November 24, 2020
Dell G5 15 SE review: 1080p power for little more than peanuts

Dell G5 15 SE review: 1080p power for little more than peanuts


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Lori Grunin/CNET


Plenty of ports and performance are the highlight of the Dell G5 15 Special Edition, the all-AMD model of Dell’s entry 15-inch gaming laptop. It’s one of many systems in the $1,000-$1,300 price range that boast 144Hz screens, but with AMD’s RX 5600M discrete graphics and an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, it beats the typical Intel/Nvidia combo for the money. And it’s not too game-centric to use as a work or remote learning Windows laptop, where the extra CPU power comes in handy. Plus, if you can find it on sale during the monthlong Black Friday that started on Amazon Prime Day, it will be an even better buy.

Like

  • Nice performance for the price
  • Slight bump on the S key helps you center on the WASD keys faster

Don’t Like

  • The power buttton doesn’t illuminate and there’s no Num Lock indicator
  • Backlight bleed on the screen


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The US has the largest selection of AMD models — four — all equipped with RX 5600M graphics. They start at around $900 with a six-core Ryzen 5 4600H processor, 8GB memory, a 256GB SSD and a basic 1,920×1,080-pixel-resolution display. At the top of the line you can get an eight-core Ryzen 9 4900H, 16GB memory and 1TB SSD with the 144Hz refresh-rate displayDell UK offers two options, the same base model for £949, but our test configuration with the eight-core 4800H is the top of the line; Dell Australia has three versions, with a higher base configuration that includes our test configuration with a 120Hz display for AU$2,099 and a top-end eight-core 4900H model for AU$2,500 (at the moment discounted to AU$2,124). There isn’t a 144Hz option there.  

Dell G5 15 SE (5505)

Price as reviewed $1,260, £1,219, AU$2,099
Display 15.6-inch 1,920×1,080 IPS display 144Hz
PC CPU 1.6GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4800H
PC memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz
Graphics 6128GB AMD Radeon RX 5600M
Storage 512TB SSD
Ports 1 x USB-C, 3 x USB-A, 1 x mini DisplayPort, 1 x combo audio
Networking Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650x (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.1, Ethernet
Operating system Windows 10 Home (1909)
Weight 5.5 lb/2.5kg


If you go with an Intel-based model you have a lot more to choose from. They start cheaper: around $900, currently discounted to $840, for a quad-core Core i5-10300H, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650, 8GB memory, a 256GB SSD and a 120Hz 1,920×1,080 display. At the top of the line for $1,540 ($1,440 at the current discount) it comes with an eight-core Core i7-10750H and GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q plus the same 16GB memory, 512GB SSD and 144Hz screen as the rest. The Intel-based equivalent of our test system is the $1,440 (or $1,400 with discount) i7 with a GeForce RTX 2060. 

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The 2020 model has a much different profile from its predecessor.


Lori Grunin/CNET


The cheapest model I’d recommend is probably the $1,000 Intel model ($1,190 full price), because its GTX 1660 Ti graphics have 6GB video memory rather than 4GB, at least for futureproofing, and because the system has 16GB RAM, because that’s what Windows really needs. Unless you like your laptop to creep or only use one application at a time (and none of them is Chrome). But at that price it competes with the similarly configured Lenovo Legion 5, which uses the Ryzen 7 4800H, and which offers a faster processor with the otherwise same specs.

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The keyboard feels pretty good for typing, and for gaming there’s a slight raised icon to help you center your hand on the WASD keys. My only real complaints are the lack of an indicator for Num Lock and no illumination on the power button, which fades into the background above the keyboard. It only has a single backlight color.


Lori Grunin/CNET


Once again, Dell revamped the design from last year’s 5590 models, most notably by removing the side vents and putting the ports in that space instead of on the back, changing from a forward hinge to a more traditional clamshell and replacing the ridges with rounding. The result is (to my eye) a little less distinctive. However, Dell updated the touchpad to a nicer model that’s more like what you’d find on a business laptop, albeit with a different aspect ratio (4:3) than the screen (16:9). The system feels plasticky, but durable. The screen showed a lot of backlight bleed at the top, which will vary from unit to unit, but otherwise it’s a typical IPS 144Hz display that you’ll find in low-end gaming laptops.


There are also a couple physical differences between the Intel and AMD models. The Intel models have bottom illumination, which I miss, and a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 connection, which you’ll never find with an AMD chipset. The Intel model also weighs a little less, 5.1 lbs/2.3kg versus 5.8 lbs/2.6kg.


This model delivers relatively high performance for the money. The 4800H processor fares better than the slightly higher end i7-10875H, and the Radeon RX 5600M graphics meets or outdoes the Nvidia RTX 2060 for gaming. It can handle 1080 at more than 60 frames per second without any issues that can’t be fixed by dropping the settings in a very GPU-intensive game.  The CPU and GPU work in conjunction to balance performance and battery life. The battery didn’t last quite as long as its predecessor’s 8 hours, but at 5.9 hours it’s still solid for a gaming laptop.


You can get cheaper Intel models of the G5 — starting at $750 — while the base AMD model runs $900. Though I’m not a fan of 8GB RAM, the six-core Ryzen 5 4600H should be a solid gaming performer as well thanks to the RX 5600M, as long as you’re not bottlenecked by that 8GB. While I don’t think the G5 is a shoo-in for top banana in its price range, it’s still definitely worth keeping on your short list.

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R20 CPU (multicore)

Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (streaming)

Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

Shadow of the Tomb Raider gaming test

Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (fps)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV)

Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020)

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (GA401IV) Microsoft WIndows 10 Home (1909); 3.0GHz AMD Ryzen 9 4900HS; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz, 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with Max-Q Design, 1TB SSD
Dell G5 15 Special Edition (2020) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (1909); 1.6GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4800H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3.2GHz; 6GB AMD Radeon RX 5600M; 512GB SSD
Gigabyte Aorus 15G Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (1909); 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-10875H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 3,200MHz; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q; 512GB SSD
MSI GF65 Thin 9SEXR Microsoft Windows 10 Home (2004); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060; 512GB SSD



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