There has been a huge trend among the best gaming laptops over the last year or so: make them as thin and light as possible, while shoving in as much power as you can. And, if you have the cash, laptops like the Razer Blade and MSI GS65 Stealth are absolutely worth it.
But, for most people, those options are just too pricey. So, what do you do in 2018 when everything seems to be focusing on the high end? Luckily, there are still great budget gaming laptops, like the Dell G3 15, that can deliver competent gaming performance at a budget price – just don’t expect too many high-end features.
You won’t find Thunderbolt 3 or Windows Hello on this machine, but with a Coffee Lake H-series CPU, GTX 1050 Ti graphics and a keyboard that is too good to be true – is it worth the low price of admission?
Here is the Dell G3 15 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: Intel Core i5-8300H (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.0GHz w/ Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB GDDR5); Intel UHD Graphics 630
RAM: 8GB DDR4 (2,666MHz)
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) anti-glare LED-backlit
Storage: 128GB SSD: 1TB HDD @ 5,400RPM
Ports: 1 x USB 2.0, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x HDMI, 1 x ethernet, 1 x SD reader
Battery: 56 Whr, 4-cell Battery (Integrated)
Connectivity: Intel Wireless 9462AC card (802.11ac + Bluetooth 5.0)
Camera: widescreen HD (720p) webcam; dual array digital mic
Weight: 5.57 pounds (2.53kg)
Size: 14.96 x 10.16 x 0.89 inches (380 x 258 x 22.7mm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
Like most laptops in 2018, the Dell G3 15 is available in a wide variety of different configurations. Right now, the US, UK and Australia all have different options available at a variety of different prices.
In the US, the G3 15 starts out at $749. This entry configuration will net you an Intel Core i5 8300H, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400RPM hard drive and a GTX 1050 GPU. If you feel like maxing it out, you can get a GTX 1050 Ti, an Intel Core i7 8750H, 16GB of RAM with a 256GB SSD for $1,199.
However, the configurations on offer are a bit odd, as you can pick up the same model we reviewed to the right, with a more powerful GPU for $150 (about £113, AU$203) extra. That’s the model we’d recommend if you’re living in the states.
Things are a bit odd in the UK: the entry model is about the same as the US version, only with Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows 10, priced at £748. You can upgrade to a model running Windows 10 for about £50 more. The UK model tops out with the configuration we ran here, but with a Core i7 8750H, and it can be yours for £949.
In Australia, you can pick up the exact configuration we reviewed here for AU$1,599 . Or, you can beef it up with a Core i7-8750H, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for AU$1,999 (about $1,475, £1,115).
Considering the specs, the Dell G3 15 is actually a really good deal, especially compared to some other budget gaming laptops, like the $799 (£649, about AU$1,082) Asus TUF FX504 with a weaker 2GB GTX 1050 GPU. This laptop also compares nicely to the $999 (£749, AU$1,149) Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming.
Whenever you’re picking up a budget laptop, you’re going to be making concessions somewhere to make up for the lower price. With the Dell G3 15, the concessions are entirely in the build quality and the gigantic bezels.
This laptop is entirely built of plastic, and while this is generally not a bad thing, there is a good amount of flex underneath the keyboard, and the unit we received had a warped section near the power button. Luckily, Dell’s warranty will cover any defects as long as you don’t cause them yourself.
The device has good aesthetics, however, with a blue pinstripe design accentuated by the blue lighting on the keyboard. It’s not quite the same as some of the gold-trimmed designs of some high-end gaming notebooks, but you’re not going to need to hide it away in shame, either.
And, while it’s not exactly what we would call ‘thin and light,’ it’s also not too bulky. It weighs in at 5.57 pounds (2.53kg) and measures in at 0.89 x 14.96 x 10.16 inches (H x W x D). You should be able to take it around with you wherever you go, but it might start weighing down on you for longer trips.
Then there’s the keyboard. There is no way that a keyboard this good should be on a laptop this cheap. The keys offer satisfying, deep travel and plenty of tactile feedback. The layout is top-notch as well, fitting a full-sized keyboard without having to resort to any weird key placements. We can type on this laptop for hours comfortably, which is rare in a laptop in this price range.
The trackpad, however, is just OK. It does what it needs to do and is accurate enough that we didn’t really run into any actual problems while using it. The only issues are that it’s too small for a 15-inch laptop and it has this sort of textured surface that we didn’t really jive with – your mileage may vary.
As for the screen, you’re looking at a 1,920 x 1,080 IPS display with a matte finish, so you can comfortably game in bright environments. That matte finish is especially important, though, because the screen doesn’t really get all that bright. In our time using this machine to play games and watch some YouTube, the display got us through everything we needed to do without any real complaints – other than the bezels.
Yes, even in 2018, when thin bezels are making their way onto practically every device under the sun, the Dell G3 15 looks a bit out of date with its massive bezels. Now, while they won’t really intrude on your day-to-day usage, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the footprint of the laptop could have been significantly reduced by using smaller bezels. It’s kind of a nitpicky complaint but, from the manufacturers of the XPS 13, it’s just a bit of a shock.