Review of the Dell G5 15 SE (2020)
Best Budget Laptop as determined by the 2021 TechRadar Choice Awards
The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) is a good illustration of how Dell consistently creates intriguing versions of its various lines of laptops.
Our expectations were exceeded by the great performance of the included AMD Ryzen CPU in this company’s all-AMD redesign of its low-cost gaming laptop series. Unfortunately, the Radeon GPU falls short in comparison.
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The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) performs the nearly impossible and keeps the cost of entry around $1,000 (about £800, AU$1,400). Dell’s G5 15 line already manages to check the boxes for budget gamers who want to play on the go. It is really affordable and makes for a great portable gaming system overall.
Although the AMD Ryzen 7 CPU is to blame for the G5’s generally good performance, the Radeon GPU’s graphics performance is a little disappointing. If you’re wanting to replace your gaming PC, you should look elsewhere because this won’t do it.
That doesn’t always imply that the images are boring overall. Although the graphics hardware won’t blow anyone away, the 1080p screen’s 120Hz refresh rate makes graphics look smooth and sharp.
Another significant flaw is that this laptop tends to overheat under pressure, leaving its bottom and keyboard extremely warm, but desks were made for just such situations.
The laptop’s design leaves something to be desired, and despite the fact that it is somewhat weighty, its plastic casing feels rather flimsy. So, sure, you definitely shouldn’t throw this one away since it might not survive.
The Dell G5 15r SE’s battery life is excellent for a gaming laptop, which is a benefit. This gaming laptop will last for several hours of video or everyday, ordinary use, unlike other gaming laptops that break down before they even finish a Netflix movie. If you keep your settings tweaked for battery life or balance rather than going all-in on performance, you may even get a few hours of moderate gaming out of it.
Even if there may be more powerful gaming laptops in the same price range, the all-AMD G5 offers a lot for the money. Although it may not be the most attractive or powerful system available, for gamers seeking for a laptop that won’t consume their whole stimulus check, this superb combination of capability and cost is difficult to pass up.
The Dell G5 15 SE 5505 configuration that was supplied to TechRadar for review is shown below:
AMD Ryzen 7 4800H (8 cores, 16 threads, 12MB cache, 2.90GHz base, up to 4.29GHz boost) CPU
AMD Radeon RX 5600M with 6GB DDR4 VRAM for graphics
16 GB DDR4 dual-channel 3200 MHz RAM
15.6-inch, 1080p, 144Hz screen
NVMe SSD 512GB for storage
Drive optical: N/A
Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, USB 3.2 Type-A, USB 2.0 Type-A, 2, USB Type-C, Drop-jaw Ethernet, Wedge lock slot, full-sized SD Card reader, and more ports are available.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1, and a 720p camera are available.
5.51 pounds in weight (2.5 kg)
Dimensions: 14.4 x 10 x 0.85 inches (W x D x H) (365.5 x 254 x 21.6mm)
Three-Cell 51WHr Battery
Pricing and accessibility
The price of the Dell G5 15 SE starts at $879.99 (about £680/AU$1,270). The base model has an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB NVMe SSD. It has a full HD (1080p) display but a regular refresh rate rather than a 144Hz one.
The device we tested costs $1,199.99 (about £950/AU$1,725), and a more expensive option with a 1TB SSD costs $1,299.99 (roughly £1,030/AU$1,870).
It’s possible to buy one of the more affordable configurations and build it up if you already have the necessary hardware on hand or if you have more room in your budget for a future upgrade. However, there are only a few limited options for upgrading the laptop’s SSD, RAM, Wi-Fi adapter, and battery.
When it comes to aesthetics, the silvery plastic chassis and prismatic Dell logo on the lid give the Dell G5 15 SE a hood-like appearance. The design’s strongest point is that it is a gaming laptop rather than an attempt to resemble a cutting-edge stealth aircraft.
The laptop weighs 5.51 pounds (2.5 kilos), but if it weren’t for that, one may mistake it for one of Dell’s enterprise models that was taken from the small business section of the website. Dell is known for its traditional design aesthetics on its computers. The LED-backlight on the keyboard and the chassis’s base, which makes no attempt to be slim, are the giveaways.
It’s a regrettable design decision that just won’t seem to die with manufacturers, albeit there is enough slope to the underside position of the speakers that there is a lessened risk of them being completely muffled if you laid the laptop down on a bed and watched a movie.
The keyboard has the typical laptop chiclet keys and, for those of us who can’t function without one, a numpad. It might take some getting used to if you’re coming from using a full-sized keyboard because of the tight key spacing, but it’s clearly more forgiving than other almost-full-sized laptop keyboards.
Because it’s a gaming laptop, the keys have RGB LED backlighting that you can change using the pre-installed Alienware system setup application. The keys are responsive. Before switching to a game controller, the trackpad is adequate for non-gaming use or browsing your Steam library.
Even though it’s a minor addition, the laptop’s power connector’s narrow LED light ring is a lovely touch and makes it simple to spot among the tangled mess of black power cords and wires that clutters our desks.
The Dell G5 15 SE 5505 performed as follows in our battery of benchmark tests:
3DMark Fire Strike: 13,752; Sky Diver: 31,199 Spy Time: 5,563
Movie Bench R20 Geekbench 5 Single-Core: 1,144; Multi-Core: 7,023 PC Single-Core: 468; Multi-Core: 3,778 Mark 10,646 on PCMark 10 at home 7 hours, 3 minutes of battery life
5 hours, 45 minutes (TechRadar movie test) of battery life
133fps (1080p, Low) and 45fps for Total War: Three Kingdoms (1080p Ultra)
122 fps (1080p, Low), 42 fps for Metro Exodus (1080p, Ultra)
Overall, we thought the Dell G5 15 SE performed admirably. In our general use benchmarks, it behind rival AMD Ryzen 7 4800H systems, like the Asus TUF A15, but not by much. In some tests, it performs better than the Alienware m15 R2, however the AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU in the Dell G5 15 SE looks to be its weak point.
In our Total War: Three Kingdoms battlefield benchmark, the laptop averages 45 frames per second (fps) on ultra settings, which isn’t terrific but also not terrible. While running Metro: Exodus at ultra settings, the GPU produces an average frame rate of 42 fps.
This puts it on par with the Gigabyte Aorus 5, albeit the Aorus still performs better in two of our three 3DMark tests, and by a significant margin as well. On Time Spy, the G5 could only manage a draw with the Aorus.
The G5 has a lot to recommend it in terms of performance vs its rivals once you look past its GPU scores, though. The Ryzen 7 4800H CPU has eight cores, 16 threads, and a clock speed that can be increased to 4.29GHz, giving it a lot of computing power. It actually excels at jobs that aren’t graphically demanding.
Overall, even though it won’t win the race, the Dell G5 15 SE has a lot of power and performs well when it comes to high-end gaming. Though it might not be necessary—after all, performance doesn’t take place in a vacuum.
In our GPU tests, the Asus TUF A15 may outperform the G5 15 SE, but it is also substantially more expensive. The Dell G5 15 SE’s main selling point is its ability to deliver lots of power at a low cost, and it succeeds in doing so, giving it an excellent deal that is challenging for any budget-conscious gamer to pass up.
a battery’s life
We were pleasantly impressed by the G5 15 SE’s battery life since gaming laptops aren’t often recognised for having long battery lives.
This is still excellent for a cheap gaming laptop even though it isn’t the best we’ve ever seen, especially in light of the fact that other gaming laptops we’ve tested have failed after two or three hours without a power source.
You can have a fair amount of confidence that its battery will endure through a long travel or multiple classes without needing to be recharged every couple of hours.
You already know that there will be bloatware to deal with in addition to the usual Dropbox and Candy Crushes offers that come with Windows 10 since it’s a Dell laptop. After taking the Dell G5 15 SE out of the box, you’ll probably spend a good half an hour simply deleting anything you don’t want or need.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s all garbage. You can customise the keyboard lighting, fine-tune the system’s performance for particular games, and review other system statistics using the pre-installed Alienware Command Center programme, which is actually helpful.
Any Dell G5 15 SE you buy from the Dell online store ought to feature Windows 11, even if we haven’t had a chance to test the laptop with the new OS.
Purchase it if
You want a gaming laptop that offers a lot for your money.
The Dell G5 15 SE has a great price-to-performance ratio, making it a worthwhile option for anyone looking for a reliable gaming laptop on a tight budget.
You require your gaming laptop to have enough battery life.
Given that it is a gaming laptop with adequate power, the five to seven hours of battery life is a bonus in its favour. This laptop isn’t breaking any longevity records, but it isn’t sliding to the bottom of the pack either.
If… don’t buy it
You desire dependable high-performance graphics.
You will be dissatisfied if having the best GPU performance is your top priority over all other factors.
You desire a strong frame.
Given the weight of the laptop, some users who prefer a more robustly constructed device may be turned off by the plastic chassis’ appearance of flimsiness.
You want to play games on the laptop while sitting down.
This laptop noticeably becomes heated while under stress, which could be due to the SmartShift technology or perhaps to inadequate venting. Put the laptop on a table if you’re going to play games or perform any other labor-intensive chores, like video editing, for your own benefit.