Starting price: $879
Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz/144Hz
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4600H/Ryzen 5 4800H
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5600M
Size: 14.4 x 10 x 0.85 inches, 5.5 pounds
The Dell G5 15 SE 2020 proves that affordable gaming laptops don’t have to cheap out on performance. Thanks to the one-two punch of its AMD Ryzen processor and AMD Radeon graphics, the latest G5 15 can keep up with more expensive machines when it comes to raw speed. Dell’s laptop is perfectly capable of playing the biggest PC games at smooth framerates, and its battery lasts longer than some of its premium competitors.
Add in colorful and smooth 1080p display and a slick design complete with attractive RGB lighting, and you’ve got a great affordable gaming laptop that delivers impressive looks and features for the price. It doesn’t have the best speakers and it’s keyboard can get a little cramped, but the new Dell G5 15 SE is one of the best gaming laptops and best laptops for engineering students if you’re looking for solid performance on a budget.
Dell G5 15 SE: Price and configurations
The Dell G5 15 SE starts at an affordable $879, which gets you an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, AMD Radeon RX 5600M graphics and a 15.6-inch 1080p display with a 60Hz refresh rate. Stepping up to the $1,049 model gets you double the RAM at 16GB, and boosts the refresh rate to a speedy 144Hz.
We tested a $1,199 version of the G5 15 SE, which packs a Ryzen 7 4800H CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. If you shell out an extra $100, you can get a 1TB SSD.
Dell G5 15 SE: Design
The Dell G5 15 SE looks impressively sleek for an affordable laptop. I’m a big fan of the notebook’s Supernova Silver chassis, which emanates a subtle rainbow effect when it catches the light and looks far more premium than its plastic makeup would suggest.
That silver coating contrasts nicely with the black interior, especially when the RGB-enabled keyboard is lit up. The G5 15 is subtle enough to bring to a coffee shop, but still has enough optional gamer-focused flair for those who want it.
The G5 15 SE is a bit chunky at 14.4 x 10 x 0.85 inches and 5.5 pounds, so make sure to have a big bag handy if you want to take it on the road. It’s not quite as sleek as the Asus ROG Zephyrus (12.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches, 3.52 pounds) and is a bit wider and heavier than the latest HP Omen 15 (14.2 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches, 5.4 pounds).
Dell G15 15 SE: Ports
Dell’s gaming laptop packs all of the essentials when it comes to connectivity, giving you plenty of options for hooking up external displays or connecting your peripherals of choice. On the left side, you get an HDMI 2.0 port, mini DisplayPort, USB 2.0 SuperSpeed port, Ethernet jack and USB-C port, with two additional USB 2.0 ports as well as a headphone jack and full-size SD card reader on the right.
Dell G5 15 SE: Display
Our Dell G5 15 SE packs a 1920 x 1080 display with a smooth 144Hz refresh rate, which made games and movies look great. The superhero fighting of Injustice 2 looked especially fluid on Dell’s machine, and everything from the reds and blues of Superman’s outfits to the eerie purples and greens of Joker’s amusement park popped nicely off the screen.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker looked similarly impressive on the G5 15’s display, as the light blue glow of Rey’s lightsaber shone strongly against the lush greens of the forest she trained in. The skin tones of characters such as Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren looked true to life, and the display captured plenty of fine facial details in addition to the intricate metal patterns on BB-8’s battle-damaged body.
The G5’s strong color performance was reflected in our lab tests, as the notebook reproduced an impressive 108.2% of the sRGB color gamut. That tops the Razer Blade 15’s 105%, and comes close to the Asus Zephyrus G14’s 117%.
Dell’s laptop also offers decent brightness, with an average brightness of 301 nits that beats the Blade 15 (275) but trails the Zephyrus G14’s more luminous 323 nits.
Dell G5 15 SE: Audio
The G5 15 SE’s speakers are impressively loud, but provide mixed audio quality when cranked up. The pulsing heavy metal soundtrack of Doom Eternal came through clearly as I tore the heads off of a bunch of demons, but the game’s normally satisfying gun noises sounded sharp and muddy at higher volumes.
I had a similar experience when listening to music on Dell’s laptops. Phoebe Bridgers’ airy, emotional vocals on “I See You” sounded decently clear but suffered some slight muffling. When jamming the decidedly heavier hardcore rock of Underoath’s “In Regards to Myself,” the buzzing guitars and guttural vocals came through clearly, but I couldn’t hear much bass.
Dell G5 15 SE: Gaming performance
Packing an AMD Ryzen R7 4800H processor paired with an AMD Radeon RX 5600m GPU, the Dell G5 15 SE can handle most mainstream games at 1080p with respectably smooth framerates.
When blasting my way through Doom Eternal on the G5, I enjoyed playable framerates of 30 to 45 frames per second on high settings at 1080p. The game did suffer a few dips during particularly chaotic combat sequences, but I had a smoother experience when I kicked things down to medium.
The G5 15 SE ran the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (1080p, highest settings) at a very playable 45 fps, putting in in the same ballpark of the Zephryus G14 (49 fps; RTX 2060) and the Blade 15 (46 fps; GTX 1660 Ti).
Dell’s laptop fared similarly well on our Hitman test (1080p, max settings), running the game’s smooth stealth action at 82.6 fps. That’s ahead of the Blade 15’s 80 fps, and just behind the G14’s 87 fps.
The G5 15 SE turned in a solid 55.9 fps when running Grand Theft Auto V at 1080p and max settings, which came close to the Blade 15 (64 fps) but got blown away by the Zephryus G14’s awesome 115 fps.
The latest G5 15 SE packs Dell’s Game Shift technology, which allows you to activate a special high-performance mode by simply hitting the “G Key” (or F7). When activated, Game Shift kicks the machine’s fans into overdrive to keep the laptop cool during demanding gaming sessions. While I didn’t notice any major performance changes when enabling Game Shift in the middle of playing Doom Eternal and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, I appreciate that the option is there for keeping the G5 from burning your lap when you’re playing for hours at a time.
Dell G5 15 SE: Overall performance
The G5’s AMD Ryzen R7 4800H CPU and 16GB make it a perfectly capable multitasking machine for whenever you need to take a break from fragging to get some work done. I never ran into any crashes or major stutters on Dell’s machine, even as I split my screen between more than a dozen Chrome tabs while popping into Slack chats and jamming out on Spotify.
On the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance test, the G5 15 SE scored a 29,253, putting it just behind the Zephyrus G14 (30,181; Ryzen 9 4900HS) and well ahead of the Blade 15 (19,542; Core i7-9750U).
Dell’s laptop proved itself plenty capable of some basic video editing, as it took only 6 minutes and 43 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake test. That’s a bit quicker than the Zephyrus (6:59) and much faster than the Blade 15 (10:47).
The G5’s 512GB SSD copied about 5GB of files in 12.4 seconds, for a fairly quick transfer rate of 400 MBps. That couldn’t quite keep up with the Zephyrus’ blistering 1TB SSD (1,131 MBps), and trails the Blade 15’s 565 MBps.
Dell G5 15 SE: Keyboard, touchpad and lighting
The Dell G5 15 manages to cram a full-size keyboard complete with a numpad into its chassis, but it has a few trade-offs. The keys’ grippy matte finish feels good to the touch, but I found them to be a bit too small and shallow when trying to hammer away at Slack chats and work documents.
I still managed to breeze through the 10fastfingers typing test at a solid 95% accuracy rate, but my speed of 88 words per minute was a bit under my personal average. The laptop’s touchpad also seems a bit small for a laptop of this size, but I had no issues using it to scroll up and down web pages or pinch to zoom into images.
I was pleased to see that the laptop’s RGB-lit keyboard is fully customizable via the Alienware Command Center app, allowing you to enjoy the same suite of lighting options you’ll find on a higher-end Alienware machine.
Packing four lighting zones, the keyboard will smoothly cycle through the colors of the rainbow by default. But you can program it to look however you like, whether you want the entire keyboard to glow a single static color or pulsate in and out of different hues. You can even assign lighting themes to specific games. The robustness of the G5’s RGB lighting is a nice feature that makes this affordable laptop feel decidedly premium.
Dell G5 15 SE: Battery life
While you’re lucky to get a handful of hours of juice out of most gaming laptops, the Dell G5 15 SE can withstand nearly a full workday. The G5 lasted an impressive 7 hours and 13 minutes of continuous web surfing on our battery test -- it’s not quite as stellar as the Zephyrus G14’s 11:32, but it easily eclipses the Razer Blade 15 (5:48). You’ll still want to keep Dell’s laptop plugged in for long gaming sessions, but it can handle a long day of web surfing and productivity without a problem
Dell G5 15 SE: Verdict
The Dell G5 15 SE is an excellent budget gaming laptop, offering great overall performance, a colorful and fast display and an attractive design for a price that won’t break the bank. The laptop’s AMD processor and GPU can handle basic multitasking and mainstream 1080p gaming without breaking a sweat, and its customizable RGB keyboard gives it some nice extra flair. It also has excellent battery life, and a handy performance mode to keep it from getting too hot during gameplay.
If you’re willing to shell out an extra $250, the Asus Zephyrus G14 is the best gaming laptop available and delivers even better battery life within a more premium design. But if you’re looking for great gaming performance within the $1,000 ballpark, the new G5 15 SE is one of the top budget-friendly machines you can buy.