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Dell has been making gaming laptops for more than a decade now, but its products haven’t typically been at the forefront of the conversation. As companies like Razer and Asus try to one-up each other with extravagant, futuristic designs aimed at desktop performance in an ostensibly mobile form factor, Dell has recently been looking to expand into that market. The Dell G7 Gaming Laptop is its latest attempt to take on those younger competitors — albeit in a very Dell-styled, inoffensively form-factored way.
Dell G7 17 Gaming Laptop Technical Specifications (As Tested)
- Intel Core i7 9750h
- Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU
- 16GB of DDR4 RAM
- 256GB M.2 drive
- 1TB SSD
- 1080p, 144hz display
- 60 WHr, 4-Cell Battery
- 3x USB 3.0 ports, USB-C port, HDMI output, DisplayPort, gigabit ethernet, SD card slot
An Office-Friendly Exterior (With Lots of Vents)
Dell’s design sensibility for the G7 avoids the aggressive posture of some other gaming notebooks. But it also isn’t the monolithic carbon slab you’ll find from some manufacturers. Instead, it’s kind of plain on the outside — there’s not much in the way of distinguishing elements. There is, however, a decent complement of expansion options, including three USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C port, an HDMI output, DisplayPort, gigabit ethernet and an SD card slot. And it’s impossible to ignore all the cooling. The G7’s chassis is flanked on its sides and rear with a lot of venting.
Opened up, the G7 is a little more curious. It’s not a proper clamshell. Instead, there’s somewhat of a bump on the rear of the notebook behind the screen, which leads to a fairly prominent bulge over the hinge. With the G7 opened, there are more curiosities afoot. The screen has a prominent bezel along its lower edge. This is likely to maintain a 16:9 aspect ratio for the screen, despite the G7’s included “full-sized” 10-key setup. This is a common feature of more dedicated gaming notebooks, though it’s not without consequences. The G7’s keyboard features narrower keys than most laptops that don’t need to squeeze in those extra four key columns. Additionally, the touchpad is also scooted to the left to sit in the middle of the main key layout.
Meanwhile, this is all set against LED backlights for the keyboard, which can be tweaked to your preference. The backlit keyboard is the only part of the G7’s presentation that really stands out as gaming-oriented. Otherwise, its design is clearly in keeping with Dell’s primary sensibilities.
This is all very functional, though I would prefer to have a more conventionally sized main keyboard over the 10-key input. As someone who moves from one system to another multiple times a day, adjusting my touch-typing to the G7’s smaller keys was always jarring. Of course, your mileage may vary.
The overall effect is a reasonably attractive visual package, but nothing especially impressive. It’s all fine. But what Dell includes inside the G7 is much more than fine.
Great Performance, With or Without Ray Tracing
Dell provided a 17-inch test model of the G7, with a Core i7 9750h, an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a dual solid state storage solution — a 256GB M.2 drive combined with a separate 1TB SSD. This is paired with a 1080p, 144hz display that supports high frame rate gaming, an increasingly common standard for notebooks of this class.
The G7’s 1080p display isn’t anything special resolution wise, but at these dimensions, 1080p is mostly fine. And at 1080p, the included Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU has the opportunity to shine, with great native performance across just about anything you might throw at it. I was able to dial Remedy’s ray-traced system smasher Control up to medium/high settings (more than enough for a 1080p display) with every ray-traced option on except for ray-traced debris, and hit frame rates around 60 just about all the time with Nvidia’s DLSS upsampling options.
On the version of the G7 I tested, Dota 2 was the only game in which I reliably hit frame rates above 80. It never seemed to peak above 120, no matter how low I scaled the rendering resolution or settings. It’s nice to have that kind of support, but I wouldn’t expect to reliably hit those kinds of frame rates in games like Fortnite, Apex or Overwatch.
A Fantastic Screen for More Than Just Games
Dell’s listed specs for the G7 17-inch cite a screen brightness of 300 nits. On top of that, Windows 10 actually lists the screen as HDR compliant — at least for movies and videos.
This is all a roundabout way of saying I found the G7’s screen great for watching movies. Colors and brights in Spider-Man: Far From Home and other HDR videos on YouTube really popped. Even darks were quite good for a laptop display — they weren’t blown out in HDR content and shadow detail was preserved pretty well. It doesn’t beat my expensive 4K TV, but come on, it’s a laptop.
Unfortunately, the G7 doesn’t support HDR in games. Windows 10’s most recent updates make managing HDR settings much simpler, with a toggle for HDR and a list of ways in which it can be implemented. In this case, the toggles for game and app content were grayed out, and even after downloading multiple HDR-capable games (including Gears 5 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice) I couldn’t find one that acknowledged the display was HDR ready.
It would be nice if the G7 did support HDR in games, but to be clear, Dell hasn’t made any mention of HDR with the G7. On the contrary, when contacted directly, Dell claimed the G7 does not have an HDR display, despite the fact that, well, it kind of does. Consider the good HDR movie performance (compared to other laptops) a cherry on top. Sure, the number of laptops with displays that support this content is growing, but it’s still a small pool, so the inclusion is worth appreciating.
Additional Things to Consider
This all adds up to a system that performs extremely well as a mobile gaming/media solution, albeit with a couple of notable caveats.
First, with the Nvidia GPU active in games, the G7 gets fairly loud, though not unusually so compared to other gaming notebooks. I left Dota 2‘s spectator mode running as I walked to another room, and could comfortably hear the fans faintly in the distance. Up close, it’s somewhat audible over low volume on headphones. Watching Spider-Man: Far From Home, the G7 was almost silent.
Unsurprisingly, but somewhat disappointingly, the G7’s onboard speakers are just not on the same level as its excellent display. The G7’s speakers get loud enough for a dorm room or even a desk, but the sound quality is not great. You’ll want to have some decent headphones on hand. Battery-wise, after a two-hour streaming movie I was sitting at 47% capacity, which is fine but not great.
Should You Buy the Dell G7?
The MSRP for the 17-inch G7 as tested is around $1800, but Dell is listing it for a much more reasonable $1479 (and opting for the 15″ display knocks the price down a bit more). And the even more capably equipped version with an Nvidia RTX 2070 GPU is just $20 more. At these prices, the G7 is an extremely attractive package that offers excellent results on its 1080p, 144hz display. If additional discounts are introduced, which seems likely given the competition, then it’s an even easier recommendation.
For general productivity, the G7 wouldn’t be my first choice. It makes compromises typical of many gaming notebooks that result in a less than ideal typing experience. But for games and movies on the go, in a dorm room or similar environment, the G7 is one of the better options I’ve had the chance to use. It’s not sacrificing performance for portability, and the viewing experience is better than many standalone PC monitors out there. If you’re looking for a gaming notebook with great performance and a look that isn’t obsessed with aggressive style, then the G7 is a great option.
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