Dell G5 SE gaming laptop in progress: Peak AMD
"The Dell G5 SE is an extremely competitive midrange gaming laptop."
Excellent CPU performance
Great gaming performance for the price
Solid value across configurations
The benefits of AMD Smartshift are opaque
Nvidia does not manufacture PC processors. Intel doesn't make PC graphics cards – at least not yet. AMD is the only company that does both, and hopes that a more harmonious relationship between CPU and GPU can lead to additional performance.
The Dell G5 SE offers our first glimpse of this potential. It is equipped with both a Ryzen 7 4800H and the Radeon RX 5600M graphics card, the latest and greatest AMD it has to offer. Does it last?
On the outside there is not much to say about the Dell G5. It looks like it used to – robust and armor-like. It's the opposite of slim in almost every way.
The "SE" refers to what happens under this conservative exterior. Thanks to the Ryzen 7 4800H, this laptop offers eight cores and 16 threads of computing power. It also has 36 processing units and GDDR6 memory in the RX 5600M GPU. My test device was also equipped with 16 GB RAM, an SSD with 512 GB and a 144 Hz screen with 1080p – all for a cool $ 1,200. That is a very attractive price.
This is a gaming laptop, so I started with 3DMark. The results in Time Spy were very encouraging for AMD. It missed a midrange version of the Dell G7 that I tested in late 2019 and that was powered by a 9th generation Nvidia RTX 2060 and an Intel Core i7-9750H. A 5% gain isn't much in benchmarks, but a profit is a gain.
It's going crazy here. The G5 SE has managed to develop the best thin gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 2019, which we tested with the RTX 2070 Max-Q from Nvidia. This is impressive. The G5 SE is a chunky laptop by comparison, but it's also a lot cheaper.
The processor performance is strong in itself, but who is surprised with eight cores and 16 threads? AMD's mobile Ryzen blows Intel's 6-core gaming chips in Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5 out of the water. Again, the Razer Blade beats Cinebench Multi-Core by 49% and Handbrake by the same amount in video encoding. I'm not surprised, especially after reviewing other Ryzen 4000 laptops like the ROG Zephyrus G14 or Acer Swift 3.
However, the actual story is not just about these components. The real magic comes from working together.
Playing is a good place to start. Games load the GPU more than the CPU, but it's a combined effort that requires a balance between the components.
I tested three games: Civilization VI, Fortnite and Assassins Creed Odyssey.
Civilization VI is a CPU-intensive game, and this is where a Ryzen 4000 laptop can shine. There were only a few FPS (frames per second) behind the Razer Blade with an Nvidia RTX 2070 that reached 79 FPS in ultra settings. Compared to the Nvidia RTX 2060 in the Dell G7 I tested, you still see 19% better frame rates.
This trend continued in Fortnite. The AMD-powered G5 delivers 85 FPS with Epic settings, slightly behind the RTX 2060 in the G7 and the Zephyrus G14. You should probably set the settings to "High" to take better advantage of the laptop's refresh rate of 144 Hz. There the G5 SE achieved an average of 105 FPS.
The final challenge was Assassin's Creed Odyssey, a game that brought even the most powerful gaming laptops to a standstill. The gameplay was pretty smooth with an average of 53 FPS. With high quality – the middle setting of the game. At Ultra High, you drop to 44 FPS, which is still playable but a bit choppy.
All games were of course played at 1080p as this is the native resolution for the Dell G5 SE. As you can see, the RX 5600M isn't the most powerful graphics card in the world and sits comfortably between the Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti and the Nvidia RTX 2060. Fortunately, you can purchase a basic configuration of the G5 SE for as low a price as $ 880 that always still comes with the same GPU. This is great value compared to what you get from Nvidia at this price.
SmartShift in action
In addition to the new GPU and CPU, the Dell G5 SE also introduces AMD technology, which connects the two. It's called SmartShift, a way of organically sharing the energy between the two components. Every laptop has an upper limit on the performance it can play with. SmartShift uses AMD's InfinityFabric at both ends to transfer more power to the CPU or GPU when the thermal headroom allows – even beyond standard performance. According to AMD, SmartShift can lead to an up to 10% improved frame rate in games.
The problem is that SmartShift cannot be turned off. So I can't prove it works. My last attempt to test SmartShift was video rendering in Adobe Premiere Pro. I loaded a 2 minute 4K video clip and exported it to the ProRes 422 codec, carefully observing the power distribution between the CPU and GPU. Rendering video in Premiere is a task best suited for a processor with a high number of cores. However, you can also tap the graphics card. This way you can see how smart SmartShift really is.
The Dell G5 SE didn't share as much power as I expected. The GPU was only occasionally tapped to keep the processor in the spotlight. The rendering time of the Dell G5 SE was good and the export was completed in just under 8 minutes. It's pretty quick and beats Intel laptops like the Razer Blade. More expensive options such as the Dell XPS 15 or Microsoft Surface Book 3 surpass it by a few minutes.
SmartShift is designed to work with an automated algorithm that determines the best energy allocation from moment to moment. However, according to Dell, AMD must also whitelist applications to better optimize their performance.
Battery life, display and more
There's more to tell about the G5 SE, including battery life and display quality. I will continue my in-depth testing and will update this review soon.
While the effects of SmartShift remain opaque, the Dell G5 SE is still an example of how dominant AMD processors have become in consumer hardware. While the company's top-end GPUs still can't compete with Nvidia, the Dell G5 SE is a competitive mid-range gaming laptop for its price.
The Dell G5 SE was available for sale on the Dell website on May 21, starting at $ 880. The start configuration has a Ryzen 5 4600H with six cores, 8 GB RAM, an SSD with 256 GB and the same RX 5600M graphics card as in my test device.