PC gaming continues to be more popular than ever, and laptops continue to be the form factor of choice for many gamers. Over the past several years, gaming laptops have become thinner and lighter than ever. They’ve even begun to offer battery life that’s good enough to make them useful when not plugged into an outlet. In fact, the portability + power equation for gaming laptops has become so good that they are now a reasonable choice as a productivity laptop. This makes them a great option for many students. I just wrapped up testing on the Dell G3 (3500) gaming laptop. My review unit was a high-end configuration of an affordable gaming laptop. The Dell G3 may lack the flash of some premium gaming laptops, but it performed very well.
Unboxing the Dell G3
The first sign that the G3 (3500) is being positioned as an affordable laptop came with the packaging. Other Dell laptops like the XPS 13 I reviewed in July have arrived in posh-looking boxes. The G3 showed up in a plain, utilitarian cardboard box. Inside there was no cut foam packing, just more cardboard holding the laptop in place. At least all that cardboard qualifies as “green” packaging. And besides, it’s what’s inside that counts.
The laptop itself is a little on the plain side, black matte plastic with a chrome Dell logo on the lid and a bit of blue flourish. Once again, it’s what’s inside that counts. Pop the lid and several stickers give a strong hint about just how capable this laptop is: the promoted specs include a 15.6-inch Full HD display with 144Hz refresh rate, Nvidia Geforce RTX graphics, and a 10th generation Intel Core i7 CPU.
In other words, Dell may have shaved a few dollars off the cost by going with a plastic case, but the components inside are first rate. Also impressive is the wide array of ports on the laptop.
Portable (for a 15.6-inch laptop)
There are gaming laptops that are thinner and lighter than the Dell G3, but that sleek appearance comes with a higher price tag. At just over 2cm thick and weighing 2.34kg, no-one is going to mistake the G3 for an ultraportable. But for a high-powered, 15.6-inch laptop that’s not bad. It could certainly be carried around in a case or backpack.
The one piece that’s over-sized is the power brick. Gaming laptops tend to require large power supplies—no USB-C chargers for this class of devices—and the Dell G3s measures 20cm by 10cm and is as thick as the laptop itself. You definitely don’t want to be hauling it around.
Decent battery life for a high-powered gaming laptop
Fortunately, unless you plan to be using the laptop all day, you won’t need to lug that power adapter if you bring it to a cafe or classes. I tested the Dell G3 by streaming Netflix in 1080p, with battery settings at a modestly conservative level and the screen brightness turned up. I got just a bit over five hours of constant use under those conditions. Turn down the screen brightness a bit and get more aggressive with the battery settings and I suspect you could easily hit six hours. That’s not quite all-day use, but it’s long enough to be useful.
Dell G3 (3500) key specs (as tested):
Hands-on shows its gaming cred, productivity potential
The Dell G3 (3500) showed that it has serious gaming cred. I conscripted one of my gamer kids to give it a good workout. We ran Doom Eternal in 1080p resolution, with the settings at “Ultra Nightmare.” The laptop chewed through the game with smooth frame rates, and in silence. While his own gaming laptop sounded like jets taking off while playing the game at those settings, the Dell’s fans didn’t even come on while we were playing. That silence doesn’t extend to its audio output, which is enhanced through tuned stereo speakers that support Nahimic 3D Audio.
The things that make the Dell G3 a great gaming laptop also make it a possibility if you need a laptop for running productivity software. It has a large, Full HD display, plenty of power, plenty of storage (and very fast storage at that), every connectivity and port option you’d ever need, and it gets decent battery life. It even has an integrated webcam—something many gaming laptops omit. Students who are into PC gaming might want to consider the Dell G3 as an option that covers all the bases.
The only thing I didn’t really care for when using this laptop was the keyboard. With a 15.6-inch laptop, you have the advantage of the space for a full-sized keyboard. The Dell G3 has 4-zone RGB backlighting, so it looks good and it can be customized for games (using Alienware’s Command Center). The chiclet keys have decent responsiveness. But my review unit was equipped with a French/English keyboard with labelling that just felt crowded. It’s hardly the end of the world, and something that I would have gotten used to with time, but it threw me a bit when using the laptop for tasks other than gaming.
The Dell G3 3500 makes a compelling case as an affordable gaming (and productivity) laptop
At the end of my review session, the value proposition of the Dell G3 (3500) gaming laptop was clear. This is a laptop that delivers a top-notch mobile gaming experience. It is very usable as a a productivity laptop as well. And thanks to a relatively modest weight and decent battery life, it’s also portable. Just don’t expect premium touches like a super-slim metal case or an exterior LED light show.