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Dell G5 15 SE (2020) review

The Dell G5 15 SE’s new AMD CPU kicks ass, but the GPU doesn’t impress at higher price points

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) sports a super fast CPU and great battery life, but its middling graphics performance and chunky design weigh it down.

For

  • Blistering CPU performance
  • Strong graphics (compared to budget gaming)
  • Great battery life
  • Colorful and bright 144Hz display
  • Competitive pricing

Against

  • Middling graphics (compared to mainstream gaming)
  • Dim and dull 60Hz display
  • Chunky design
  • Sharp speakers

The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) is one of the first gaming laptops to pack all new AMD hardware, but does the new tech live up to the hype? Yes and no. 

For $1,199, the Dell G5 15 SE with an AMD R7 4800H CPU blows its competitors out of this realm. When paired with a colorful, 15.6-inch display and great battery life, the G5 15 SE seems like a catch. 

But there’s a catch to this catch. The AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU doesn’t live up to its Nvidia counterparts. Combine that with the G5 15 SE’s chunky design and sharp speakers, and there’s room for improvement.

However, the Dell G5 15 SE still manages to steal the show through its competitive pricing, securing it a spot as one of the best gaming laptops, best VR-ready laptops and best video editing laptops.

Editorial Note (7/14/2020): This review was originally published on May 21, 2020, but has since been updated to include benchmarks for the base model.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) price and configuration options

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) specs

Price: $1,199
CPU: AMD Ryzen R7 4800H
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 5600M
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz
Battery: 7:14
Size: 14.4 x 10 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds 

The Dell G5 15 SE that I tested costs $1,199 and comes outfitted with an AMD Ryzen R7 4800H processor, an AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 144Hz, 1080p display.

The $879 base model drops you to an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 60Hz, 1080p display, while the $1,299 maxed-out version will net you a Ryzen 7 4800H CPU and a 1TB SSD.

If that’s still out of your price range, consider taking a look at our best cheap gaming laptops page, which keeps things under $1,000.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) design

I am in love with the iridescent silver paint slathered over the hood of the Dell G5 15 SE, but my biggest gripe with this system is that it’s still too chunky and plastic. The hood is a wide, empty landscape, home only to a silver Dell logo and some curved accents that make it look like the hood of a car. Both the grilles and G5 logo on the curved hinges look like parts I’d find on a toy car. The plastic has got to go.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

After opening the lid, I noticed that the lip, where the black deck connects to the white underside, is a little sharp. The interior of the Dell G5 15 SE is very plain, apart from the RGB-lit keyboard. On the top left corner is another G5 logo with an accented S. Meanwhile, the bezels on the display could be a little thinner. Something I noticed when turning on the system is that the power button has unusually deep travel you have to overcome before you get it to click.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

At 5.5 pounds and 14.4 x 10 x 0.9 inches, the Dell G5 15 SE is a little wide and heavy for a 15-inch laptop. In comparison, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (3.52 pounds, 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches), HP Omen 15 (2019) (5.4 pounds, 14.2 x 10.2 x 0.8 inches) and Lenovo Legion Y545 (5.3 pounds, 14.2 x 10.5 x 1~1.1 inches) are all lighter and not as wide.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) ports

There are a healthy number of ports onboard the Dell G5 15 SE.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

On the left, there’s the power jack, a mini DisplayPort, an HDMI 2.0 port, one USB 3.1 port, a dropjaw RJ45 Ethernet port and a USB Type-C port. The right side offers a wedge lock slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack and an SD card slot.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

If you need more ports than that, take a look at our best laptop docking stations and best USB Type-C hubs pages.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) display

For the price, the Dell G5 15 SE’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is surprisingly colorful and bright. It’s even clocked at a smooth 144Hz refresh rate.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

In the Capone trailer, Tom Hardy’s crimson scar bled through the screen, enhancing the ominous scene. Inside a dark warehouse, where someone was bloodied and bound to a chair, I could make out the white undershirts a bunch of the goons wore in the background. The panel was sharp enough to highlight the wrinkles and scars covering Hardy’s face.

As I stealthily approached the Militarized Temple of Megara in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, I was surrounded by lush shrubbery accompanied by bright yellow flowers that popped on the display. When crawling my way through a Leader House in the dead of night, I spotted the telltale gear of a Captain in the distance. And when cranking down the game to its lowest settings, I experienced the silky smooth 144Hz refresh rate in action as I cut down my enemies.

According to our colorimeter, the Dell G5 15 SE’s display nailed 108% of the sRGB color gamut, sliding past the 106% mainstream gaming laptop average. It also beat the HP Omen 15’s 102% and the Legion Y545’s 99%, but couldn’t quite keep up with the 117% from the Zephyrus G14. Meanwhile, Dell G5 15 SE’s baseline 60Hz panel covered 63% of the sRGB color gamut, which is duller than the budget gaming laptop average (72%).

At 301 nits of brightness, the Dell G5 15 SE’s screen surpassed the 290-nit category average. It just barely beat the 300 nits from the Legion Y545, but wasn’t bright enough to match the Zephyrus G14 and the Omen 15, which hit 323 nits and 320 nits, respectively. Conversely, the Dell G5 15 SE’s baseline 60Hz panel dropped to 231 nits of brightness, which is dimmer than the 268-nit budget gaming laptop average.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) keyboard and touchpad

Typing on the Dell G5 15 SE’s keyboard felt comfortable. However, the keys felt a little shallow and were slightly too spaced out from one another, which took some getting used to.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

I hit 72 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is just above my 70-wpm average. If you’ve played around with a Dell Gaming laptop, then you probably know exactly how these keyboards feel: the keys are tiny and shallow, offering an overall mediocre experience.

The RGB lighting consists of four zones, including the numpad. You can configure the lighting in the FX tab of the Alienware Command Center app with effects like Rainbow Wave, Breathing and Spectrum. While I wish the individual keys were RGB-lit, the lighting is pleasantly bright.

Like its predecessors, the touchpad is… well, crap. The texture isn’t very soft, the clickers are shallow and the cursor movement is a little too sensitive for my taste (even when messing with the cursor speed settings). However, thanks to the Windows 10 Precision drivers, the two-finger scrolling and three-tabbing work well.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) audio

The Dell G5 15 SE’s side-firing speakers aren’t very loud and don’t have a lot of bass backing them.

I listened to Nano’s “Kemurikusa,” and, apart from the crisp vocals, there was a lot going on that I did not like. All of the electronic beats were completely blown out and the drums barely had a presence in the song due to the lack of bass. To top it off, the instruments violently clashed together instead of blending into a harmony.

In Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Alexios’ voice was crisp and full. However, when I entered combat, the sword slashes were a little too sharp and didn’t have enough depth. The lack of bass also muted a lot of the percussion instruments and violins that played in the background. 

In the Alienware Command Center app, you’ll find a tab for the Nahimic audio software, which is relatively helpful in getting better sound. There are multiple presets, such as Alienware, Com, Movie, Music, Racing, Role Play, Shooter and Strategy. You can also create your own custom profiles. Within each profile are settings for the Audio Effects (Bass, Treble, Voice, Loudness, Reverb and Surround Sound), Equalizer and Microphone.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) gaming, graphics and VR

Making its debut in the Dell G5 15 SE is the one and only AMD Radeon RX 5600M GPU with 6GB of VRAM. AMD’s new GPU hit 46 frames per second on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Ultra, 1080p) as I sliced my way through a pair of thugs scattered on the road.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p), the Dell G5 15 SE averaged 45 fps, falling short of the 47-fps mainstream gaming laptop average (beating the 42-fps budget gaming average). It matched the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti in the Omen 15 (45 fps), while the RTX 2060 GPU in Zephyrus G14 nailed 49 fps and the Legion Y545’s own GTX 1660 Ti got 50 fps.

The Dell G5 15 SE hit 83 fps on the Hitman benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), once again landing below the 85-fps category average (it passed the 65-fps budget gaming average). It did manage to slide past the Omen 15 (78 fps), but not the Zephyrus G14 (87 fps) or the Legion Y545 (95 fps).

On the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, the Dell G5 15 SE got 56 fps, which didn't make it past the 62-fps category average (it once again flew by the 45-fps budget gaming average). The Omen 15 (60 fps) and Legion Y545 (62 fps) did slightly better, while the Zephyrus G14 (115 fps) excelled.

The Dell G5 15 SE finally took a victory, nailing 46 fps on Metro: Exodus benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), surpassing the average mainstream gaming laptop (40 fps) as well as the Zephyrus G14 (41 fps), Omen 15 (40 fps) and Legion Y545 (41 fps). It also slid by the 31-fps budget gaming average.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) performance

Stacked within the belly of the Dell G5 15 SE, is an AMD Ryzen R7 4800H processor with 16GB of RAM, which easily tore through 40 Google Chrome tabs and five 1080p YouTube videos while Assassin’s Creed Odyssey ran in the background. We also tested the model with an AMD Ryzen 5 4600H processor and 8GB of RAM.

On the Geekbench 4.3 overall performance test, the Dell G5 15 SE nailed 29,253, which soared over the 21,322 mainstream gaming laptop average. It crushed the Intel Core i7-9750H in the Omen 15 (19,956) and Legion Y545 (23,868), but the Ryzen 9 4900HS in the Zephyrus G14 (30,181) killed the G5 15.

The Dell G5 15 SE transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 6 minutes and 43 seconds on our HandBrake benchmark, sailing past the category average (10:35). It not only surpassed the Omen 15 (12:34) and Legion Y545 (8:51), but also topped the Zephyrus G14 (6:59).

Dell’s 512GB SSD copied 4.97GB of data in 12.4 seconds, translating to 410 megabytes per second, which is just under the 467-MBps mainstream gaming laptop average. The Legion Y545’s 128GB SSD hit a slow 189 MBps, whereas the 512GB SSD in the Omen 15 and the 1TB SSD in Zephyrus G14 nailed 728 MBps and 1,131 MBps, respectively.

When testing the Ryzen 5, the G5 15 scored 22,707 on Geekbench 4.3, beating the 18,846 budget gaming average. On HandBrake, it nailed 8:44 versus the 12:09 budget gaming average. And finally, its 256GB SSD had a transfer rate of 419 MBps, just climbing over the 402 MBps budget gaming average.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) battery life

The Dell G5 15 SE has some of the longest battery life we’ve seen in a gaming laptop. Surprise, surprise, it’s all thanks to AMD. After it continuously surfed the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness, the G5 15's battery lasted 7 hours and 14 minutes, which crushed the 4:50 mainstream gaming laptop average. The Omen 15 (3:05) and Legion Y545 (3:38) were basically dead on arrival, while the only competitor left standing was the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (11:32), which can also thank AMD.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) webcam

As with most laptop webcams, the 720p shooter on the Dell G5 15 SE is subpar.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

In test shots, I couldn’t make out any details from the hair on my head. The color was OK, albeit a bit dull, as it caught the purple shirt in a photo of my niece standing in the background. However, the camera completely blew out the windows and door behind me because of the poorly balanced contrast. If you’re looking to stream, we recommend checking out our best external laptop webcams page.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) heat

While I dislike the plastic design, it does have its pros. One of those is the heat management. 

On our casual heat test, the underside of the Dell G5 15 SE measured 106 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a little higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold, but thanks to the plastic, it only ever felt warm. The center of the keyboard and touchpad hit 100 and 82 degrees, respectively. The hottest the machine got was 110 degrees on the bottom left of the screen’s bezels.

I played Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for 15 minutes and the machine never felt hot thanks to the fans going full blast.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020) software and warranty

The most useful tool in the Dell G5 15 SE is the Alienware Command Center. From here, you can monitor your CPU, GPU and RAM usage as well as the temperature of your system and fans. You can either use the app or press the G key on your keyboard to enable high performance while gaming. You can also tinker with power management and use the app as a place to aggregate your games from multiple launchers.

Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

(Image credit: Future)

To top that off, there’s also a ton of Dell software on the G5 15, including Dell Mobile Connect (make calls, send texts and mirror-screen from your phone), Dell Customer Connect (app dedicated to providing surveys), Dell Digital Delivery (a library of your software purchases from Dell), Dell Power Manager (monitors battery health and thermal management) and Dell Update (updates Dell applications and the BIOS).

And don't forget about the Windows 10 bloatware, such as Candy Crush Friends, Disney Magic Kingdoms and Farm Heroes Saga.

The G5 15 SE comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how Dell performed on our tech support showdown, best and worst laptop brands and best and worst gaming laptop brands ranking.

Bottom line

The Dell G5 15 SE (2020) is a great mainstream gaming laptop thanks to its wild CPU performance, awesome battery life and bright 15.6-inch display. However, its GPU could certainly have been stronger, and no one wants a chunky chassis or shrill speakers.

If you’re willing to spend just $250 extra, you can pick up the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, which offers a stronger GPU, a brighter display and longer battery life, all packed into a much sleeker chassis.

But overall, the Dell G5 15 SE’s successes outweigh its mediocrities, and it is, therefore, one of the best gaming laptops you can buy for the price.