Dell has reinvented its gaming-laptop lineup this year, separating its former Inspiron gaming machines from its non-gaming Inspirons by splitting the gamers off into their own “G” series, replete with fresh designs. The G7 15 family (starts at $849.99) is one of these newcomers, straddling the line between entry-level and midrange pricing and power. You can get one of these laptops configured for well under $1,000, but our $1,209.99 test unit packs an Nvidia Max-Q GeForce GTX 1060 to provide enough juice for 60-frame-per-second (fps) HD gaming, in most cases. The build is basic, but it’s relatively slim and well-made, and our unit has both a speedy solid-state drive (SSD) and a big hard drive for storing lots of games. The Lenovo Legion Y530 remains our Editors’ Choice for its design and price, but if you have a little more money in your budget and are tempted by higher frame rates, the Dell G7 15 in GTX 1060 trim is worth considering.
Inspired by Inspiron
The G7 15’s build, like its price, is just a step above its entry-level contemporaries. The G series is all-new, but the Inspiron heritage is clear in the G7 15’s design, even with some changes.
The chassis is made entirely of plastic, but it is solidly built, with little to no flex. This test unit has Dell’s alpine white lid, which looks clean and sharp. (The alternative is a black lid.) A metallic, light-blue Dell logo adorns the center.
Still, the build is a step below those of some more-premium machines, which tend to use a nicer metal material or an alloy for all or part of the chassis. The G7 15 looks and feels slightly nicer than average, but it doesn’t buck the “affordable” vibe entirely. The white-and-light-blue color scheme (also present on the rear edge’s ventilation zone and on the keys) is a refreshing combination, taken as a whole.
The G7 15’s thick screen bezels don’t do the design any favors, though. Despite the 15.6-inch screen, the G7 15 looks more like a 17-incher at first blush, and there’s just a lot of plastic everywhere. As such, it has a relatively wide footprint, at 0.98 by 15.32 by 10.82 inches (HWD), though it’s pretty thin and not too heavy, at 5.82 pounds.
Laptops that can house and cool an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip generally need to be a bit on the larger side, but the relative slimness of the G7 15 is made possible by Nvidia’s Max-Q design. The G7 15 includes a Max-Q version of the GeForce GTX 1060, which means its performance ceiling is capped to limit heat output. That mandates less room for cooling hardware and allows Dell to fit this GeForce chip into a slimmer chassis.
Of course, even a Max-Q GeForce GTX 1060 requires a bit more room for thermals than a GTX 1050, so the Lenovo Legion Y530 looks compact in comparison, at 0.95 by 14.37 by 10.24 inches (HWD), and weighing in at 5.1 pounds. The Acer Nitro 5 is a closer match, at 1.05 by 15.35 by 10.47 inches and 5.95 pounds, while the Acer Predator Helios 300 tops the pile, at 1.1 by 15.4 by 10.4 inches and 5.95 pounds. The last is really an almost negligible difference, considering that the Predator Helios 300 machine fits a full-power GTX 1060 inside.
The Keyboard and Display Are Okay
First up, I fingered the keyboard. The keys are very shallow, with little travel to speak of. It’s not as extreme as the controversial Apple MacBook or MacBook Pro keyboard, but it evokes the same typing-on-a-flat-surface feeling. Also, the keys’ backlighting is dark blue, a shade that looks just a bit off from the rest of the laptop’s color scheme. A matching lighter blue or white light would make more sense, but it’s a relatively minor complaint, and the key caps do take on the darker color when lit. The Legion Y530’s keyboard, for one, simply looks and feels better, though you do get a full number pad on the G7 15 if you need one.
The G7 15’s touchpad is decent, somewhere between the cheaper, overly clicky type found on the most budget-minded systems and the ones on higher-end samples. The pad lacks dedicated left and right click buttons—a small light-blue line demarcates those click areas instead. The speakers, as usual for these types of systems, are serviceable. They can crank up pretty loud, but the quality drops off at maximum volume, and the bass response is mostly out to lunch.
To my eyes, the display appears larger than it is because of the big bezels surrounding it, but it definitely looks its full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution. The picture quality is so-so despite the fact that it’s an in-plane-switching (IPS) panel; a matte finish dulls the proceedings somewhat. The maximum brightness is a bit underwhelming, and the image quality on the desktop lacks just a bit of sharpness, to my eyes.
The screen’s 1080p native resolution is a good fit for the components, though, as the G7 15’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 isn’t able to power resolutions higher than that very smoothly while gaming. Full HD also matches the displays of pretty much every one of the G7 15’s contemporaries in this price range (not to mention, plenty of those at several hundred dollars more).
Ports are plentiful here and even include a nice surprise. You get three USB 3.1 ports, an HDMI connection, an Ethernet jack, an SD card slot, and a headphone jack. The unexpected addition is a USB Type-C port with support for Thunderbolt 3, typically found only on more expensive machines. The Legion Y530 has a USB-C port of its own, but it does not offer Thunderbolt 3’s breakneck transfer speeds.
Inside our configuration, there is both a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive for mass storage and a small-but-speedy 128GB SSD serving as the boot drive. This is a strong combination for gaming machines—the fast SSD is useful for quick bootups into Windows 10 and shorter load times on any application installed on the SSD. Games take up a lot of space, though, so having only a small-capacity SSD (like on the Legion Y530 unit we reviewed) can feel cramped if you’re a game pack-rat. In the case of this G7 15 configuration, most games will end up on the roomy hard drive, while the SSD gets reserved for your favorites or the titles that benefit most from quicker load times.
Testing the Processing Prowess
For the price, the G7 15 has a lot to like in terms of performance.
This unit includes a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 16GB of memory, and, as mentioned, a Max-Q version of the GeForce GTX 1060 (more on that below). The eighth-generation “Coffee Lake” CPU is very efficient—as we’ve seen on some other systems, these relatively new processors regularly achieve scores that, in the past, were seen only on pricey systems. This specific CPU is a six-core, 12-thread beastie, and that muscle is reflected in the CPU-grinding tests below.
For one thing, the new average for PCMark 8 results keeps rising, as evidenced by the solid result posted by the G7 15. Its multimedia scores, in particular, demonstrate its processing capability. Compared to the Legion Y530 and Acer Nitro 5’s Core i5 CPUs, the G7 15’s Core i7 bumps up the performance just a bit further. Though meant primarily as a gaming laptop, the G7 15 can pull off other jobs if you do media work on the side. It may not be perfect as a primary professional workstation, but it’s got chops for casual and semi-pro work.
A standard GeForce GTX 1060 is a solid graphics chip for less-expensive systems, capable of 60fps at 1080p in most titles. With a Max-Q GeForce GTX 1060, the G7 15’s 3D prowess is slightly below that of a standard GTX 1060-bearing laptop, but not dramatically so. You can look at the performance of the Predator Helios 300 for that comparison, and note that it’s only $99 more than the G7 15 for the full-power GTX 1060 (though in a slightly chunkier, and to my eyes, less attractive build).
Crucially, the Max-Q GTX 1060 is still much more powerful than a GTX 1050, and this is where the G7 15 showed the most daylight between it and the Legion Y530. On the Heaven and Valley tests on Ultra quality settings, where the Lenovo laptop fought to stay above 30fps, the G7 15 cruised at more than 60fps.
The G7 15 fared slightly worse on retail game testing; I used the benchmarks built into the games Rise of the Tomb Raider and Far Cry 5. It averaged 55fps and 63fps, respectively, on these tests on maximum settings, a notable dip from the synthetic benchmarks. Again, the Predator Helios 300’s full-power GTX 1060 did better here, staying above 60fps on both tests, for just a bit more cash.
Hovering near or below 60fps means you might see some unsightly frame drops during gameplay if you’re attempting to play these games at top settings. If this arises, you’ll want to bump some visual effects down a notch, but it’s also a reasonable expectation for a Max-Q GeForce GTX 1060, which is hardly the top-tier card in Nvidia’s hierarchy. I’d maintain that it’s rather impressive of the card to nail or come close to 60fps with all the detail settings cranked up on these modern, demanding titles, but regardless, you’ll have to make a couple of compromises for this more modestly priced system.
The G7 15’s battery life is nothing to write home about, enduring for 5 hours and 46 minutes (5:46) on our video rundown test. That’s not the two- or three-hour battery lives of some 17-inch behemoths, but it’s far from all-day runtime. Still, it allows you to take the G7 15 off the charger for a while without worry, whether that’s to your living room or to class for a couple of hours.
The Lenovo Legion Y530 fared better, at 7:59, while the Acer Nitro 5 lasted a tad longer than the Dell, at 6:22. The Predator Helios 300 flunked this particular test, coming in at just 3:58, so be aware that even a modest battery is not a given in this laptop class.
Gaming Power at a Fair Price
The G7 15 is a fine entry in Dell’s revamped gaming line, even if it doesn’t have any one bowl-you-over feature or design aspect. The performance is respectable for the price, nailing or nearing 60fps in full HD at maximum settings in recent games, which is the most you can expect in a cost-conscious machine. The G7 15, as this test unit was configured, neither undercuts the market nor overcharges you. The inclusion of Max-Q keeps the laptop relatively thin, though its overall footprint is a bit beefy.
Still, the true slick designs are reserved for much pricier gamers like the Razer Blade, so something has to give to keep the cost low. The Lenovo Legion Y530 remains our Editors’ Choice for budget gaming laptops, thanks to its spiffy build and low cost, best embodying the budget category. Consider the Dell G7 15, however, if you have a bit more to spend and if getting into a GeForce GTX 1060 by any means, even in a Max-Q configuration, sounds more appealing than the numbers you see from a GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti model.
The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a broadly similar alternative, and to our eyes, the choice between it and the G7 15 comes mainly down to personal preference. That Acer model has a shorter battery life, but it does offer a part-metal chassis and a full-fat GTX 1060 for just shy of $100 more, as we tested it.