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Dell G-series budget gaming laptop shootout: G3 vs. G5 vs. G7

We tested all three of Dell's 15-inch gaming laptops and one was a clear price-to-performance winner.

Dell G3 3590

Dell's 15.6-inch G3 is the starting point for its gaming laptop lineup. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

While all of the major PC makers have budget-friendly gaming laptops now, Dell expanded its lineup to three separate models: the G3, G5 and G7. There is a lot of overlap between the models -- in design, features and component options -- which makes choosing one somewhat confusing. 

Since I had the chance to review all three, my recommendations are below, along with some key differences between the models. And if you need help choosing an entry-level gaming laptop in general, here's our advice on what to look for

Read more: Best gaming laptops of 2020

Sarah Tew/CNET

The G3 15 is the entry point to Dell's gaming laptop lineup and is a decent choice if you want something for office work that can also play current games. Its biggest perk is its price, which currently starts at $750, but you'll want to spend at least $100 more to get a worthwhile configuration. It's slim and light for a gaming laptop, too, although its plastic body doesn't feel particularly sturdy. Its battery life is on the short side as well, even for a gaming laptop, which are typically power hogs. Read our Dell G3 15 Gaming Laptop review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As Dell's top mainstream gaming laptop, the G7 delivers higher-end gaming performance for a few hundred dollars less than one of Dell's Alienware m15 R2 models. The G7's metal chassis is an upgrade from the plastic bodies of the G3 and G5, and instead of a single-color backlight for the keyboard, it has four-zone RGB lighting. Plus, power, display, Ethernet and USB ports are moved to the rear, making it cleaner to set up and use with external peripherals on a desk. These features might make moving up from the G5 worthwhile -- at least when it comes to the G7's lowest-end configuration, where they're typically only separated by $50 to $100. 

Once you get above the G7's base setup, the value gets a little fuzzier. It's still less expensive than the Alienware m15, but you do get more laptop for that extra money with the m15, including a path to more powerful graphics for the future. And frankly, if your budget is limited, you might be better off going with Acer's Predator Helios 300 instead of the G7, especially if you want a laptop with a more gaming-oriented design. Read our Dell G7 15 (2020) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The G5 truly meets in the middle of the G3 and G7. It looks like the G7 and, despite being plastic, has a similar sturdy feel to it. Some ports and power are on the back, too, so you can more easily set it up for desktop use. Between the regular and special edition version I tested, there's a broad range of configurations starting at $950. It also had the best battery life of the bunch, lasting a little more than eight hours in our streaming video playback test. A comfortable keyboard, a precision touchpad and a reasonably good display for the money round out the package. It's just a solid value for the category. Read our Dell G5 15 5590 review.

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