Feast your eyes on an affordable gaming laptop that can tear through Middle-earth: Shadow of War like a knife through Beorn's honey cake. Dell's G3 15 Gaming ($849 as tested; starts at $749) sports an 8th Gen Core i5 processor and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics, and makes it easy to game on the go, thanks to its long battery life, thin chassis and loud speakers. However, the G3 15's low price comes with some drawbacks, including a bland, 15.6-inch display and an unpleasant keyboard.
Update May 28: Dell has announced an updated version of the Dell G3 15 gaming laptop, which features a 9th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, faster Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q graphics and a 144-Hz display. We will be updating our review once we test the latest model, which is available to buy now (opens in new tab).
Dell G3 15 price and configurations
The G3 15 Gaming I tested costs $849 and is outfitted with an Intel Core i5-8300H processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, 8GB of RAM, a 126GB SSD and a 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD.
The base model costs $749 and drops you down to a GTX 1050 with 4GB of VRAM and removes the 126GB SSD.
The most expensive G3 15 costs $1,249 and upgrades you to a Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD (this will remove the additional 1TB HDD).
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However, there is one model with an Nvidia GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU and 6GB of VRAM, which will run you $1,049. With this configuration, you get only 8GB of RAM, the 126GB SSD, and the 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD.
Dell G3 15 design
Between the G3 15's thick, matte curves and Dell's glossy-blue stamp of approval smack-dab in the middle, it looks like a gray, fashionable brick. There's very minimal branding, aside from the white G3 logo on the left of the hinge.
Opening the G3 reveals a sleek inner chassis with dark-blue slash patterns. It feels smooth, and the keyboard and touchpad sport lovely, baby-blue accents.
However, I wasn't a fan of the blue backlighting, since blue on blue is too harsh on the eyes. The bezels on the 15.6-inch display had a similar distracting effect due to their chunky design.
At 5.2 pounds and 15 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches, the G3 15 is the thinnest entry-level gaming laptop among its competitors. The Lenovo Legion Y520 is the heaviest, weighing 5.6 pounds; the Asus TUF Gaming FX504 is the thickest, measuring 1.1 inches; and the MSI GL62M 7REX is in between, at 5.3 pounds and 1 inch thick.
Dell G3 15 ports
For a gaming laptop, the G3 15 doesn't have as many ports as I'd like, such as a Mini DisplayPort or a USB Type-C port.
Starting on the left, there's the power jack, an HDMI 2.0 port, a dropjaw RJ-45 port, two USB 3.1 ports and a headphone/microphone combo jack.
On the right, you'll find a Noble lock slot, one USB 2.0 port and a 2-in-1 SD/MMC card reader.
Dell G3 15 display
The G3 15 Gaming's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 panel is so depressingly dark and boring that I had to turn up Middle-earth: Shadow of War's brightness to the max just to experience a modicum of liveliness.
Despite ferociously storming into an orc fortress, I felt empty when I sliced through hordes of orcs as their dull blood left their stiff bodies. In an attempt to avenge his fallen orc brethren, Ogg Drooler charged at me like a feral beast with his flaming sickle. However, between how static the flame was and how hollow his skin looked, I was completely unfazed and ripped from any semblance of immersion.
In the trailer for The Equalizer 2, Denzel Washington's dark-blue jacket blended into one shape with no distinguishable features. I mistook his jacket for being pure black at first, and was forced to double-check on another display. However, the display is sharp, and I could make out Washington's grumpy "I'm going to go kill people" wrinkles on his forehead.
According to our colorimeter, the G3 15's panel covers a crushingly low 61 percent of the sRGB color gamut. (We consider anything 100 percent and above to be acceptable.) The Asus TUF Gaming FX504 and the Lenovo Legion Y520 covered only 66 and 68 percent, respectively, while the MSI GL62M 7REX took the throne with an impressive 153 percent.
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Measuring 231 nits of brightness on our light meter, the G3 15 falls below the 254-nit entry-level-gaming-laptop average, but it is brighter than competitors. The MSI 7REX averaged a low 198 nits, while both the TUF Gaming FX504 and the Legion Y520 hit 220 nits of brightness.
Dell G3 15 keyboard and touchpad
Despite its stylish, futuristic design, the G3 15 Gaming's island-style keyboard is unsatisfying to type on due to its low key travel. The palm rests, however, are incredibly soft, and the keyboard does come with a number pad and blue backlighting.
I produced 57 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, falling below my typical 60-wpm average. The keys travel 1.2 millimeters and require 71 grams of actuation force. We normally look for travel in the 1.5-to-2.0-mm range and a minimum force of 60 grams.
The 4.1 x 3.1-inch touchpad is surrounded by a sweet, baby-blue accent. But unfortunately, the clicks were shallow, and the matte texture felt cheaply made. However, it did manage to capture all of the Windows 10 gestures.
Dell G3 15 audio
The speakers inside the G3 15 Gaming are pretty decent and were loud enough to encompass a medium-size conference room with Jon Bellion's "Maybe IDK." My ears went on a journey as the dreamy acoustic guitar and Bellion's crisp vocals weaved together harmoniously. However, there wasn't enough bass to make the chorus sound lively, and other instruments weren't as well represented as the vocals were.
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The speakers were loud enough to overwhelm the blaring fan when I played Shadow of War. While I was getting ambushed by several orcs, my arrow swiftly pierced through the air to hit an explosive barrel. Even though it was incredibly satisfying to hear the world go silent and then suddenly explode, there could have been more depth to the sound.
Dell G3 15 gaming graphics and VR
The G3 15 Gaming packs an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM. This allowed the system to run Shadow of War at a smooth 45 frames per second on very high settings as I scaled a castle wall, grabbed the first orc I saw and threw him off the ledge into a wave of his buddies.
Rise of the Tomb Raider ran at 24 fps on very high and 1080p, which is under our minimum 30-fps playability threshold as well as the 41-fps category average. The Asus TUF Gaming FX504 (GTX 1050 2GB) barely ran the game at 16 fps, and the MSI GL62M 7REX (GTX 1050 Ti 4GB) didn't do much better, at 22 fps. But the Lenovo Legion Y520 (GTX 1050 Ti 4GB) pulled off 46 fps.
On the Hitman benchmark, the G3 15 managed a seamless 45 fps on ultra settings and 1080p, but it was still below the 56-fps average, the Legion Y520's 60 fps and the MSI 7REX's 46 fps. The G3 15 did beat the TUF Gaming FX504's 35 fps, however.
Grand Theft Auto V ran at 33 fps on very high and 1080p on the G3 15, which is smoother than the 7REX's 31 fps but far off from the 48-fps entry-level-gaming-laptop average. It was unplayable on the TUF at 24 fps.
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The G3 15 scored a rough 3.5 out of 11 on the SteamVR performance test, which matches the marks from the MSI 7REX and the Legion Y520 but is crushed by the 6.6 category average. The TUF Gaming FX504 scored even lower, with 2.7. While you can theoretically use an Oculus Rift with the G3 15 thanks to Oculus' Asynchronous Spacewarp technology, it's probably not a good idea.
Dell G3 15 performance
Despite being an entry-level gaming laptop, the G3 15 packs enough heat to blow through Shadow of War, handle 30 Google Chrome tabs and run a Twitch stream in the background. It has a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H processor, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, and a 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the G3 15 scored a solid 13,227. That sails past the 11,610 entry-level-gaming-laptop average, as well as the MSI GL62M 7REX's 11,817 (i7-7700HQ), the Asus TUF Gaming FX504's 12,038 (i5-8300H) and the Lenovo Legion Y520's 13,037 (i7-7700HQ).
The G3 15 took a speedy 54 seconds to match 65,000 names and addresses on our Excel test. That puts it ahead of the 1:09 category average, the TUF's 1:13 and the 7REX's 1:00.
The G3 15 took a sluggish 42 seconds to copy 4.97GB of multimedia files, for a rate of 121 megabytes per second. That beats the TUF's 95 MBps but falls behind the 7REX's 141 MBps, the 203-MBps category average and the Legion Y520's speedy 364 MBps.
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On our HandBrake test, the G3 15 took 13 minutes and 16 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p. It beat the 14:37 category average and 7REX's 14:11 but got shown up by the TUF's 11:15.
Dell G3 15 battery life
The G3 15 Gaming's battery life is impressive for a gaming laptop, lasting 6 hours and 37 minutes while continuously browsing the web over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness.
That's better than the 4:53 category average, as well as the runtimes from the Asus TUF Gaming FX504 (3:57) and the MSI GL62M 7REX (3:33).
Dell G3 15 webcam
The G3 15 Gaming's 720p webcam took dark and grainy images. The bags under my eyes looked like they had bags, and the bright-red colors on my shirt were drained. My hair was also too dark, as if it were drawn on by a Sharpie. At least I could see small strands of hair frizzing away from my head.
And because the camera produces dark images, they didn't get blown out when I took photos facing the outside window or under the ceiling lights.
Dell G3 15 heat
The G3 15 Gaming's underside climbed to 113 degrees Fahrenheit after we played Shadow of War for 15 minutes, breaching our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad measured 99 and 78 degrees, respectively. The hottest part was located on the lower-left underside, which hit 128 degrees.
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After the G3 15 streamed an HD video for 15 minutes, however, the underside reached only 91 degrees (under our threshold), and the lower left hit 98 degrees (not far off from the threshold). The center of the keyboard measured 89 degrees, and the touchpad hit 82 degrees.
Dell G3 15 software and warranty
The G3 15 Gaming includes several Dell utilities but none tailored to gaming. There's SupportAssist, which scans for driver updates and includes options to optimize your system, perform hardware checkups and remove viruses. Dell Power Manager lets you customize your battery usage, and Dell Mobile Connect allows you to use your phone directly from the laptop. Dell Help & Support provides information for the warranty and manual, while Dell Digital Delivery updates all the aforementioned Dell apps.
Additionally, there's the SmartByte app, which lets you prioritize how your bandwidth is being used. Dell also has a convenient prompt from its MaxxAudio Pro app that, once you plug in headphones, will let you choose which output or input you'd like to use. The typical Windows 10 bloatware consists of apps like Netflix, McAfee Security and Dolby Access.
The G3 15 comes with a one-year limited warranty, which is upgradable to four years. See how Dell performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.
With an 8th Gen processor and GTX 1050 Ti GPU, the Dell G3 15 Gaming packs a lot of power inside its smooth, slim interior. For just $849, you also get solid battery life and some pretty decent speakers to blast your favorite Spotify playlist. Unfortunately, the laptop's dull display and low-travel keyboard hold it back.
If you're willing to drop some extra cash, consider the Lenovo Legion Y520 ($1,249), which offers a faster SSD, better graphics performance and some useful gaming software.
Otherwise, the G3 15 Gaming is an affordable gaming rig that can handle most mainstream games.