Dell G3 15 (3579) review: This budget gaming laptop makes the most of what it’s got

Just don't obsess over the FPS counter.

dell g3 15 primary
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG
At a Glance

The Dell G3 15 gaming laptop delivers solid performance in a package that’s a little less than an inch thick. It’s very affordable, too, at just $850 from Dell (at this writing) for the Model 3579 configuration we tested. 

The G3 15 has its downsides, including a Full-HD display that isn’t as bright as we’d like, frame rates that struggle to reach 60 fps on top-tier games, and a weight exceeding five pounds (although it’s not as massive as some gaming laptops). But when we compared it to the Acer Nitro 5, another budget gaming laptop we like, with an even lower price point, there was no contest. The G3 15 posted stronger benchmarks and battery life. In particular, its GTX 1050 Ti graphics showed the limitations of the Nitro 5's mere GTX 1050. Nothing wrong with the Nitro 5, but if you can afford the G3 15 we tested, it's the better choice.

Note: This review is part of our roundup of the best gaming laptops. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them. 

Price, specifications and features

The Dell G3 15 system we reviewed (Model 3579) comes with Intel’s quad-core Core i5-8300H processor, a Coffee Lake CPU that—in a first for Core i5 chips—supports Hyper Threading. That means it can lend unused CPU resources to other tasks, maximizing efficiency and performance. Thanks to Hyper Threading, the G3’s 8th-generation Core i5 processor can leave older Core i5 chips in the dust, and keep pace with previous-generation Core i7 processors. 

The G3 15’s 1050 Ti graphics card (with 4GB of dedicated GDDR5 RAM) sits near the bottom of Nvidia’s line of GTX Series 10 graphics cards. It generally can be counted on to crank out maxed-out gaming visuals between 30 and 60 fps (or at least approaching 60 fps), depending on the title. We’ll test its real-world performance in a moment.

Rounding out the G3 15’s basic specs are 8GB of DDR4 RAM, a 128GB SSD boot drive, and a traditional 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive for data.

If you’d rather spend extra for reliably buttery graphics north of 60 fps, you can step up to a $1,099 version of the G3 15 with a hex-core Core i7-8750H processor and GTX 1060 Max-Q graphics. The priciest G3 15 model falls back on GTX 1050 Ti graphics, but ups its RAM to 16GB and swaps in a larger 256GB SSD boot drive.

On the cheapest end of the G3 15 spectrum, Dell’s $749 G3 15 keeps the same Core i5-8300H processor and 8GB of RAM as our review unit, but downgrades to GeForce GTX 1050 graphics and loses the SSD boot drive.

Design

The Dell G3 15 comes with a relatively low-key design as far as gaming laptops go. No flashy LED patterns, racing stripes, or elaborate cooling grilles—it could easily be mistaken for a business laptop. Our “Recon Blue” review unit came with the familiar Dell logo stamped into the smooth, contoured lid. The G3’s cooling vents sit tucked away in back, just beneath the hinge.

dell g3 15 lid Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

It’s plain on the outside, but the Dell G3 15 packs in solid gaming performance on the inside.

Open the G3 15’s lid, and you’re greeted with more of the same: an average-width display bezel, a palm rest with subtle diagonal stripes, and a blue-backlit keyboard. Indeed, the only outward signs that the G3 is a gaming laptop are the outlined WASD keys.

Measuring 16.35 x 10.99 x 0.89 inches and weighing about 5 pounds, 8 ounces, the G3 15 qualifies as a mid-size gaming laptop. It’s at least a pound heavier than say, the sleeker and far pricier MSI GS65 Stealth Thin 8RE, but it’s also considerably lighter than a souped-up, 10-pound luggable like the Alienware R17 R5. It’s much more comparable in heft and price to another budget gaming laptop, Acer’s Nitro 5.

Display

The Dell G3 15’s 15.6-inch IPS-technology display boasts impressive viewing angles. The 1920x1080 screen dims slightly starting at about 45 degrees or so. Tilting the screen up or down also dims the image a bit, but at least there’s no hint of inverse colors, as you might see on a lesser laptop panel.

dell g3 15 primary Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The Dell G3 15’s IPS display boasts decent viewing angles, but we wish it were a little brighter.

That’s the good news about the G3 15’s display. The bad news: It’s not as bright as we’d like, registering only 246 nits (or candelas) at dead center according to our measurements. That’s barely hitting our 250-nit standard for comfortable indoor viewing. A 250-nit display might be perfectly fine for, say, a mainstream budget laptop, but we expect more from a gaming rig.

Keyboard, trackpad, speakers & webcam

The Dell G3 15’s chiclet-style keyboard is fairly standard as laptops go, with smooth, flat keycaps, decent travel and a snappy tactile bump on each keystroke. A hotkey lets you toggle between two steps of blue backlighting, while a 10-key numeric keypad sits on the right. Don’t expect anything in the way of bonus macro keys, but a standard set of function-enabled hotkeys, including screen lock, volume and media playback controls, search and display options, are present and accounted for.

dell g3 15 keyboard detail Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

The outlined WASD keys are the only outward sign that the Dell G3 15 is a gaming laptop.

The G3 15’s trackpad sits directly below the space bar, which puts is a little left of center thanks to the dedicated numeric keypad. The trackpad itself does its job without getting in the way with unwanted palm inputs, although I felt (as usual) that clicking the trackpad takes a little more pressure than I’d like. Of course, it’s safe to assume gamers will spend far more time with their mice than the G3’s trackpad.

(Note: The trackpad on our original Dell G3 15 review unit was seated a few millimeters off-center, so it tended to stick if you clicked it near the bottom-right edge. Dell sent us a replacement unit with a pristine trackpad, and assured us that the defective trackpad on the first test unit was “not normal.” )

The Dell G3 15’s top-firing speakers aren’t too bad as far as laptop speakers go. Music sounded relatively crisp and detailed, with even a tiny bit of bass. I enjoyed the sharp pop of critical Dreg kills in Destiny 2, while a critter-zapping Conduit Shrine run in Diablo 3 triggered a satisfyingly crackling roar. The G3 15’s speakers are no match for a good gaming headset, of course, but they’re fine in a pinch, with enough volume to drown out the laptop’s purring cooling fans.

The Dell G3 15’s webcam lens sits in the top bezel of the display, capturing 720p video that looks a little grainy, but is otherwise relatively sharp for a built-in model. While the G3’s webcam visuals won’t impress your Twitch followers, it’ll certainly do the job for Skype chatting.

Ports

The Dell G3 15 gaming laptop comes with a solid selection of ports, starting on the left side with a barrel-shaped power port, a full HDMI 2.0 port, ethernet, a pair of USB 3.1 Gen. 1 Type-A ports, and a combo audio jack.

dell g3 15 left side Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Left-side ports on the Dell G3 15 include a full HDMI 2.0 port and a pair of USB 3.1 ports, and there’s room for an optional Thunderbolt 3 port.

On the right side, there’s a Noble lock security slot, a single USB 2.0 port, and an SD memory card reader.

dell g3 15 right side Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

On the right side of the Dell G3 15, you’ll find a USB 2.0 port and an SD memory card reader.

A Thunderbolt 3 port is an option for G3 models with GeForce 1060 Max-Q graphics, according to Dell.

That's nice, but how does it perform? Keep reading to find out. 

At a Glance
  • It’s not the thinnest, lightest, or most powerful gaming laptop on the market, and we wish its 15.6-inch screen were brighter, but for just $750, the GTX 1050 Ti-powered Dell G3 packs an impressive punch.

    Pros

    • Impressive CPU performance for a budget gaming laptop
    • Solid GTX 1050 Ti gaming visuals
    • Decent battery life

    Cons

    • Disappointingly dim display
    • Sub-60 fps frame rates for some graphically intense games
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