This $686 Dell laptop makes for a great back-to-school gaming system

Dell G15 RTX 3050 Ti on a green background.
(Image credit: Future)
Dell G15

Dell G15 | 15.6-inch | Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti | Intel Core i5 11260H | 512GB SSD | 8GB DDR4 | 1080p | 120Hz | $1,168.99 $685.99 at Dell (save $483)
The RTX 3050 Ti isn't exactly a dream GPU, but for this sort of cash you're usually in integrated graphics territory, and this is significantly better than that. You should be able to get most games running smoothly at the native 1080p resolution. The Core i5 11260H is a decent enough CPU too, with six cores and 12 threads to call its own. 8GB of RAM is a bit lacking, and you'll want to upgrade later on, but for the money, you won't find much better.

We're in peak back-to-school sale season right now, so there are plenty of machines out there enjoying great savings. Problem is, plenty of these machines aren't really built with gaming in mind, which means if you're partial to a little gaming after the final bell rings that you end up needing two systems. Not exactly ideal, or a particularly good use of money for that matter. This budget Dell G15 could well be the answer you've been looking for.

Obviously most serious gaming laptops start at around $1,000 and go from there. That's not really the kind of machine you want to be lugging to and from college though. What you want is something cheaper, something that comes in at around $686 say. You know, like this Dell G15.

It's fair to say that this laptop isn't going to challenge a serious gaming machine, but it definitely will allow you to enjoy a game or two without paying a small fortune for the privilege. At the heart of the system, you've got an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, which is capable of 1080p gaming, although you may find yourself playing with the settings with the latest games. It's worth noting that this GPU only has 4GB of VRAM though, which may limit some games particularly when it comes to high-resolution texture packs.

The Intel Core i5 11260H may be a last-gen CPU now, but it's still a 6-core, 12-thread chip that can Turbo up to 4.4GHz and is no slouch when it comes to gaming or more-serious loads. The 512GB SSD is a decent size for this much cash as well, giving you plenty of room for games… I mean your school work. 

The only real downside with this machine is the amount of RAM that it ships with—a single 8GB stick of DDR4-3200 is a bit miserly and you'll want to upgrade to 16GB by adding another 8GB stick for a smoother experience. 

Overall, this is a decent machine for any gamer getting ready to head back to college. And that $483 saving certainly doesn't hurt.

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.