Is the Alienware m15 we reviewed before too expensive for your wallet? Well, Dell offered us a budget conscious version of their gaming laptop in the form of the Dell G7 for review which will hopefully remedy this!
Let’s check it out.
What is the Dell G7?
The Dell G series is the mainstream line-up of their gaming laptops that can be considered as a budget variant of the Alienware brand of laptops made by Dell.
On the highest GPU configuration, this laptop can feature up to the GTX 1060/RTX 2070 series of laptops which offers a fair amount of horsepower to drive games at good quality settings at 1080p.
Packaging, Design & Build Quality
Our test unit comes shipped to us in what is best described as a “no-frills” packaging. Nothing fancy like the one you saw for the Alienware m15. The exterior doesn’t have anything much on it except for the Dell logo printed on the front; not much to say here.
Opening the package, it seems that they’ve also cut on the foam protection we’ve seen on the Alienware; Instead, it is replaced with a cardboard encasement that still adequately protects the sides and corners of the machine from the perils of shipping. Maybe less protected, but protected nonetheless.
Our package comes with the standard charger, adapter, manual and laptop with no additional accessories packaged inside.
Being of a more traditional gaming laptop design, the chassis is what you would expect for a budget friendly design. Dell has gone for a mostly “boxy” look with their chassis and therefore does not feature many curves; a bit more of an industrial looking design but I can get what they are going for here.
It features an all plastic exterior with a smooth finish with the usual blue Dell logo (made from shiny reflective plastic) in the front and center of the lid.
The keyboard deck, made of matte grey plastic, is very solid and rigid and offers no signs of flexing when the deck is being pushed.
The G series retains the forward-mounted lid design like the old Alienware laptops or the recently reviewed ASUS Zephyrus GX531. However, it seems to me that they’ve used only this additional spacing for more ventilation so the amount of laptop protruding beyond the edges of the laptop lid is not as pronounced as the old Alienware series’ design.
Dell seems to be going for a “stripe” look as part of their aesthetics as most of the back and front of the laptop has a stripped accent to it which also doubles as the ventilation grills of the device; a neat touch.
The lid features a singular hinge design unlike the m15 model but feels solid nonetheless. Curiously, Dell is one of the few companies that I’ve seen to adopt this particular hinge design as it does come with a weakness of not being particularly stable on the bottom corners of the screen; though this doesn’t really matter under most circumstances.
This is presumably done for wear and tear purposes as a large hinge is less likely to break under force or repeated use than two smaller hinges.
The lid takes just the right amount of force to open and you can comfortably open the device with one hand, suggesting an even weight distribution.
The weight is listed as 2.85Kg with a ~240g 180w adapter. Dell breaks no records here for portability but it really wasn’t their main priority in the first place.
With the mid-tier hardware inside, do not expect long performance figures if you do want to game on the go with the 1060 Max-Q.
The Dell G7 features a full-sized keyboard complete with a numpad which is standard fare for gaming laptops of this size. The keys feature a black-on-blue design with “WASD” being accented with a blue outline; something most gaming laptops have forgone in the recent years so it’s interesting to see it back again on the Dell G7.
Unfortunately for some, only a singular blue-led lighting is available for the color of the keys and there is only a single zone for the keyboard; several control modes and brightness settings like solid lights or pulse is still available for the user to tweak, though.
For some reason, Dell has chosen to go with relatively low-travel keys on a chassis with more than enough thickness to accommodate for the higher key travel distance.
Typing on this feels akin to typing on an Ultrabook or a thin and light device; albeit only marginally better. To its credit, the tactile feedback is actually quite good and gives a satisfying bump when hitting and releasing the keys; if only marred by the low key travel and (hence) actuation force.
Anecdotal evidence suggests this to be a moderately difficult to use keyboard. On a game of Type Racer based on a 5 run average, it scored a little lower than most; coming in at only 75 words per minute.
I think that this is due to the relatively small size of the keys that they have gone for compared to a more traditional gaming laptop keyboard. It made me miss keys when typing as at times I would fail to hit the correct key; I figured they are about 10-15% smaller in this case approximately and the difference was enough to lower my typing speed by a small amount.
Of course, (and I need to stress this part) this shouldn’t be a huge deal once you get used to the size of the keys on this particular laptop.
The trackpad is a nice, simple design with light blue accents that surrounds the touchpad area. It features a popular uniform trackpad design that has no separate left and right keys built into the touch area of the trackpad.
It is smooth to the touch with a slightly grainy texture. The material seems to be quite resistant to any kind of fingerprint oils as I was barely able to see any trace of it after using the trackpad for about 2 hours; kudos to Dell on that one.
The accuracy however, leaves much to be desired. I found navigating the mouse to be pretty accurate but the same could not be said about the left and right clicks.
Often, I would left click on something square center on the left side of the trackpad and nothing would be selected; Dell should consider replacing the trackpad model to the one from the m15 as that worked without any hitches.
Wi-Fi, Connectivity & Storage
Dell uses the same Intel AC9560 chipset we’ve seen appear on the ASUS laptops and frequent readers of our reviews should know what to expect for this chip.
In our steam download test where we download large steam games using a 5Ghz network with the laptop placed approximately 5m away from the router, we achieved an average download speed of 21MB/s and a peak download of 31MB/s which comfortably beats all the Laptops we’ve tested so far; if only by a little.
Do take note that once again we’re downloading this to the 1Tb mechanical hard drive so the write speeds could be higher if it were not limited by the storage medium.
On the connectivity portion, the Dell G7 has all the bases covered. Below is the full list of ports you would get on this device:
- 1x Audio Combo jack
- 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type A
- 1x USB Type C Gen1
- 1x HDMI 2.0
- 1x Noble lock
- 1x Ethernet port
- 1x SD Card slot
A SD card slot is always nice to see and I will briefly test the speed in the subsection right below. I don’t think anyone would be complaining about the lack of port selection here except perhaps having a Type C gen 2 instead for passive charging when the laptop is off.
A slight downside to the SD card slot is that only half the card would be slotted into the laptop (insert it’s too big comments here); not a big issue, but still something that I would like to point out.
Storage options are typical for a gaming device with a combination of 1 NvMe M.2 slot and a 2.5” Hard Disk Drive bay. Dell has chosen to go with 256Gb SKHynix SC311 drive as the boot partition and a WD 1Tb 5400 RPM drive as the main partition.
While both are sufficient for use, achieving manufacturer rated speeds, I can’t help but wonder if a SATA-based M.2 is the way to go as lower capacity NvMe drive is plenty cheap right now with prices crashing due to oversupply. Nonetheless, it comes decently configured for the budget conscious.
I would still recommend to upgrade to a larger or faster SSD though, personally.
SD card slot
It is unfortunate that the read/write speeds from the SD card slot isn’t very good as it fails to achieve the typical speeds of my UHS-1 SanDisk Extreme Pro 128Gb coming in at about ~25% the rated speeds.
Still, the very fact that Dell included an SD card slot is reason enough to give thanks, even if the performance is a bit on weak side.
Pricing, Specs and Comparison
At a suggested retail price of $2,199, it just at about the price you would expect for a configuration like this.
Here’s a look at comparable models.
|Dell G7||ASUS FX505GM||Clevo P960RD|
|GPU||GTX 1060 Max-Q||GTX 1060||RTX 2060|
|Storage||1Tb HDD + 256Gb SSD||1Tb HDD + 256Gb SSD||1Tb HDD + 512Gb M.2 SATA SSD|
|Display||60 Hz 1080p IPS||60 Hz 1080p IPS||144Hz AHVA|
|Wireless||Intel AC 9560||Unknown||Intel 9560|
|Warranty||3 Years||2 Years International||2 Years|
On the bright side, Dell (at least in Singapore) provides very competitive warranties on their products at the base level so they’ve got that going for them.
Performance, Cooling & Synthetic Benchmarks
Cooling seems to be a priority of the device as Dell has definitely prioritized maintaining reasonable thermals and noise over performance through the fan curves and BIOs.
In our Cinebench R20 CPU stress test, we noted that the i7-8750H CPU never went beyond the 80-degree Celsius mark; however, it came at the price of underwhelming performance when compared to its peers using the same CPU.
It only managed to reach an all core speed of 2.75Ghz which was a far cry from the 3.1Ghz we saw from the Zephyrus model that is the thinner and lighter of the two. Granted, the noise from the Dell G7 never reached the noise level that we had on the Zephyrus laptop.
On the GPU side, once again we see the same kind of deal as with the CPU; Dell has set a generous thermal limit of 96 degrees Celsius on their 1060 Max-Q but this GPU simply doesn’t hit those kinds of temperatures using the stock settings provided.
Moving on over to the combined GPU/CPU stress test of TimeSpy, the low thermal results show up yet again (albeit again at the cost of slightly lower performance) as the CPU only hit a high of 86 degrees while the GPU is staying at a nice and cool 74 degree Celsius average (hovering from 72 to 76 degrees in my testing) depending on the scene with clocks hovering between a respectable 1500 – 1600 Mhz range.
Overall surface temperatures remain fine even in these stress test scenarios and nothing on the keyboard deck gets especially too hot to touch. Since the primary exhaust is through the back, it is advised to not touch the very top of the deck near the hinge of the lid though I find using the function keys to still be within acceptable temperatures for touching.
Overall, a pretty good result in my opinion.
Gaming Benchmarks – Gaming on a budget
The 1060 Max-Q performs admirably for the GPU in the mid-range class which produces more than acceptable framerates for modern titles in 1080p using a mix of High/Ultra settings. Since we are installing the game on a slower 5400RPM Hard Drive, expect some stuttering to happen due to data streaming for the more intensive games we have in our test suite.
As per usual, we are going to aim for the minimum playable framerates of 30fps for all our settings in 1080p to give you an idea of what settings you should expect per game.
In our legacy title testing with GTA V, it ran just about as well as you should expect. It averaged over 60 fps scoring an average of 63 fps on Ultra settings and doesn’t go below the low 50s during gameplay.
It also achieved a good result in our FF14 benchmark scoring 10780 on the maximum preset available for the game and never dipped below 60 fps except under the most intense of situations with lots of effects on the screen (the minimum fps recorded is 48fps which is still highly playable).
In our modern titles, the 1060 Max-Q can be expected to keep pace with the most demanding titles so long as you are not gunning for max settings on all titles. In more storage intensive games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we see a rather poor minimum framerate here due to the slower nature of the HDD which is to be expected.
Metro Exodus still proved to be a challenge for the 1060 Max-Q to handle. We found that turning off some of the more graphically intensive settings such as Advanced PhyX and Hairworks will help with the framerates in the game.
Display & Sound
Dell has gone for an LG Phillips 1080p IPS display (model: LGD053F part: 156WF6) that could be considered average at best. While a 60Hz display can be considered relatively meagre these days, it is still a good fit for the 1060 Max-Q as high framerates can really only be achieved with older, less demanding titles. There is also no G-Sync on this display, however, as Nvidia Optimus is active on this laptop.
The display is not particularly bright under normal circumstances even at full brightness; but the matte finish of the laptop does reduce some of the glare if you were to be out on a particularly sunny day. Users can expect to use this comfortably indoors at about 40 to 50% brightness.
The contrast and color of this panel are average and I did find some color shifting due to low brightness when viewed from extreme angles but that is usually not too much of a concern.
While we are still unable to determine the metrics of the display, that can easily be looked up through the magic of the internet. The metrics reveal a less than stellar performance in the color reproduction category (averaging at about 60% sRGB) so I would advice to not buy this laptop for content creation.
The display works fine for content viewing and gaming, however, where color reproduction is not super important or integral to the experience.
The audio on the device is powered by an unknown Realtek chipset through the two left and right speakers from the front of the laptop; a slightly unusual placement as most manufacturers place them by the side instead. The speaker holds up well with loud volumes as playing on the maximum doesn’t seem to cause any discernible distortion to the music; do take note that because of the speaker placement, the volume is considerably louder for the user using the laptop. Users not looking to fill the room with music will have a comfortable experience at 40 to 50% volume.
Listening to On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons from a lossless source, I put this setup to the test with a fairly distributed range of sounds from the high of the tambourines, claps and whistles, to the mids of the vocals and the lows of the beats and drums.
Right away on the initial instrumental and the start of the song, I noticed the speaker placement had changed the acoustics a little; the sounds are a little brighter and prevents some amount of echo from reverberating from the bottom of the table, nice.
It is also here that I also unfortunately noticed that the sound of the claps is a little muddy and not as high quality as it should be; indicating a weakness in the highs.
The mainly mid-tone vocals are good, however and the delivery of the chorus was solid so no complains from me here. The nit-picking side of me will comment that there is slightly too much echo on the vocals but I think it’s fine for laptop-quality speakers. The base of the song that consists of the beats and drums is okay but doesn’t really deliver on the punch you’d expect from the speakers.
Overall, I’d rate the sound quality to be slightly above average. It certainly didn’t really reach the quality that the m15 had delivered but still offers decent performance for what is considered to be a budget gaming chassis.
The Dell G7 carries a relatively big battery relative to the competition (that is also configured to have a 2.5” HDD drive bay) which helps with the battery life. Putting it to our YouTube loop test where we loop a YouTube music video at 50% brightness and volume, we see great results here at 3Hrs 15Mins of runtime. Users can expect about 4Hrs of total runtime doing productivity tasks.
The battery was also taking an average amount of time to charge, coming in at about 1Hrs 10Mins with the battery fully drained and powered off.
Taking a quick gander into the internals reveal an easy to open hatch design that facilitates minor troubleshooting and replacement. There is no trouble in removing the one (yes, singular) Philips screw at the back of the laptop to access much of the internals. Kudos to Dell for such easy access to the laptop; just pry along the edges of the frame till the clips snap open. Upon opening the hatch, the battery, HDD, SSD and RAM slots are easily accessed for your replacement needs.
Unfortunately, further disassembly is required to remove the metal ‘frame’ of the laptop in order to access the heat pipes for removal. I assume this was to increase the rigidity of the laptop (rather than hamper any repasting or troubleshooting process) and it seems to work as intended.
Dell has put out a product that is quite middle of the pack, all things considered.
On one hand, Dell has packed a lot of weight/tweaks into the Dell G7 to maintain good thermals and reasonable noise levels. On the other, there is nothing particularly stand-out about this laptop in the general categories of price/performance/portability other than the solid build quality.
This laptop has its audience geared towards those who doesn’t want to do any tweaks on their machine as it is perfectly serviceable as it is. So, if you are one of these people, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Dell G7!
The Dell G7 doesn’t ‘wow’ in any aspects I’ve tested but stands above average for some of it. It’s a workhorse of a machine that is a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none; a perfectly average machine with no strong or weak points (except for the weight, if one can argue).
|The Good||The Bad|
|+ Excellent Wi-Fi||– No secondary M.2 slot|
|+ Competitive warranty||– Relatively heavy for the class of laptop|
| + Good cooling for the hardware|
(Prioritizes noise and thermals over
performance which some might prefer)
|– SD card slot speed|
|+ Rigid build quality|