Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + Thermals

JT JT 18 December 2020
Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + Thermals

Apparently the Dell G5 Special edition gaming  laptop has been improved with BIOS and driver   updates. A lot of you have asked me to retest  this machine with the latest updates in place,   so I’ve fully updated it and run  all my tests again to see what   sort of improvements Dell have made  to gaming performance and thermals.

I originally tested this G5 in June 2020,  so about 6 months ago now.  The  games I’m testing on this machine have   also had updates since that time, so some of  the performance changes could be due to that.

Temperatures

The temperatures were an area where the G5 did  poorly in the past, running in excess of 100   degrees Celsius. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsNow while the updated  G5 still had peaks above 100 at times,   when running a combined CPU plus GPU  stress test over the course of an hour,   it was actually a fair bit cooler with the updates  in place, which is shown by the December result.   The CPU was around 8 degrees cooler, while the GPU  was 10 degrees cooler, a substantial difference.   Both were tested with a 21 degree Celsius  ambient room temperature, so it would appear   that this difference is due to updates as I’m  running the same test under the same conditions.

Clockspeeds

Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsWhen we look at the clock speeds during these  tests, we can see that the CPU was about the same,   just a 1% higher speed in the updated December  testing. The RX 5600M GPU on the other hand   wasn’t reaching as high clock  speeds, it would seem that they   may be running the graphics with a lower  power limit to prevent it getting as hot.

Cooling + Smart Shift

The G5 has shared heatpipes, so by not smashing  the GPU as hard it would also affect the CPU.   The G5 also makes use of smartshift, so it  moves power between the CPU and GPU as needed   based on the workload, and I suspect this  is most likely what’s been tuned over time. So if the GPU isn’t clocking as high anymore,  then the next question becomes, how is gaming   performance affected?

11 Game Compared

Let’s take a look at  11 different titles and see the differences.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was tested with  the games benchmark tool. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsI’ve got the older   results from June shown by the purple bars,  and the newer results from December in red.   At the lowest setting preset the GPU is likely  not being hit hard yet compared to the CPU,   so it makes sense that the frame rate might not  be different. As we move up to higher setting   levels though, the updated system starts  performing a little worse. At the highest   setting preset the older config was only  around 5% faster, so not a big difference. Don’t worry, there were instances where  the updated system performed significantly   better.

Take Battlefield 5 for instance. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsThe  difference in average FPS wasn’t that big   at the higher setting levels, however the 1%  low improvement is quite large comparatively.   1% lows generally get boosted in  laptops with better CPU performance,   so this may be a result of the CPU running  cooler or possibly by it being able to take   more power with SmartShift. If the GPU is  using less, the CPU may be able to get more. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsThe Witcher 3 was also showing huge improvements  with the updated system. With the ultra setting   preset the updated G5 was reaching 15%  higher average FPS, and at low settings   it had a huge 35% lead, one of the biggest  differences seen out of all games retested. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsCS:GO was slightly worse with the updated system  at all setting levels. The average FPS was closer   together compared to the 1% lows, which had  a larger drop off with the updates in place. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsCall of Duty Modern Warfare was performing almost  exactly the same with all settings at minimum, but   with all settings maxed out the older result was  about 13% faster than the newer updated result. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsBorderlands 3 was tested with the  games benchmark. Basically the same   performance with the lowest setting  preset, then in terms of average FPS   the updated system in red was a little behind  my original test results from 6 months ago. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsControl had similar performance  at both low and medium settings,   then with all settings maxed out, which is  fairly GPU heavy from my past experience,   the updated system was again  behind the older results. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsFar Cry New Dawn was another game where the  results were better with the updates regardless   of setting levels in use. This one typically  depends more on CPU than GPU performance,   so that may be why the  updated system was ahead here.Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + Thermals Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was also a little ahead  at all setting levels with the updated system,   and again this is a test that I’ve typically found   to perform better with increased  processor performance than graphics.Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + Thermals Metro Exodus was about the same at low settings,  then the updated system was behind at the rest of   the setting levels, a common pattern that most of  the games we’re looking at here seem to exhibit. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsOverwatch was similar, though the average FPS  was higher at low through to high settings,   then the updated system was only  behind at ultra and epic presets.

Game Differences - Max Settings

These are the average results out of all  11 games retested with the highest setting   preset.Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + Thermals On average the updated system  was around 3% slower than the older one,   only a small number of games were actually  performing better with all updates in place.   I think these results make sense based on the  clock speeds noted earlier, the GPU isn’t clocking   as high, and at higher setting levels this is  where the GPU is going to have more of an effect.

Game Differences - Min Settings

If we instead look at the differences between  the same games but with the lowest setting   preset instead of highest, the updated  system is actually performing more than   5% faster now.Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsProcessor performance generally  matters more in games at lower setting levels,   and if the GPU is using less power then  according to the way smartshift works   the CPU will be able to use that power and perform  better. Combined with lower temperatures and   less potential thermal throttling and I think  this is why we’re seeing better results here.

CPU Only Performance

Outside of gaming, CPU only performance  appears to be the same. Dell G5 SE Improved With Updates? Revisiting Gaming + ThermalsSo this definitely   seems to be a change to the way smartshift  works and how power gets assigned to the   different components when both the CPU  and GPU are active, like when gaming.

Conclusion

So basically the updated Dell G5 special edition  seems to run cooler than when I originally tested   it closer to launch 6 months ago, but at the  expense of some gaming performance at higher   setting levels. Games at lower settings on the  other hand did tend to perform a bit better with   the updated system, even worst case I don’t  think we’re losing that much performance with   the updates in place.

I think it’s probably worth  it for the cooler temperatures, which may improve   device longevity, but let me know what you  think down in the comments. Would you prefer   a hotter machine and better performance, or do  you think the new updates offer a better mixture?

If you want to find out more about the G5  special edition then you can check out my   detailed review.

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