The Dell G5 special edition is an all AMD gaming laptop, and the first one to use the new Radeon RX 5600M graphics, so let’s test it out in this detailed review and help you decide if it’s worth buying.
I’ve got 2 models to review, the entry level version which starts at $880 USD has a 6 core Ryzen 5 4600H processor, and the higher specced $1200 version has 8 core Ryzen 7 4800H.The more expensive version also has a better screen, faster WiFi and double the memory, though both are dual channel.
The lid is a grey plastic, though it’s got a sparkling glitter effect which changes based on the angle you’re viewing from.The interior is also all plastic, but it’s matte black here. Overall the build quality felt quite decent for an all plastic machine, and there were no sharp corners or edges.Dell lists the starting weight as 2.5kg, and both of mine were basically right on this. With the large 240w power brick and cables for charging included, the total rises to almost 3.5kg, or 7.7lb, it did feel on the heavier side.
The width and depth are similar to many other 15” laptops, and it’s not too thick.Screen bezels start approaching the thicker side at just over 1cm on the sides. The G5 SE has a 15.6” 1080p screen with FreeSync, however you can either get it with a 60Hz display or spend more for the 144Hz option, and I’ve heard a 120Hz option is on the way later.
The more expensive 144Hz panel was better in almost all aspects, it’s brighter, though still below the 300 nits I like to see, it’s got better colour gamut and of course higher refresh rate. When we look at the screen response time for the 60Hz panel, we’re looking at 22.5ms, the worst I’ve tested so far. The 144Hz panel is more reasonable with a 9.3ms average grey-to-grey response time, so it’s going to offer a better all round experience. Side by side the 144Hz panel just looked better, and I’d recommend paying for the upgrade if your budget allows. The 144Hz option did have some PWM flicker below 100% brightness though, this was not present in the 60Hz screen.
Backlight bleed wasn’t great with either, I could occasionally notice it when viewing darker content, but this will vary between laptops and panels. There was more screen flex than usual when intentionally pushing it which seems to be due to the hinge being in the middle in spite of the thicker lid, the hinge otherwise felt quite sturdy though. No problems opening it up with one finger, the weight felt pretty evenly distributed, so no issues using it on my lap.
The 720p camera is found above the display in the center, no Windows Hello support here. The camera is ok and the audio sounds pretty good. The keyboard in my unit only has red backlighting, however you can pay $30 extra for 4 zone RGB if you prefer, but in either case all keys and secondary key functions are illuminated. There are two levels of key brightness or you can turn it off using the F10 key, if you want to change the amount of time the keys remain lit you’ll need to get into the BIOS. The keyboard was ok to type with, I wasn’t a fan of the smaller arrow keys. I didn’t mind using it and it gets the job done. Key presses sound a little clicky and don’t push down as much as I’d like. There was some keyboard flex when intentionally pushing down hard, however the plastic body felt solid enough during normal use.
The power button is above the keyboard in the center, and it was a bit awkward to press, I almost always had to go in for a second harder push. The precision touchpad clicks down anywhere and works well enough, the size is decent too, just not as smooth feeling as some other options.
Fingerprints and dirt don’t really appear on the silver grey lid, they’re more obvious on the matte black interior, however as a smooth surface it’s easy to clean. Most of the I/O is on the left, from the back there’s the power input, mini DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0 display outputs, USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, gigabit ethernet and USB Type-C port which has DisplayPort support, no Thunderbolt. On the right there’s a full size SD card slot, 3.5mm audio combo jack, two USB 2.0 Type-A ports and wedge lock slot.
I confirmed that the Type-C port goes via the Vega iGPU, however both the HDMI and mini DisplayPorts connect directly to the Radeon 5600M graphics, so VR is possible. The back has a couple of air exhaust vents towards the corners, while there’s nothing happening on the front. Underneath there are some air intake vents above the fans. There are 10 phillips head screws to remove to get inside, the 4 at the back don’t come out of the panel. Inside we’ve got a 2.5” drive bay down the bottom left, however it looks like in order to utilize this space you’ll sacrifice one of the two M.2 slots. There are two memory slots, and I’ve got to give props to Dell for shipping all models with dual channel regardless of price point, otherwise WiFi card just below that and battery down the bottom.
The internal layout is also exactly the same regardless of which specs you get. Here’s what that bottom panel looks like so some heat shields and dust filters on the intake. The speakers are found on the left and right sides towards the front, and they didn’t sound great, minimal bass and tinny, however they did get very loud at maximum volume.
The latencymon results in my cheaper model were fine, but not looking good in the more expensive config. Both of my G5s had the 3-cell 51Wh battery, however the most expensive option in the US lets you upgrade to a 4-cell 68Wh battery for $50 extra, but I suspect that will take out the 2.5” drive bay.
I’ve tested battery life with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled and keyboard lighting off. While running the witcher 3, both didn’t surpass 20 FPS, whereas most other laptops I test are able to run at 30 FPS and above no problem on battery. Outside of gaming the lower specced 4600H laptop lasted for 45 minutes longer in my YouTube playback test, presumably as lower specs equals lower power draw.
Next let’s get into the thermal testing, I’ll summarise results here.
The Alienware Command Center software doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, your best bet is to press the G key, or F7, which enables or disables high performance mode. The G5 SE features AMD’s SmartShift, which dynamically allocates power to the processor or graphics as needed based on the workload, which should help improve performance.
Basically the G5 SE runs hot. Interestingly the cheaper and lower specced 4600H model reaches higher temperatures, but this is a result of the way smartshift works.
Basically the 4600H has fewer cores so needs less power to hit higher clock speeds, and more power can be sent over to the GPU. Despite the temperatures being high, the performance is in general quite good, especially when you consider that the Ryzen 5 4600H can outperform an undervolted i7-10750H while generally costing less money. As for the external temperatures where you’ll actually be putting your hands, both were above average at idle and a bit warm, but no issue. When running CPU plus GPU stress tests in high performance mode, so a worst case, they did feel quite warm, almost hot to the touch in the middle. Both were basically silent at idle, and then similar volumes at other levels with heavy loads running. Although the G5 runs hot, most other gaming laptops with this level of performance do get louder.
Next let’s find out just how well the 5600M holds up in games, I’ve tested with high performance mode enabled for best performance.
Starting out with Battlefield V, I’ve got the two G5 laptops highlighted in red. The lower specced G5 with 4600H is able to perform a little better as smartshift is able to dedicate more power to the GPU as it has a lower powered processor.
These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. This test relies more on processing power so the 4800H option is ahead of the lower specced G5, though it doesn’t have that much of an improvement.
These are the results from Shadow of the Tomb raider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. Like battlefield 5, the lower specced G5 was able to come out ahead in this test, though it was only by 1 FPS, and for reference the higher specced G5 does do better at lower setting levels.
Overall the gaming performance was decent from the 5600M, in general it outperforms the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti, however the RTX 2060 does better.
In terms of driver stability I didn’t have any problems, a few games opened on the Vega iGPU by default, but that’s easy to fix by setting the game to high performance mode in Windows, hopefully this improves with software updates.
Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike and Timespy from 3DMark in most of these cases the lower specced G5 was able to pull ahead at higher settings, like we saw in the games.
I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export video at 4K, and the higher specced G5 wasn’t doing too much better than the lower spec, it seems like Adobe needs to better optimize for Radeon graphics as lower powered Nvidia laptops perform better here. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than just export times, and again the 5600M appears to be holding back the G5 in this test. Adobe Photoshop was also tested with the Puget systems benchmark, and as a workload that prefers more CPU power, the 4800H is doing much better. Davinci Resolve seems to prefer GPU power, however it may not yet be optimized for the 5600M as lower specced Nvidia options like the 1650 Ti in the A15 are ahead. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. I’ve used the OpenVR benchmark to test the HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and as a GPU heavy test the 5600M was scoring quite good in this one, and like we saw in the games the cheaper G5 was outperforming the more expensive model due to the way smartshift works.
I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage. In my country, the low end G5 still comes with a 512gb NVMe M.2 SSD, so I don’t have data on the 256gb option which is the entry level in the US.
The SD slot is pretty slow, but still preferable to not having it at all, and it sticks out a fair amount while inserted. In the US the entry level G5 starts at $880 USD, while the Ryzen 7 4800H model starts at $1200 USD, but Dell do regularly run sales throughout the year so keep an eye on their site. With all of that in mind let’s conclude by summarising the good and bad aspects of the all AMD Dell G5 SE gaming laptop.
Overall I think the G5 SE is offering some good gaming performance at the entry level price point. As you’re getting the 5600M graphics and dual channel memory regardless of price, you don’t have to spend more to get a good gaming experience, and as we saw in fact, the lower specced and cheaper config could actually outperform the higher specced and more expensive config in games at higher setting levels. In order to do this however, the G5 does run quite hot, it’s the hottest laptop I’ve tested in recent memory. While the temperatures are technically within AMD spec, it’s impossible to guess at how this may affect the longevity of other components within the device, but Dell are seemingly ok with 100 degree internals so we can only assume they’ve run the appropriate tests regardless of how you may feel about seeing a higher number. It runs hotter than the recent A15 that people went crazy about, both internally and also on the keyboard area where you actually touch, but I’ll have a full comparison between those coming soon.
The 60Hz screen is pretty crap, but I suppose that’s to be expected with the entry level option. I mean it looks ok, but definitely a bit dim, the 144Hz option is just much better in most aspects, better colours, brightness and faster response time, though both have FreeSync for smooth tearfree gameplay, the only downside with the 144Hz panel was PWM.
The battery life was fair considering the size, and while the lower specced G5 lasted longer as presumably lower tier hardware uses less power, it’s possible to upgrade the battery when buying which is a nice option to have.
Port selection is decent, but two USB 2.0 ports in 2020 even if you spend more on the $1300 config is a bit rough. The keyboard and touchpad were fine, no problems but nothing special, they did the job. The build quality is decent for a cheaper gaming laptop with this level of performance, but it was a little heavier compared to many others out there, and I wasn’t personally a fan of the dated grey looking exterior, but that’s personal preference.
Anyway at the end of the day I think the G5 is offering some great value at the entry level spec, being able to get above 1660 Ti performance with the 5600M at $880 USD is nice, just be prepared for the higher temperatures and lower quality screen unless you pay more to upgrade.