sits near the bot­tom of Nvidia’s line of GTX Se­ries 10 graph­ics cards. It gen­er­ally can be counted on to crank out maxed-out gam­ing vi­su­als be­tween 30 and 60 fps (or at least ap­proach­ing 60 fps), de­pend­ing on the ti­tle. We’ll test its real-world per­for­mance in a mo­ment.

Round­ing out the G3 15’s ba­sic specs are 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 128GB SSD boot drive, and a tra­di­tional 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive for data.

If you’d rather spend ex­tra for re­li­ably but­tery graph­ics north of 60 fps, you can step up to a $1,099 ver­sion of the G3 15 with a hex-core Core i7-8750h pro­ces­sor and GTX 1060 Max-q graph­ics. The prici­est G3 15 model falls back on GTX 1050 Ti graph­ics, but ups its RAM to 16GB and swaps in a larger 256GB SSD boot drive.

On the cheap­est end of the G3 15 spec­trum, Dell’s $749 G3 15 keeps the same Core i5-8300h pro­ces­sor and 8GB of RAM as our re­view unit, but down­grades to Ge­force GTX 1050 graph­ics and loses the SSD boot drive.

DE­SIGN

The Dell G3 15 comes with a rel­a­tively lowkey de­sign as far as gam­ing lap­tops go. No flashy LED pat­terns, rac­ing stripes, or elab­o­rate cool­ing grilles—it could eas­ily be mis­taken for a busi­ness lap­top. Our “Recon Blue” re­view unit came with the fa­mil­iar Dell logo stamped into the smooth, con­toured lid. The G3’s cool­ing vents sit tucked away in back, just be­neath the hinge.

Open the G3 15’s lid, and you’re greeted with more of the same: an av­er­age-width dis­play bezel, a palm rest with sub­tle di­ag­o­nal stripes, and a blue-back­lit key­board. In­deed, the only out­ward signs that the G3 is a gam­ing lap­top are the out­lined WASD keys.

Mea­sur­ing 16.35 x 10.99 x 0.89 inches

and weigh­ing about 5 pounds, 8 ounces, the G3 15 qual­i­fies as a mid-size gam­ing lap­top. It’s at least a pound heav­ier than say, the sleeker and far pricier MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE ( go.pc­world.com/s8re), but it’s also con­sid­er­ably lighter than a souped-up, 10-pound lug­gable like the Alien­ware R17 R5 ( go.pc­world.com/r17r). It’s much more com­pa­ra­ble in heft and price to an­other bud­get gam­ing lap­top, Acer’s Nitro 5.

DIS­PLAY

The Dell G3 15’s 15.6-inch Ips-tech­nol­ogy dis­play boasts im­pres­sive view­ing an­gles. The 1920x1080 screen dims slightly start­ing at about 45 de­grees or so. Tilt­ing the screen up or down also dims the im­age a bit, but at least there’s no hint of in­verse col­ors, as you might see on a lesser lap­top panel.

That’s the good news about the G3 15’s dis­play. The bad news: It’s not as bright as we’d like, reg­is­ter­ing only 246 nits (or can­de­las) at dead cen­ter ac­cord­ing to our mea­sure­ments. That’s barely hit­ting our 250-nit stan­dard for com­fort­able in­door view­ing. A 250-nit dis­play might be per­fectly fine for, say, a main­stream bud­get lap­top, but we ex­pect more from a gam­ing rig.

KEY­BOARD, TRACK­PAD, SPEAK­ERS & WE­B­CAM

The Dell G3 15’s chi­clet-style key­board is fairly stan­dard as lap­tops go, with smooth, flat key­caps, de­cent travel and a snappy tac­tile bump on each key­stroke. A hotkey lets you tog­gle be­tween two steps of blue back­light­ing, while a 10-key nu­meric key­pad sits on the right. Don’t ex­pect any­thing in the way of bonus macro keys, but a stan­dard set of func­tio­nen­abled hotkeys, in­clud­ing screen lock, volume and me­dia play­back con­trols, search and dis­play op­tions, are present and ac­counted for.

The G3 15’s track­pad sits di­rectly be­low the space bar, which puts is a lit­tle left of cen­ter thanks to the ded­i­cated nu­meric key­pad. The track­pad it­self does its job with­out getting in the way with un­wanted

palm in­puts, although I felt (as usual) that click­ing the track­pad takes a lit­tle more pres­sure than I’d like. Of course, it’s safe to as­sume gamers will spend far more time with their mice than the G3’s track­pad.

(Note: The track­pad on our orig­i­nal Dell G3 15 re­view unit was seated a few mil­lime­ters off-cen­ter, so it tended to stick if you clicked it near the bot­tom-right edge. Dell sent us a re­place­ment unit with a pris­tine track­pad, and as­sured us that the de­fec­tive track­pad on the first test unit was “not nor­mal.” )

The Dell G3 15’s top-fir­ing speak­ers aren’t too bad as far as lap­top speak­ers go. Mu­sic sounded rel­a­tively crisp and de­tailed, with even a tiny bit of bass. I en­joyed the sharp pop of crit­i­cal Dreg kills in Des­tiny 2, while a crit­ter-zap­ping Con­duit Shrine run in Di­ablo 3 trig­gered a sat­is­fy­ingly crack­ling roar. The G3 15’s speak­ers are no match for a good gam­ing head­set ( go.pc­world.com/gmhd), of course, but they’re fine in a pinch, with enough volume to drown out the lap­top’s purring cool­ing fans.

The Dell G3 15’s we­b­cam lens sits in the top bezel of the dis­play, cap­tur­ing 720p video that looks a lit­tle grainy, but is oth­er­wise rel­a­tively sharp for a built-in model. While the G3’s we­b­cam vi­su­als won’t im­press your Twitch fol­low­ers, it’ll cer­tainly do the job for Skype chat­ting.

PORTS

The Dell G3 15 gam­ing lap­top comes with a solid se­lec­tion of ports, start­ing on the left side with a bar­rel-shaped power port, a full HDMI 2.0 port, eth­er­net, a pair of USB 3.1 Gen. 1 Type-a ports, and a combo au­dio jack. On the right side, there’s a No­ble lock se­cu­rity slot, a sin­gle USB 2.0 port, and an SD mem­ory card reader. A

Thun­der­bolt 3 port is an op­tion for G3 mod­els with Ge­force 1060 Max-q graph­ics, ac­cord­ing to Dell.

GEN­ERAL PER­FOR­MANCE

No, the G3 15’s not the most pow­er­ful gam­ing lap­top on the block, not by a long shot. But based on our bench­mark re­sults (which skipped main­stream tests for the most part), it makes the most of what it’s got un­der the hood, in­clud­ing eight threads of CPU power. The less ex­pen­sive Acer Nitro 5 has the same CPU, but the lap­top’s mere GTX 1050 GPU makes the G3 15’s GTX 1050 Ti look good, even as it fre­quently falls short of the magic 60-fps thresh­old (when it comes to the lat­est high­end games, at least). In other words, if the Acer Nitro 5 is a good deal, the G3 15 is a lit­tle bet­ter, if you can af­ford the price bump.

HAND­BRAKE

In an ap­pro­pri­ate chal­lenge for a souped-up multi-core pro­ces­sor, the Hand­brake test mea­sures how long it takes for a given lap­top to encode a 40GB video file us­ing this free util­ity. It’s a great test of how a sys­tem han­dles a heavy, tem­per­a­ture-spik­ing CPU load that could last over an hour in some cases.

The Dell G3 15’s Hand­brake score of 2,607 sec­onds (about 43 min­utes) stacks up

nicely with that of Core i7 lap­tops that cost hun­dreds more, in part thanks to the Cof­fee Lake i5-8300h CPU and its eight threads of pro­cess­ing power. The G3 15 also man­ages to smoke last year’s Dell In­sp­iron 15 7000 Gam­ing Lap­top ( go.pc­world.com/70gl), a Core i5-7300hq-pow­ered sys­tem that lacks the G3 15’s Hy­per Thread­ing sup­port.

Dur­ing the test, the 0.89-inch-thick G3 15 spun up its fans to a mod­er­ate volume, switched on power limit throt­tling (which puts the brakes on the pro­ces­sor’s wattage out­put) while hold­ing its CPU pack­age tem­per­a­ture at a rea­son­able 80 de­grees Cel­sius (176 de­grees Fahren­heit). In other words, the G3 did a nice job of keep­ing things rel­a­tively cool while still mak­ing good time with Hand­brake.

Of course, a CPU­cen­tric bench­mark like Hand­brake doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily equate to sparkling gam­ing vi­su­als. We’ll tackle gam­ing per­for­mance in a mo­ment.

CINEBENCH

Mov­ing on to more CPU test­ing, our Cinebench bench­mark mea­sures a lap­top’s per­for­mance as it ren­ders a 3D im­age in real-time. Since it only takes a few min­utes to per­form, Cinebench demon­strates how a sys­tem han­dles short bursts of stress. We run the test in both sin­gle-threaded and mul­ti­threaded modes, to show the ad­van­tage for sys­tems with more cores and threads at their dis­posal. The G3 15 once again comes out look­ing pretty good, be­hind a few lap­tops with more pow­er­ful 8th-gen pro­ces­sors, but sev­eral steps ahead of pricier sys­tems with last-gen­er­a­tion Core i7 CPUS. Given that Cinebench re­wards sys­tems with the most threads, it’s no sur­prise that the G3 and its eight-thread i5-8300h snagged high marks.

(Note: Re­sults for the Gi­ga­byte Aero 15X, a sys­tem seen in other charts in this story, were not avail­able for this test.)

GAM­ING PER­FOR­MANCE

Time to move on from the CPU and fo­cus on the graph­ics. Our first stop: 3Dmark’s Fire­strike Ex­treme, a graph­ics bench­mark de­signed for higher-end gam­ing sys­tems. This syn­thetic gam­ing test doesn’t di­rectly trans­late into real-world gam­ing per­for­mance, but it’s a good jump­ing-off point for com­par­isons.

The G3 15’s spot near the back of the pack isn’t sur­pris­ing, given that most of its chart com­peti­tors boast beefier GPUS.

Still, we’re start­ing to see where the G3’s gam­ing lim­i­ta­tions lie. (Note: Re­sults for the HP Omen 15-ce0xx, a sys­tem seen in other charts in this story, were not avail­able for this test.)

Mov­ing on to 2013’s Tomb Raider, the

Dell G3 15 man­aged to crank out a de­cent 63 fps with maxed-out graph­ics set­tings, a re­sult that re­flects the ti­tle’s greater re­liance on CPU power com­pared to more re­cent games. How­ever, gam­ing lap­tops with more pow­er­ful graph­ics cards can eas­ily squeeze 100 fps or bet­ter out of this older ti­tle.

We see more of the same with

Mid­dleearth:

Shadow of

Mor­dor. The

Dell G3 15 snag­ging just shy of 60 fps on the game’s

“Ul­tra” pre­set, com­pared to about 90 fps and up for lap­tops with GTX 1060 graph­ics or bet­ter.

Last but not least, the

Dell G3 15 had to set­tle for about 46 fps for the graph­i­cally in­tense Rise of the Tomb Raider on its “Very High” graph­ics pre­set.

Pricier sys­tems with GTX 1060 (and up) graph­ics cards are able to achieve well north of 60 fps.

I also tried a few other games that don’t sit in our reg­u­lar suite of gam­ing tests. With

Di­ablo III on maxed set­tings, for ex­am­ple, the Dell G3

15 man­aged

a smooth 120 fps, while I con­stantly got a solid­look­ing 45-50 fps on Des­tiny 2 us­ing its “High­est” graph­ics pre­set. With Fort­nite cranked all the way up to “Epic” set­tings, the G3 av­er­aged about 45 fps, oc­ca­sion­ally spik­ing to about 60 fps.

The Dell G3 15 and its GTX 1050 Ti graph­ics card clearly strug­gle to de­liver 60 fps for many games at max set­tings. That said, the G3 15 de­liv­ered im­pres­sive gam­ing vi­su­als given its $850 price tag, par­tic­u­larly once I stopped ob­sess­ing over the FPS counter and fo­cused on tag­ging the bad guys.

BAT­TERY LIFE

Gam­ing lap­tops aren’t ex­actly known for their stel­lar bat­tery life, but at least the Dell G3 15’s bat­tery won’t give up the ghost be­fore the end of a

Game of Thrones dou­ble-header.

We test bat­tery life by loop­ing a 4K video us­ing the stock Win­dows 10 video player, with screen bright­ness set to 250 nits

(which meant crank­ing the bright­ness all the way on the

G3) and turn­ing the volume half­way up, with head­phones plugged in.

With its score of 327 min­utes (a scant 5.5 hours), the Dell G3 15’s bat­tery life sits right where it should be con­sid­er­ing its 56 watthour bat­tery. No­tably, the Acer Preda­tor He­lios 300 man­ages to squeeze out about 80 ad­di­tional min­utes from a slightly smaller bat­tery. While it has a larger bat­tery than the G3 15, the HP Omen 15-ce0xx lan­guishes at the bot­tom of our chart be­cause it’s sad­dled with a bat­tery-hog­ging 4K dis­play.

VER­DICT

It’s not the thinnest, light­est, or most pow­er­ful gam­ing lap­top on the mar­ket, and we wish its 15.6-inch screen were brighter. But for just $850, the GTX 1050 Ti-pow­ered Dell G3 15 packs an im­pres­sive punch.

It’s plain on the out­side, but the Dell G3 15 packs in solid gam­ing per­for­mance on the in­side.

The out­lined WASD keys are the only out­ward sign that the Dell G3 15 is a gam­ing lap­top.

On the right side of the Dell G3 15, you’ll find a USB 2.0 port and an SD mem­ory card reader.

Left-side ports on the Dell G3 15 in­clude a full HDMI 2.0 port and a pair of USB 3.1 ports, and there’s room for an optional Thun­der­bolt 3 port.

The Dell G3 15’s im­pres­sive Hand­brake per­for­mance gets a boost thanks to its Cof­fee Lake i5-8300h CPU, which boasts Hyper­thread­ing sup­port.

With help from its Cof­fee Lake i5 pro­ces­sor, the Dell G3 15’s Cinebench score man­ages to edge those of last-gen i7-pow­ered sys­tems.

The Dell G3 15 can run 2013’s Tomb Raider at a lit­tle over 60 fps, but gam­ing lap­tops with more pow­er­ful GPUS reg­u­larly man­age north of 100 fps.

The lim­i­ta­tions of the Dell G3 15’s GTX 1050 Ti graph­ics card be­came clear once we checked its 3Dmark Fire­strike Ex­treme per­for­mance.

The Dell G3 15 and its GTX 1050 Ti GPU fall well short of 60 fps on the graph­i­cally in­tense Rise of the Tomb Raider.

The Dell G315’s Mid­dleearth: Shadow of Mor­dor per­for­mance mir­rors that of “Tomb Raider”: not bad, but eclipsed by lap­tops with GTX 1060 or bet­ter graph­ics cards.

Bat­tery life for the Dell G3 15 is pretty solid given its 56 watt-hour bat­tery.

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