Every major PC maker has an entry-level gaming laptop line starting under $900. The Dell G5 15 5590 and Lenovo Legion Y540 are two of our favorites mostly because they deliver good performance for the money, but also for their designs since neither necessarily looks like a "gaming" laptop. However, if you do want a laptop that looks more aggressive, Lenovo has another body design used for its Legion Y545.
The 15-inch Lenovo Legion Y545 is essentially Lenovo's older Legion Y7000P, which was only available at retail and not directly from Lenovo, and has a more angular chassis than the Y540, which reminds me of a black ThinkPad workstation but with Legion branding. The Y545 is available direct from Lenovo and starts at around $1,000, but you can find better pricing from retailers like NewEgg, B&H and Costco and you get a little more for your money with this model over the Y540. When it comes to the Y545 and the G5 15, though, the value difference isn't as clear-cut.
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They're both solid mainstream gaming laptops that offer similar component options at roughly the same prices give or take $50. As a result, this ends up being more about the design and a couple of feature differences than performance. Right now, at least. Come Black Friday there could be enough of a pricing difference to make the decision less of a coin flip.
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Ins and outs
There are a lot of people who don't care about what a laptop looks like, they just want the most powerful computer they can get for the money. I'm not one of them, and although the Legion Y545 looks fine in general, I prefer the Dell G5 15's design. What I appreciate about both of them, though, is that they have ports and power on the back.
These are thinner and lighter than mainstream gaming laptops from a few years ago, which makes them more portable. But, according to feedback from PC makers, these laptops spend a lot of time on a desk, and I would expect most of that time they're hooked up to Ethernet, a gaming keyboard and mouse, a monitor and speakers or a gaming headset. Having cords run from the back for these things just keeps things tidy.
The G5 and Y545 have similar port assortments, but only the Dell is available with Thunderbolt 3 and has a built-in SD card reader. Similarly, Dell will let you upgrade the keyboard from a single-color backlight to a four-zone RGB backlit keyboard and swap out its standard palm rest for one with a built-in fingerprint reader.
The G5 15 and Y545 start off with essentially the same configurations:
- Intel Core i5-9300H
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 4GB
- 8GB of 2,666MHz memory
- 128GB or 256GB PCIe-NVMe + 1TB HDD
- 15.6-inch full-HD IPS matte display (60Hz)
For the most part, this is the configuration you can expect from other PC makers for around $900, too. The processor can be upgraded to a six-core i7-9750H and you can bump up the graphics to GTX 1660 Ti or an RTX 2060 (basically the 1660 Ti with ray tracing). The base displays are good if not superbright, but if you upgrade the graphics, you can also switch to a 144Hz display.
We reviewed the base Dell G5 15 5590 with the GTX 1650 that gets you better frame rates than the older GTX 1050 Ti but just below the GTX 1060's performance, which can be found in older gaming laptops around $1,000. The GPU is fine for right now, but doesn't buy you much headroom for the future.
If you can afford to spend $1,000 to $1,200, go with the 1660 Ti used in the Lenovo Legion Y545 we reviewed, as it has noticeably better performance. It also had twice the RAM and the Core i7, so the Lenovo was faster all the way around. You can see how the two configurations compare in the benchmark tables below.
At this level of gaming laptop you're paying mainly for the components rather than extra features. Based on current pricing, you'll get a better deal on the Lenovo Legion Y545. However, the build quality of the Dell G5 15 5590 seems better and the design looks a little less like a gaming laptop, if that matters to you. Also, Dell offers a few more extras like an SD card reader, Thunderbolt 3 and options to add an RGB LED keyboard and fingerprint reader.