Dell G15 Ryzen Edition Review: Just One Small Flaw
Updated: Oct 21, 2021
For the past few reviews, we focused on high-end gaming laptops and they are awesome, no doubt about it. But not everybody can easily afford to pay that kind of money for a laptop. So today, let’s take a look at something that’s quite a lot more affordable.
This is the Dell G15 and as you can tell from the name, it’s part of the G-Series from Dell which is their line of value-oriented gaming laptops. To be more specific, the model that we have with us is the 5515, which is the AMD Ryzen variant. If Ryzen isn’t to your liking, the G15 does also come in an Intel variant and that model would be the 5510.
Now, depending on where you are, the SKUs available may vary. But the top-end configuration should get you a Ryzen 7 5800H, a GeForce RTX 3060 with a 115W TGP, 16GB of DDR4 RAM running at 3200MHz and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD.
You can get this entire package for a price of under US$1500 or just about S$2800, which ironically, isn’t actually that affordable per see. But Dell usually has promotions and deals going on and as of this recording, you can get this laptop for about US$1100 or S$2300. At that price, especially for people in the US, it’s definitely far more value for money.
With that said, this laptop has some serious flaws pertaining to performance and temperatures and we are definitely going to address them. But first, let’s talk about the design.
Now hold up! If you’ve been reading up till this point, fret not about the serious flaws we just mentioned for Dell has managed to fix it with the latest BIOS update! If you would like to know more about what kind of flaws it initially had, go on, read on. But if you already know everything about this laptop and want to know how to solve the issue which quite a few people have been facing? Check out our latest video where we go over the fixes and the updates which the new BIOS update brings for the Dell G15 Ryzen Edition.
TL;DR – Download the latest BIOS update and enjoy lower temperatures without affecting performance. Happy gaming!
So from here on, it’s back to the original review!
Now, the design is still arguably distinctly G-Series but it has gotten a slight facelift. Dell has also gone ahead and done a little something different with the coating, adding speckles all around which does help break up the overall monotone colour scheme of the G15 while giving it a little bit of character. Overall, it is a simple and clean design that is definitely much better than the previous generation.
With that said, make no mistake. It is still a rather thick laptop and is quite heavy by today’s standards, coming in at about 2.6kg or 5.66lb.
As for the display, it is a 15.6-inch 1080p IPS display with a 165Hz refresh rate, covers 100% sRGB and can get up to about 300 nits in brightness. Be it browsing, videos or gaming, this display will deliver, and for the price you’re paying for, 165Hz is a really nice touch.
Up top, you get a 720p webcam as usual. I might be beating a dead horse now by this point, but honestly, it performs similarly to any other 720p webcam out there. The same goes for the microphones. In other words, it just works.
As for the keyboard and trackpad, both are actually pretty comfortable and nice to use. I did quite like the tactile feedback of the keyboard itself and the trackpad position, while aligned to the left, is still well out of the way when you rest your fingers on the WASD cluster. Personally, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t need a numpad and I prefer a centralized trackpad, but this is still pretty great.
Speakers, I would say, are also par for the course. They are located on the sides and are good enough for casual listening. Just don’t expect it to be loud enough to fill a room.
With a larger chassis, you also get a fairly large battery coming in at 86Wh and honestly, it’s actually not bad. You can easily get six hours or more of actual use with it.
As for ports, this is where things start to get a little bit weird.
On the right, you get two standard USB 3.2 ports, and on the left, you get RJ45 Ethernet and the trusty 3.5mm combo jack. Flip over to the back and you get your power port, HDMI, another standard USB 3.2 and a Type-C port.
Now, it’s a fair amount of ports. But I do find it weird that there’s so much empty space on the back. They could’ve probably fit a couple more ports with ease but they didn’t, so it’s just kind of weird.
But now we have to talk about performance and temperatures, and this is where things start to go downhill very quickly.
In Cinebench R23, the Ryzen 7 5800H delivered performance as expected from the chip, pretty much in line with any other laptop featuring the same chip. The same goes for DaVinci Resolve, being able to basically render faster than real-time for 1080p and almost real-time for 4K.
For gaming, which arguably you’ll be doing most of the time with this laptop, you can expect really good frame rates at 1080p high or ultra settings in a variety of games, making full use of that 165Hz display. And despite having just an RTX 3060, ray-tracing performance is also pretty great as well, being able to easily hit above 60 frames per second or even quite a lot higher with newer ray-tracing titles like Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition.
Thus far, everything’s pretty great, so you might be asking, where’s the problem? Well, the problem lies in the temperatures, the fan curve and the included power profiles.
The performance numbers that you just saw are only possible if you run the laptop on the G-Mode performance profile, which can be toggled using the Function and F9 key. This is a dedicated high-performance power profile that’s outside of the ones that are available from Windows itself. In this mode, the fans are locked at a 100% fan speed, the Ryzen 7 5800H will maintain a constant clock speed of about 4GHz and the RTX 3060 will draw the full 115W that it’s configured for while gaming.
In this dedicated mode, the GPU sits at a very respectable 78 degrees celsius, which is fine, but the CPU is a little more toasty, hovering around 90+ degrees celsius.
Thus far, it’s still technically all right. But the issue comes when you run the laptop on any other mode outside of the dedicated G-mode performance profile. In any other mode, while the GPU still sits well below 80 degrees celsius, the CPU, that Ryzen 7 5800H now basically maintains a constant 100 degrees celsius the entire time.
But what makes it worse is the fan profile in these other modes. The fans only really start to spin once the CPU passes 95 degrees celsius, and even after hitting 100 degrees celsius for an extended period of time, it just won’t spin as fast as compared to the dedicated G-mode performance profile. So the fan doesn’t want to spin faster, and neither does the Ryzen 7 5800H clock itself down to reduce temperatures.
So it’s 3.6 to 4GHz and 100 degrees celsius throughout during any kind of load, basically just burning itself to death, literally.
To make it even worse, the idle temperatures of that Ryzen chip can be anywhere from 60 to 70 degrees celsius, and when doing something simple like downloading a game on Steam, it can even skyrocket to as high as 93 degrees celsius. And like I’ve just mentioned, because the threshold for fan spin is somehow around 95 degrees celsius, the fans just don’t spin if it doesn’t hit 95 degrees celsius at least once.
It makes no sense at all. Now, what’s the issue here?
At first, I thought it might be a pasting issue with the thermal paste on the CPU, but it wasn’t the case. As soon as I removed the bottom cover and ran games with the laptop on its side, temperatures dropped to an average of 86 degrees celsius on the standard power profiles and will drop further to about 80 degrees celsius on the G-Mode profile.
So is it the design of the bottom panel? Yeah, I think so. As soon as I slapped the bottom panel back on, the temperatures basically went back up to about 96 degrees celsius for the CPU, while the laptop was still on its side, meaning there’s no obstruction to airflow except for that bottom panel.
So if you were to use the laptop normally on a desk, where there’s now only a small gap of space for the fans to intake air, that brings us back to the issue, 100 degrees celsius all the time on any of the standard power profiles.
Is this a physical design flaw? Probably yes. Can this be fixed? Probably yes as well.
Honestly, all Dell needs to do is to release a BIOS update to tweak the fan curve for the standard Windows power profiles. Have the fan kick in earlier, around 70 degrees celsius or so, and bring up the maximum fan speed nearer to that of G-Mode once temperatures surpass 90 degrees celsius.
It’s going to get loud, sure. But I would rather it get loud than burn itself to death.
So overall, despite what I said at the beginning about this laptop being quite value for money, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. Technically, it’s going to be fine if you enable the G-Mode profile whenever you do anything intensive like video editing or gaming and you don’t mind the noise.
But even then, once you turn off G-Mode and you’re just using the laptop normally, the idle temps can still get quite high simply because the fans don’t want to spin.
So at whichever point in time that you’re watching this video, if Dell has yet to release a BIOS update or any other solution to the problem, it might be best for you to not consider getting this laptop. But if you’re still interested in the G-Series, perhaps you might want to check out the Intel variants instead, the 5510 model. While we’ve yet to test it, we daresay that the Intel models wouldn’t have this heat issue.
So that’s it, a look at the Dell G15 Ryzen Edition. It was interesting at the start, but now it’s a little bit disappointing. Hopefully, it can be fixed.
Content by Soon Kai Hong