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Dell G5 15 review: A slim gaming laptop that won't break you

Although the G5 15's base model is good, it becomes a better deal if you're willing to spend a little more money.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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Editors' note, Nov.  25: Since our initial review in July, Dell continues to offer the G5 15 5590 with a wide variety of component options at reasonable prices for entry-level and mainstream gamers. Because of this we have named it our Editors' Choice for budget gaming laptops. Our original review follows.

Dell G5 15
8.0

Dell G5 15

The Good

Dell's G5 15 5590 gaming laptop improves on the previous version's design. It has good performance and features for the money -- including the $950 starting model -- and remarkable battery life for a gaming system.

The Bad

Features like Thunderbolt 3, four-zone RGB keyboard and a 144Hz display are only available with higher-end graphics.

The Bottom Line

Still one of the best mainstream gaming laptops you can find thanks to its strong performance, a variety of component options and a more travel- and user-friendly design.

This is either the best time to buy an entry-level gaming laptop or the worst. Both Intel and Nvidia have updated hardware out, which means if you get a new model like the Dell G5 15 5590 you're getting the latest components. And since the G5 is from Dell's mainstream gaming line and not from its Alienware brand, you'll get it at a good price, starting at less than $1,000. International prices start at £1,120 or AU$1,405.

Although the base model is a good value, it's better in the long run to buy a version with better graphics. And if you configure the G5 15 with better graphics you can, in turn, add other features including an RGB-backlit keyboard or 144Hz display.   

On the other hand, you can potentially get more for your money if you go with the older-but-still-excellent hardware in last year's model, the G5 15 5587, which is available from Dell and elsewhere for as low as $700. From a pure value standpoint, the 5587 would be the way to go, especially if you're willing to go up to $1,100

Dell G5 15

The G5 15 5590 dials back on the "gamer" design. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Then again, the 5590 has an updated slimmer, smaller design that puts a few key ports at the rear, making it better for travel and life on a desk hooked up to peripherals. There are thinner bezels around the display like the ones you'd see on pricier laptops, making the whole machine look and feel less like an entry-level gaming laptop than before. Its battery life is better, too, so whichever way you decide to go -- old or new -- the G5 15 is still one of our top gaming picks for the money.

Dell G5 15 5590

Price as reviewed $1,000
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920x1,080 display
CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300
Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2666MHz
Graphics 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
Storage 256GB SSD + 1TB 5,400rpm HDD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Streamlined redesign

While Dell didn't shed all the G5's gaming flair, it is toned down from the last version. Available in black or a special edition in white, the body is smaller and thinner than before due in part to thinner bezels around the display. There are low-profile fan vents on back and more vents on the sides and bottom (as well as a tinted see-through panel on the special edition), but none of it is terribly showy. The fans won't let you forget they're there when you're gaming, but that's for the best. You won't hear them much at all the rest of the time. 

You get a full keyboard and number pad and it is backlit in blue with two levels of brightness and the touchpad is surrounded in blue. If you bump up to a pricier configuration, you can get a four-zone RGB-backlit keyboard for $30 more. The keyboard is good, perhaps a little shallow, but still good for typing and gaming. (For $25, you can add a fingerprint reader to the keyboard deck.) While I wish it had discrete buttons for casual gaming, the precision touchpad performs well and didn't have me reaching for a mouse for anything but gaming. 

The G5's base full-HD matte display isn't anything special, but it does have good color, contrast and off-angle picture quality, and itis reasonably bright. It's not good enough for any sort of critical work where you need color accuracy, but it's fine for entertainment. Also, this panel is 60Hz, which is fine given its GPU, but if you step up to one of the higher-end graphics options for the G5, you might also want to get the 144Hz version of the display Dell offers. 

Dell G5 15

Dell swaps red keys for blue on the new G5. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Want to hook up to an external display? There's a HDMI 2.0 port on the rear with the power jack, Gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.1 port. There's also USB-C DisplayPort on the left side with another USB 3.1 and headphone jack. The right has a third USB 3.1 port and an SD card reader. As with the 144Hz display, USB-C Thunderbolt 3 is available when you add more powerful graphics. 

More FPS for less

The G5 I reviewed was running on a ninth-gen Intel Core i5-9300 and Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 1650. The Intel chip didn't bring much to the table compared to the eighth-gen version. While it's nice to have the latest CPU, you won't see significant performance gains. The GTX 1650 benefits are a little more noticeable, giving you better frame rates than the older GTX 1050 Ti but for about the same price (although less than 1050 Ti laptops originally went for). Its performance falls just below the GTX 1060, which can be found in older gaming laptops around $1,000 such as the Acer Predator Helios 300

Dell G5 15

Rear connections help you keep cables out of the way. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Basically, with the 1650 you're unlikely to hit the smooth 60fps we look for on demanding games at 1920x1080-pixel resolution, but getting over 30fps at that resolution for current titles is doable. If you want headroom for future games you'll want to shell out for a G5 with either a GTX 1660 Ti or ideally a GeForce RTX 2060.

The Nvidia chip does seem to be more power efficient, however. The G5 lasted a little more than 8 hours in our streaming video playback test. That's a time more typical of a current mainstream thin-and-light laptop with integrated graphics, not a gaming laptop with discrete graphics. It's not doing much more than streaming video, of course, but it's still a remarkable battery life for that task. 

Dell G5 15 5590 is a slimmer, smaller budget-friendly gaming laptop

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A gaming laptop bargain again

The redesigned Dell G5 15 is worth checking out if you like its smaller, slimmer body and want the latest entry-level or midrange graphics from Nvidia. The base model, while fine for what you're getting, is a tougher sell since there are currently better deals out there on older hardware -- including the G5's predecessor. It'll no doubt be more attractively priced toward the end of the year. If you're planning to step up the graphics to Nvidia's GTX 1660 Ti or RTX 2060, however, the G5 15 5590 is a solid value. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Lenovo Legion Y7000P 20965Alienware m15 20851Lenovo Legion Y730 17786Dell G5 5590 15615Dell G5 5587 17246
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Lenovo Legion Y7000P 1182Lenovo Legion Y730 1181Alienware m15 1142Dell G5 5590 844Dell G5 5587 1043
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

Dell G5 5590 490Alienware m15 397Lenovo Legion Y7000P 346Lenovo Legion Y730 169Dell G5 5587 359
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Alienware m15 3669Lenovo Legion Y7000P 2716Lenovo Legion Y730 1899Dell G5 5590 1867Dell G5 5587 1851
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Far Cry 5 gaming test

Alienware m15 82Lenovo Legion Y7000P 66Dell G5 5590 48Lenovo Legion Y730 44Dell G5 5587 52
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Alienware m15 71.5Lenovo Legion Y7000P 58.1Dell G5 5590 48.7Lenovo Legion Y730 37.7Dell G5 5587 37.5
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (fps)

System configurations

Dell G5 5590 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1650; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Lenovo Legion Y7000P Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1060; 1TB SSD
Alienware m15 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Legion Y730 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 2TB HDD + 256GB SSD
Dell G5 5587 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti; 1TB HDD + 128GB SSD
Dell G5 15
8.0

Dell G5 15

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 8