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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Good design and port options
Hard to customize
The Dell G5 5090 is a great way to get into the world of PC gaming with tons of potential loadouts, but it isn’t flawless.
We purchased Dell's G5 Gaming Desktop so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
Launched 35 years ago in 1984, Dell is one of the largest technology corporations in the world and now the third-largest PC vendor worldwide. It’s safe to say that such a company is almost synonymous with the modern idea of a personal computer—even a moderately well-known name in the PC gaming world.
Though not as renowned as some brands like Alienware in the space (which Dell now owns), Dell’s presence in the gaming PC market is fairly established when it comes to shopping for affordable, modest prebuilts.
Dell's G5 Gaming Desktop is one of the brand’s latest prebuilt releases to hit the scene, seeking to make the vast (and often expensive) world of PC gaming more approachable for consumers. Compact, inexpensive and available in a range of hardware options, the G5 is a solid choice for those who find the concept of assembling a computer themselves a bit too intimidating.
We recently got our hands on the G5 and ran the PC through its paces to determine just how well it achieves this goal. While an impressive little machine, it does have some drawbacks, so check out our coverage below and see if it’s the best option for you.
Upon unboxing the G5, the compact size of this little desktop is perhaps the most striking element of its design. Falling into the category of mini-tower, the G5 is one of the smaller desktop computers you’ll see around at just 14.45 x 6.65 x 12.12 inches (HWD). If you’re someone who likes to move your PC with ease or even take it to LAN parties, it’s a perfect fit.
The overall build of the G5 is pretty modest, sporting a black metal construction commonly found on a lot of Dell’s enterprise builds. The face of the tower has an interesting geometric pattern with little fins across the surface, a single G5 logo, an RGB light bar, and the front input panel.
These ports at the front are easily accessible, allowing users to utilize a microphone jack, a headphone jack, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 and a single USB 3.1 Type-C. For a budget-oriented tower, this is a surprisingly nice array of ports to have.
Since our G5 is the cheapest model, there’s no side window panel, unfortunately, but they do offer this option for a mere $30 extra. The rest of the case is unremarkable, with the rear comprised of simple bare metal that hosts all the remaining ports and inputs.
Inside the case, the G5 is much more attractive than older generations of gaming PCs from Dell, likely due to their offering of an interior window. It’s not going to compare to some liquid-cooled RGB monstrosity, but this is an affordable computer after all. If you opt to go with the interior window, the inside also features some nice blue LEDs that go a long way to improve the inside.
Despite the cleaner layout, it does feel somewhat cheap inside the case, as most of the components aren’t the sleekest of designs. Front and center, the CPU fan (that sits in a weird crooked position) and the GPU itself display just how much of a budget build this thing is—meaning they aren’t particularly impressive nor nice-looking. In addition, the interior has quite a few multicolored wires strewn about, but owners could always do some cable management to clean them up more.
For those who like to customize or tune their builds to their liking, this may be problematic, as Dell has used a custom motherboard and PSU inside the tiny G5.
For those who like to customize or tune their builds to their liking, this may be problematic, as Dell has used a custom motherboard and PSU inside the tiny G5. This will make it somewhat harder to upgrade if you plan to keep tuning your rig down the line, but it’s still possible if you’re careful about what parts you choose to install.
One of the biggest advantages of getting a prebuilt is that when you finally get it, setup is a breeze. In fact, setting up the G5 is almost as simple as any modern gaming console.
The first thing you’ll want to do is plug in your power cable, peripherals, monitor (use whichever is best for your specific hardware selection, which ranges from VGA and HDMI to DisplayPort) and Ethernet if you’re not utilizing the onboard Wi-Fi. Once that’s done, go ahead and push the power button at the top of the front panel to start it up.
From here, assuming you’ve plugged in everything correctly, you should be presented with the initial Windows 10 startup guide. The G5 comes preinstalled with this OS, so no need to mess with any boot devices. Once you reach the first prompt from the Windows installer, all you need to do is follow along with the on-screen instructions. This stage will get your PC initialized by asking general things like language, timezone, etc., as well as having you sign into a Microsoft account.
After you run through these first steps and connect to the internet, you should wind up at your new freshly installed desktop. From here, the remainder of the setup is up to you. What I personally recommend for new PCs is that you first check for Windows updates. You can easily do this by going to the Windows settings tab and then finding “Update & Security” at the bottom right of the menu. Update everything you can from here and then reset your computer if necessary.
Next, it’s a good idea to update any drivers for the PC, such as the graphics card, to avoid annoying issues before diving into a game. Finally, head to your favorite internet browser (or install that first since it’s unlikely to be Microsoft Edge) and download your favorite apps or software, like Spotify, Twitch or whatever you want to use.
At this point, you can go ahead and use your fresh new computer however you see fit, or continue to customize it further within the settings. Keep in mind that you may need to set up additional minute settings like display specs. You can do this under the display settings and options to ensure your fancy 2K 144Hz monitor isn’t stuck on 1080p at 60Hz.
The general performance you’ll get from the G5 will entirely depend on your arrangement of hardware—as well as your budget. Dell offers a ton of potential options for this prebuilt, ranging from entry-level to top-of-the-line.
Generally, most in the PC world recommend that you get the best components for your specific needs that you can comfortably afford. For example, if you typically play indie games or those less demanding, an RTX 2080 Ti would be completely unnecessary. However, if you want to play the latest AAA titles at top settings, you’ll need to fork over the cost for a high-end GPU. The best advice I can give is to think about how you’ll primarily use your computer, and then assemble it to meet those demands.
Since we have the base model G5 as our test subject here (which is likely one of the most frequently purchased options), let’s see how it fares in this area. This model comes equipped with a 9th Gen Intel Core i3-9100, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM at 2666MHz and a 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDD. While not impressive or likely to blow anyone away, this assembly of hardware is more than capable of providing modest performance for everyday tasks.
Upon unboxing the G5, the compact size of this little desktop is perhaps the most striking element of its design.
One factor that’s commonly measured in regards to performance is the boot time. This being the base unit with no SSD, our OS is installed on the included 1TB HDD with an RPM of 7200. Generally, the boot time of our G5 fell within the average range for these types of HDDs at around 40 seconds or just over that mark. Compared to an SSD, which averages between 10 to 20 seconds, this is definitely slower, but not something particularly problematic. If you can swing it, upgrading to even a little 128 GB SSD for your OS will improve this performance considerably.
The HDD is still a convenient and inexpensive way to get lots of storage for less, but the slower speed of these drives will slow down more on your PC than simply boot times. Loading games, transferring data, searching for files and lots of other tasks took far longer on this HDD-equipped G5 when compared to my everyday rig with its SSD. Still, at least the drive is a bit quicker than a 5400 RPM HDD.
The two other components that contribute most of the performance outside gaming are the CPU and memory. With our Intel Core i3-9100 and 8GB of RAM, the base G5 does feel a bit sluggish at times, though still adequate. Chrome is a notoriously RAM-ravaging application, and while we had lots of tabs open doing work, the G5 struggled to perform well with its measly 8 gigs of RAM. An easy upgrade would be to add another 8GB stick to hit 16GB of RAM overall. With 16GB, you’d have more than enough for general tasks, as well as gaming.
If you don’t plan on using your G5 for CPU-heavy tasks, the i3-9100 will provide a so-so experience on the whole, but upgrading to an i5 or higher will definitely boost performance across the board.
Much like performance in general tasks such as streaming or web browsing, your gaming experience will ultimately boil down to hardware. For this realm, the CPU, memory, and storage are equally important, but none more so than the GPU.
If the entry-level GTX 1650 isn’t beefy enough to meet your demands, you can choose from a ton of various graphics cards when you build a G5 on Dell’s website. If your main goal is to use this PC for gaming, you should purchase the best GPU you can afford over just about any other component.
With our little GTX 1650 on the test model, performance is satisfactory for most 1080p gaming so long as you don’t have the graphics cranked up too high. We ran a throng of various games on our G5, ranging from indie to AAA titles to see how it fared.
Using a 144Hz 1080p monitor to ensure lots of overhead while testing, less intensive games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends and indie titles like Starbound performed quite well, all of which easily hit over 100 FPS on average. For AAA games like Gears of War 5 and Battlefield V, the G5 struggled a bit more, but was still able to get a pretty consistent 60 FPS with such demanding titles.
The low-end i3 CPU did prove to be quite problematic for games that require more computing power. While testing Total War: Warhammer 2, we noticed CPU hitting a bit of a wall, in addition to running quite hot.
The G5 does have something of a cooling issue, which is likely due to a combination of the small size, lack of ventilation and fans (there are only two installed) and the overall quality of these components. That being said, it never got to the point of overheating, but the fans did get loud during gaming sessions as the temps rose inside. If you get even stronger components that run hotter, it’s possible you may run into some worse issues here, so additional cooling may be needed.
Another negative of this variant is the HDD. Like we mentioned earlier, the HDD will equate to slower load times in-game, so adding an SSD is a great upgrade if possible. This sluggishness was most prominent while loading saves in Warhammer 2 and traveling between planets in Destiny 2. If you’re used to the load times on a console, this might not be a huge issue though.
In the end, the base level G5 is a perfectly capable gaming machine, albeit with some minor issues. However, it’s worth noting that this PC will surpass all current-gen consoles for 1080p performance, regardless of the budget components installed on the base model. If you decide to improve the G5 with a better GPU, it’ll easily crush even the newer 4K-ready consoles like the PS4 Pro.
If you’re a big audiophile, you’ve likely got your setup already somewhat established, but the G5 isn’t the most impressive in terms of audio prowess. This being a more affordable desktop, Dell has cut a few corners, and it seems like audio is one area that’s lacking.
Equipped on the G5 5090 is Dell’s exclusive Realtek ALC3861-CG controller. While it doesn’t support 7.1, the integrated 5.1 channel high definition audio should be passable for most people who aren’t too picky about audio specs.
In the end, the base level G5 is a perfectly capable gaming machine, albeit with some minor issues.
Compared to some of Dell’s more expensive desktops, the G5 also lacks a lot of audio ports for powerful external setups. Even so, with one microphone port, one headset port, one audio line-out port, one rear L/R-surround audio-out port and one center/subwoofer LFE surround audio-out port, the basics are there for a majority of owners, just don’t expect this budget PC to blow you away with its audio performance.
Network performance is a hugely important factor nowadays, as online gaming and downloading massive software files have become commonplace in the PC gaming world. While the majority of this boils down to your internet service provider and the speeds you have access to, hardware still matters more than one might think.
Luckily, gigabit Ethernet ports are pretty standard these days. Since most people don’t have access to networks speeds anywhere close to that, the installed Rivet Networks E2500 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controller on the G5 desktop provides plenty of performance overhead.
With our 200 Mbps network on a wired connection to the G5, we had no issues hitting stable download speeds just under that mark, which also provided a flawless online gaming experience on Destiny 2 and World of Warcraft.
A wired connection here is undoubtedly going to be king, but there is a Wi-Fi card installed on the G5 no matter which model you select. Our base variant features a Qualcomm QCA9377 (DW1810) with Bluetooth 4.2. Topping out at up to 433 Mbps for transfer rate, this isn’t the greatest wireless module, but it’s fine for most things if you can’t use an Ethernet cable. The Bluetooth is also okay, but not doesn’t support Bluetooth 5 like some of the more expensive ones you can add on for additional cost.
If you’re stuck using Wi-Fi, it’s probably worth it to upgrade the module when you buy a G5. That being said, if you plan on sticking to ethernet, save your money and put it towards something else.
Anyone who’s familiar with Windows 10 knows that the OS isn’t the most beloved version around, but it isn’t all that bad if you’re used to it. Unfortunately, there is some annoying bloatware preinstalled on the G5.
While not the worst security suite around, McAfee comes equipped out of the gate with a one-year subscription, so users can choose to stick with that or look elsewhere. The more irritating offenders are things like Candy Crush, Skype and more useless programs no one really asked for.
The host of pre-equipped software isn’t all bad though, as Dell has even included some of its useful Alienware services with the G5. Most will be happy to learn that the Alienware Command Center comes installed, which allows you to easily monitor several elements of system performance, set up overclocking configurations, control the RGB lights and more.
A general rule of PC gaming is that it’s always cheaper to build your own rig vs. buying a prebuilt or paying someone else to do it for you. While this is still mostly true, the cost of many prebuilt desktops has really come down a lot over the years.
The G5 is primarily marketed toward casual PC gamers who want something that gets the job done without a big hassle, as well as not costing a fortune. Depending on which model and hardware options you go with, the G5 5090 starts at a mere $600 and goes all the way up to nearly $3,000.
Taking a look at our entry-level G5 at just $600, we headed to PCPartPicker and built a closely matched equivalent to see just how fair the price is. With some potentially superior components aside (like the motherboard and PSU), we were able to piece together a similar rig for right around $630.
Since that cost doesn’t include the addition that you’ll need to put it all together yourself, $600 for the G5 is honestly an excellent price. One thing to keep in mind is that prebuilts typically use some inferior parts for things like the PSU and motherboard, as well as custom components that make it more difficult to upgrade in the future. All said and done though, the G5 5090 is quite a solid value.
Released right around the same time in 2019, the G5 and Alienware’s Aurora R9 are two fairly similar prebuilt options with some important differences. If you’re on the hunt for a desktop PC, each of these will likely wind up somewhere in your search, so let’s take a look.
Though unlikely to blow any hardcore PC enthusiasts away with its looks, components or upgradeability, the G5 is one of the better low-cost prebuilts around for those looking to get into the vast world of PC gaming.
Alienware is also owned by Dell, but the premium branding the company is known for makes their PCs a bit more pricey compared to Dell’s own offerings. If you’re a die-hard fan of the brand or simply love the unique aesthetics of their tech, it may be worth it for you to pony up the additional cost, but those who simply want the best for their money should probably avoid Alienware.
The reason I say that is because when you compare the two head-to-head, the numbers don’t lie. For $850, you can get the bare bones Aurora R9 (see at Dell) with the 9th Gen Intel Core i5 9400, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650, 8GB HyperX FURY DDR4 XMP at 2666MHz and a 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDD.
Doesn’t sound too shabby right? Well for $100 less at $750, you can jump to the second G5 model that’s equipped with a 9th Gen Intel Core i5 9400, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, 8GB DDR4 at 2666MHz, 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6Gb/s HDD.
The Alienware name alone, as well as their much different tower design, costs a whopping $100 more than the G5 listed above, which even has a superior GPU. Unless you hate the G5’s looks and absolutely must have the sci-fi-inspired case with the R9, the G5 easily provides better price-to-performance ratio.
A solid low-cost gaming PC with a few flaws.
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