Dell G5 Gaming Desktop review: Dorm room gaming done right

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Dell G5 Gaming Desktop review: Dorm room gaming done right

“The Dell G5 Gaming Desktop delivers solid 1080p PC gaming in a surprisingly small package.”
  • Affordable starting price
  • Extremely compact
  • Accessible front ports
  • All configurations come with SSD
  • Fan noise can be loud
  • A bit difficult to upgrade

The mid-size tower is the Goldilocks of desktops. The size provides ample space for tinkering and upgrading without entirely commandeering your desk surface.

But Dell’s G5 Gaming Desktop takes a different approach. The $589 system isn’t for modders and DIYers. It’s for the person who wants to get into PC gaming without the hassle. If that’s you, you might be surprised by what this little desktop can do.

Metal aquarium

The G5’s more pedestrian aesthetic does little to distinguish it from the sea of black PC boxes commonly found in office environments, but this desktop’s demure appearances cloak powerful performance. Defined by a rectangular black box design with a metal construction and a tempered glass window to give it a more modern appearance, the unit feels a lot sturdier than its small size would have you believe.

The only notable design element on this PC is its plastic front plate, which is defined by a series of striated lines arranged in a cross-hatch pattern and a very bright blue glowing LED strip that appears diagonally towards the middle on the front.

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Sharing the same glass and metal fish tank-like construction as larger mid-sized towers, like HP’s Omen Obelisk, Digital Storm’s Lynx, or Origin PC’s Neuron, the G5 makes way with just a single side tempered glass window instead of two, a choice made both as an attempt to keep costs at bay and out of necessity, as the small volume of the G5 means that everything is packed in with little space to provide visual interest on the opposite side of the case.

Another difference between the G5 and its larger rivals is size. Even though this makes the 11.45 x 12.12 x 6.65-inch G5 approximately just 2 inches shorter and less deep than the 17.1 x 14.1 x 6.5-inch HP Omen Obelisk, Dell’s desktop is impressively 25% smaller in volume. At this size, it’s still not quite as compact as small form factor PCs, like Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC, but the G5 can still go where most mid-sized towers cannot, making it a win for small dorm rooms.

You get similar performance out of the G5 in its smaller footprint than beefier rigs.

The small size means that the G5 is only able to accommodate one graphics card, rather than the dual graphics support on many of its more premium rivals. However, with upgraded configurations and in an apples-to-apples comparison with a single GPU build, you still get similar performance out of the G5 in a smaller footprint than beefier rigs.

Easily accessible ports are arranged vertically along the right edge on the front, and there’s also a modern USB-C port alongside a trio of USB-A ports to handle all your peripherals. On the rear, ports are more sparse. You’ll find six USB-A ports – four USB 3.1 and two USB 2.0 – along with an Ethernet jack and audio connectors on the motherboard.

Concessions and tradeoffs

There’s plenty to love about the G5 desktop. At its $589 base price, you’re getting a very capable casual gaming system. Our Intel Core i7-9700 review unit is paired with GeForce GTX 1660 graphics, making it a solid system for Office tasks, web browsing, media consumption, and 1080p gaming.

Additionally, the G5’s discrete GPU makes it versatile enough for casual creative work, so this desktop is a solid purchase for college students who may need to touch up photos, create graphics, or edit videos.

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All configurations of the G5 come with an NVMe solid-state drive, ensuring consistently fast performance. While you’ll get a larger SSD on upgraded configurations, the base model pairs its modest 128GB of solid-state storage alongside a more capacious 1TB hard drive – albeit one that spins at a slower 5400 RPM – to handle your files.

Though the G5 can accept a full-length M.2 2280 SSD, our review unit comes equipped with a shorter 2230 length 512GB drive from Toshiba. If you need more space, there are two empty bays to add 2.5-inch drives up top and a 3.5-inch slot in front.

The internals are neatly organized, a necessity given the see-through glass window, but the LED lighting still feels primitive compared to more advanced options on Digital Storm’s Lynx. Accessing the internals is a relatively easy affair.

The G5 desktop is limited to just two fans and no liquid cooling, so the system hums slightly louder than competitors.

The metal thumbscrews on the rear makes popping open the windowed glass panel a tool-less job, but I found the screw holes somewhat tight – perhaps Dell allowed for more tolerance in the G5’s design to keep costs low. For modders, the challenge will be finding pieces that will fit the PC’s small space. Dell’s use of a custom motherboard with an Intel H370 chipset inside the G5 to make use of the little available internal space.

Our unit comes configured with two 16 GB RAM modules, with two empty slots to get a total of 64GB of memory, and there are an x1 and an x4 slot to add additional cards. Given their bigger volume and reliance on more standard components, both HP’s Omen Obelisk and Digital Storm’s Lynx are easier to upgrade and modify for more experienced enthusiasts.

Liquid cooling is also absent on this small unit, with cooling handled by two internal 80mm fans. Given the powerful components inside, especially if you have an upgraded build, you’ll want to ensure that the vents aren’t clogged by dust to ensure maximum airflow. Because the G5 desktop is limited to just two fans and no liquid cooling, the system hums slightly louder than competing mid-sized towers that rely on more fans, like Falcon Northwest’s Talon 20th Anniversary Edition. There’s also a 460W power supply unit.

Faster than what you’d expect

Despite some of the challenges with upgradeability due to the G5’s limited internal space, you’ll still find plenty of performance on this unit. It might not be the powerhouse that is the Alienware Aurora, but if you’re largely playing your games at 1080p resolution, the G5 delivers satisfying performance.

The 8-core, 8-threaded Intel Core i7-9700 processor on the G5 scored 1,255 points and 7,120 points respectively on Geekbench 5’s single-core and multi-core benchmarks. These synthetic scores gives the G5 similar performance as Asus’ Zenbook Pro Duo, which is equipped with a mobile Core i9-9980HK silicon.

The Ryzen 9 3950X-rquipped Alienware Aurora R10, for comparison, achieved a similar single-core result, but outperforms the G5 with nearly 14,000 points in the multi-core test. The speedy performance of the G5 is also aided by a relatively speedy solid-state drive, which makes accessing and transferring files fast.

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Though it’s not the quickest drive we’ve tested, the 512GB Toshiba M.2 2230 SSD is a svelte performer in our SSD performance benchmark and video encoding tests.

When tested with the synthetic 3DMark graphics benchmark, the G5 scored 6,825 points on the Time Spy test. The desktop class graphics here outperforms the mid-3,000 points achieved on Dell’s G5 gaming laptop equipped with mobile GTX 1650 graphics. Still, the G5’s desktop GPU’s performance is roughly half of what Nvidia’s flagship RTX 2080 Ti graphics card is capable of on the same test.

Given the performance of the GPU here, we’d expect most games perform well at 1080p.

In our gaming tests, the GTX 1660 was able to keep up, delivering well over 60 frames-per-second on popular titles like Fortnite, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Civilization VI, and Battlefield V when played at 1080p, even when played at higher game settings.

On less graphics-intensive titles, like Civilization VI and Fortnite, the GTX 1660 graphics was able to perform at above 90-95 FPS on average in 1440p resolutions. Titles like Battlefield V and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey that are more graphics intensive will show signs of stuttering at 2K resolution, with dropped frames and lags, but you’re still getting between 50 to 60 FPS, even at upgraded game settings.

Given the performance of the GPU here, we’d expect most games perform well at 1080p, while less intensive titles should even get by at 1440p.

Weighed down by bloat

Though the limited size of the G5 means that Dell wasn’t able to add in much extra in terms of hardware, the company had more room for software upgrades. Some of the pre-installed software, like Alienware Command Center, will be useful to monitor system performance, but other titles weighed down the system.

I found the system to be more responsive when I uninstalled the preloaded McAfee security suite, and Candy Crush seemed like a futile addition to a desktop that’s intended to cater to more serious gamers. You’ll also find a VPN software, Dropbox, and Netflix alongside these titles, so value will be a mixed bag depending on what you use.

Our take

Despite going up to configurations that support high-end PC gaming silicon options, the G5 is a PC that’s not made for gaming enthusiasts. From its affordable price tag to its compact footprint, casual gamers not as interested in opening up their desktops to tinker with PC components will find lots to love about the G5.

Modders won’t be able to add liquid radiators or more advanced custom cooling solutions to squeeze out extra performance on this rig, but if you want a PC that fulfills your needs today, the G5 does the trick.

Is there a better alternative?

HP’s Omen Obelisk is a very capable challenger to our $1,169 review configuration of Dell’s G5 desktop, which starts at a competitive $799 price. Like the G5 desktop, the Omen Obelisk comes in a wide range of configurations that tops out with RTX 2080 graphics. However, the Omen Obelisk is a PC that will likely be able to grow with you, as it relies on more standard components and a slightly larger case design making upgrades easier to perform.

The Digital Storm Lynx starts at $699, and a configuration with an Intel Core i7-9700F, GTX 1650 graphics, 8GB of RAM and 240GB sells for $999. Like the Omen Obelisk, the Lynx benefits from a larger case design, making upgrades less challenging than the G5 desktop. With a more sophisticated RGB lighting system, more fans to keep cool, and liquid-cooled CPU options, the Lynx is also more aesthetically pleasing to look at than the G5. And with the ability to add in a second graphics card, the Lynx may be a smarter buy for modders who aren’t afraid of digging into their rigs.

How long will it last?

Gamers looking to play at 1080p should get at least a few years of satisfaction out of the G5, but given that upgrades can be more challenging on the more compact case design, this rig may not be the most future-proof desktop design on the market today. While the G5 definitely provides a lot of bang for your buck today, especially for college students and beginning gamers. Just don’t expect to make major upgrades to the G5 in the future as your needs grow.

As typical of most consumer PCs, the G5 comes with a standard one-year limited warranty covering parts and labor. Dell also offers a variety of warranty upgrades that lengthens the coverage to four years, adds accidental damage protection, or both. Dell’s top Premium Support Plus plan that comes with four years of coverage along with accidental protection adds $309 to the cost of your purchase, or just less than half the price of the base G5 configuration.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Defined by its compact size, solid performance, and affordable price, the G5 is a solid gaming desktop for students and beginners with a more limited budget. The compact case design also makes the G5 ideal for smaller spaces, like dorm rooms and bedroom offices.

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