Dell G5-5587 Review for Linux Users [G5-5587-7037RED-PUS]

June 17, 2019, noon

The Dell G5 5587 series laptop, while marketed as a gaming laptop, is worthy of consideration by GNU/Linux users looking for a high performance workstation. It is available in numerous configurations directly from Dell or in specific configurations at retailers. It has a bold and minimalistic design and further differentiates itself from laptops with similar specifications with a design that allows for very easy upgradeability due to the thoughtfully designed single piece removable bottom panel.

Older models such as the one reviewed here, manufactured in December 2018 can be obtained at considerable savings, especially under the extremely auspicious circumstances when I bought this one.

Introduction

When I was considering a replacement for my Acer V15 Nitro Black Edition, I knew I wanted a processor with the best performance specs from a more recent Intel Core-i7 line -- one which includes in-processor fixes to the flaws exploited by Spectre and Meltdown, at least 16 GB of RAM, and a discrete graphics processor capable of powering a VR headset. Informed by my experience with the Acer, I also knew I wanted a sturdier laptop with easily upgradable parts. Many models from various manufacturers could have satisfied the former requirements, but I specifically settled on Dell's G5 gaming laptops to satisfy the latter requirement, after browsing the Dell support site and the service manual -- which is available as a PDF download or online -- the G5 series.

  • The Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS With the Bottom Panel Removed.
    All components, except processors are easily accessible.
  • The Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS With the Bottom Panel Removed.
    All components, except processors are easily accessible.
  • The Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS With the Bottom Panel Removed.
    The Dell G5-5587 has two separate RAM module slots instead of the stacked configuration commonly found in most laptops.
  • The Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS With the Bottom Panel Removed.
    The storage slots before SSD upgrade.
  • The Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS With the Bottom Panel Removed.
    The storage slots after SSD upgrade.
  • The Dell G5-5587 Service Manual as HTML.
    Dell has the best resources for servicing by users.
  • The Dell G5-5587 Service as a PDF.
    Dell has the best resources for servicing by users.
  • The Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS With the Bottom Panel In Place.
    The bottom panel can be removed, the RAM upggraded, and the bottom panel repleced in a few minutes. An almost impossible task with the Acer V15 Nitro regardless of the time alotted.
The Dell G5-5587 Is Easily Upgradable
Both storage devices, RAM, and the battery are easily replacable/upgradable.
This series allows easy upgrade of any storage device populating the 2.5" SATA bay and the m.2 SSD slot, as well as the battery and memory, for which there are two separate slots instead of the cramped stacked slots in nearly all laptops -- by simply loosening a captive screw and prying off a single panel from the bottom of the laptop. This is a much, much simpler process compared to the Acer which would require dissassembling the entire laptop to access the RAM.

I eased my requirements when I saw a brand new G5-5587 for $500.00 in late April 2019 at a Wal-Mart that was reducing inventory prior to a move to a new facility. This was such a good price for this model I decided to buy this and upgrade the RAM and the SSD, and just live with the lower end graphics card. The same laptop now sells for $1109.00 at the new Wal-Mart location, which means after approximately $210.00 in upgrades (for a 500 GB Samsung 970 Evo Plus NVMe m.2 SSD and 16 GB Crucial DDR4 2666 on one SODIMM, I will still have saved 35% for a more capable laptop. The only thing I will have to sacrifice is a discrete graphics card that can comfortably power a VR headset -- and a more suitable color for my tastes.

ComponentManufacturerModelVersion
MotherboardDell03PVDFA00
UEFIDell1.9.0 (02/11/2019)
CPUIntelCore i7-8750H
BatterySamsung SDIDell W7NKD8A
RAM(8 GB)
Graphics (Integrated)IntelUHD Graphics 630
Graphics (Discrete)NVIDIAGP107M [GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Mobile]
Network (Wired)QualcommAtheros Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet
Network (Wireless)IntelWireless-AC 9560 [Jefferson Peak]
Storage 1SamsungSSD PM871b M.2 2280 (128 GB)
Storage 2SeagateST1000LM035-1RK172 (1 TB)

I should note that the particular G5-5587 seems to be a Walmart only model, as I learned from a Dell Sales Representative by chat when trying to get the full specs of this laptop on the Dell website, that although the model number of configurations available on the Dell website are the same (G5-5587), the same exact configuration is not available. The G5-5587 models at Dell have had storage, RAM, and Graphics Card upgraded. (Except for the graphcics card I still got a better value). The representative told me:

The reason why they offer items at lower prices/different prices is because they order in bulk during our initial release for the systems, hence they give bulk discount, so that they can then offer them at lower prices. But tendency is that since we build systems upon order, our products do get revised in terms of hardware and software to provide better operating performance especially power efficiency and tendency is that the retailer units don't get that revision because they are the earlier release types. So with a Dell order you're 100% guaranteed that the unit is 100% up to date and fresh out of the production warehouse, newly revised in terms hardware and updated when it comes to the latest drivers and software including OS.
This explains the reason why the configuration is not current, as the laptop I bought was manufactured in September of 2018 or February 2018.

.

Review

After a RAM upgrade to 16 GB, the G5-5587 meets my performance needs well. After a further upgrade of the primary SSD to a a 500 GB Samsung 970 Evo Plus NVMe model, my performance needs will be completely satisfied (the financially prohibitive Xeon based processor laptops with ECC RAM notwithstanding).

Upgrading the SSD.
I upgreded the small and slow 128 GB Samsung SATA SSD to a faster and larger capacity Samsung PCIe NVMe.
The ease of upgrading the RAM, which would have been close to impossible with the Acer V15 Nitro, showed me I was right in choosing a Dell G5.

In addition to these anticipated positives, there have been pleasant surprises also, one of these being the comprehensivly configurable UEFI through the Dell UEFI configuration utility. The utility -- which is a GUI based interface, which even supports mouse navigation as opposed to a purely text menu interface -- offers, among other settings, a selectable battery use mode to increase the charging cycles, automatic switching between fast chargimg during work hours and standard charging -- which preserves battery life -- during non-working hours. Some highlights of the UEFI configuration utility is presented in the following screenshots.

  • Battery Charge Configuration
    This screen allows users to set the use/charging mode which either enhances battery charging speed or battery charge cycles.
  • Advanced Battery Charge Configuration
    This screen allowd users to enable Advanced Battery Charge Mode, which activates fast charging during work hours and standard charging outside of work hours, prolonging charge cycles.
  • UEFI Cabsule Firmware Updates
    Enabling this feature enables firmware updates including that performed by the Linux Vendor Firmware Service.
  • The Boot Sequence Configuration.
    The firmware bootloaders in the EFI System Partition are not automatically added to this list. Users must navigate to the firmware application by first selecting Add Boot Option.
  • UEFI Settings Can Be Saved As a Restorable User Configuration
  • Adding a Boot Configuration
    After Selecting Add Boot Option, this screen is presented showing partitions. The Boot Configuration is named in the first field, and browsing the ESP can be started by selecting the Menu dots to the right of the last field.
  • Adding a Boot Configuration
    Browsing the ESP.
  • Adding a Boot Configuration
  • Thunderbolt Options
  • Performance Options
    Performance options don't include theose found on some gaming laptops, but has options for enabling/disabling some performance features including those that are used by the Linux kernel.
The Dell UEFI Configuration Utility
The UEFI Configuration Utility is very comprehensive, and seems to features settings of interset to enterprise users as opposed to gamers.
I had the impression that the utility is more suitable to an enterprise laptop rather than a gaming machine, as it was more focused on reliability and security than performance. For example, there are no options for adjusting the performance of the processor or the graphics card as are usually available on some gaming laptops.

I was also pleased with features that were not available on the Acer and how well these were intergrated into my desktop environment of choice, Plasma 5, namely the multi level keyboard backlight.

Keyboard Backlight Level as Indicated in KDE Plasma System Tray
The keyboard backlight has only two levels but the value is known to Plasma and controllable through the Fn keys or through the System Tray applet, or areas in the desktop environment.
The Fn keys for adjusting the keyboard backlight work, as well as all of the other Fn combination keys work including the very Dell specific Fn+ combinations that toggle various settings, for example the Fn + H combination to toggle the front status light between displaying the battery level warning and disk activity.

However, there are some aspects of the G5-5587 with which I am unhappy, as a GNU/Linux user. First -- in the G5's initial configurations as purchased and before the NVMe SSD upgrade, is that the primary disk, as far as the kernel is concerned, is the mechanical hard drive and not the SATA m.2 SSD. The mechanical hard drive is assigned to /dev/sda instead of the SSD, which is assigned to /dev/sdb. From what little I know about the issue, this is a result of the mechanical HD being connected to the first SATA controller port and the SSD to the second. This caused some frustration when I was partitioning the drives when setting up the system. This issue ceased to be a problem when I replaced the SATA SSD with an NVMe PCIe SSD as the kernel now assigns the SSD to /dev/nvme0n1, with partitions denoted by /dev/nvme0n1p1, /dev/nvme0n1p2, etc.

Second, is the inadequacy of the numer of status indicator lights, of which there is only one, not including the light built into the power adapter cable that indicates that the cable is plugged in and the light on the Caps Lock key that doubles as a POST diagnostic light. The Acer also had less than the ideal number of indicator lights in my opinion, but at least it has enough to avoid some problems. It has two multi-color lights, one to indicate the charging/battery level and another to indicate the power/susped/hibernate state. The only light on the Dell G5 itself is one multi-color light at the front that can be toggled between indicating the battery level status and storage activity. The importance of the lack of a light that indicates that the system is suspended or hibernating is obvious to anyone who has experienced the distress of taking out an extremely hot laptop or one with an unexpectedly drained battery out of a sleeve, only to discover that the system had not suspended when closing the lid before putting it into a sleeve. This has happened to me once after installing the Mate desktop in addition to an existing Plasma on Fedora 28, to try it on a whim where for some reason Mate's power management didn't suspend the system and another time when a video playing in Firefox prevented suspend. In these two instances, I didn't check the Acer's lights when closing the lid, as the distributions'/desktop environments I usually use reliably suspend the system when closing the lid, but I ususally do and it would be nice to have this simple visual confirmation. So, to work around this issue I leave the one status light set to indicate storage activity, because when closing the lid, it will flicker for a few moments and then stop, givng me a clue that the storage activity that is part of the suspend process is happening and then is completed.

Third, is the relatively minor usability or convenience issue, of the location of the backlight control and and volume control. On my Acer V15 Nitro, the keys to reduce and increase brightness are the intuitively assigned Fn + Down and Fn + Up respectively, and Fn + Left and Fn + Right, respectively to decrease and increase volume. On the Dell, they are Fn + F11 and Fn + F12 respectively, and Fn + F2 and Fn + F3. Needless to say, it is much easier to make these adjustments on the Acer than the Dell.

Performance

I don't have any objective observations of performance, but subjectively, the improved performance due to the two additional cores, the additional 3 MB of cache, and the faster bus over the Acer with Core-i7-6700Q is noticable, especially when running resouce intensive tasks in a VirtualBox VM. It is even more noticible with the upgrade from a SATA SSD to a PCIe NVMe upgrade.

Design

The physical design of the Dell G5, besides the practical aspect of the thoughtfully incorporated bottom panel that allows for easy upgrade/replacement is not remarkable, although it is attractive in its minimalism. The angled horizontal slats on the front and back of the laptop are striking. And the ports and vents they cover are symmetrical, unlike some laptops of the same class. On either side of the back slats, are vents for the cooling fans. On some similar laptops, one side has a vent and the other side has a nonfunctional part, a cover simulating a vent to provide a fake symmetry. Even the bottom of the Dell is perfectly symmetrical.

Some Views of the Dell G5-5587
The reduced quality of these images, although the color is a matter of taste, do not adequately show the beauty and nuance of the soft touch finish.
One drawback of the sharp and angled front is some discomfort as the sharp corner somethimes presses into my forearm when I rest my wrists on the laptop as I type.

Build Quality

In terms of build quality, I have the impression that the laptop is generally very sturdy. One of the reasons I chose a Dell of this class, versus a thin and light such as the Acer V15 Nitro, which from my experience seems to sacrifice sturdiness as well as easy access to components to achieve the form factor. One issue, though, is that two of the twelve clips on the back cover were broken by the MicroCenter employee who lent me a tool to loosen and tighten the captive screw when upgrading the RAM.

  • The inside of the removable bottom panel of the Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS.
  • Some of the clips that secure the removable bottom panel to the Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS.
  • Some of the clips that secure the removable bottom panel to the Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS.
  • Some of the clips that secure the removable bottom panel to the Dell G5-5587-7037RED-PUS.
The Tops of Two Clips Closest to the Captive Screw Broke Off
Care must be taken not to break the retaining clips on the bottom panel.
This could have been easily avoided with a little more care. Fortunately, that these two clips are missing doesn't affect the secure placement of the panel, and it is not noticable except for the very slight play when tapping on the panel where these clips would be.

Apart from this, the only thing I noticed was lacking in regard to build quality is one gap in the fit of one piece of plastic under the screen, a slight deviation from ideal that I will never notice.

Use with GNU/Linux

Use with GNU/Linux is excellent apart for one major issue in my initial use of the G5 with respect to the Open Source graphics driver Nouveau. After setting up partitions as I had on the Acer, (prior to intallation of Clear Linux) the first distribution I installed was Solus 4 from the KDE Test ISO which I had used to install the distribution on the Acer with no problems. The result of the installation on the Dell G5 was an extremely unstable and unresponsive system. I assumed it was a problem specific to Solus and moved on to Manjaro, with which I had no problems. What problems I had and which I had mistakingly assumed was of the same nature as the issues with the Solus installation from the KDE Tests ISO, was actually I think by the inital Baloo file indexing as implemented in Manjaro.

I then installed Fedora 30 and I immediately had the same problems as with Solus. By this time I realized the problem was not specific to Solus but a problem with Nouveau. Aftersetting up Optimus on Fedora with the proprietary Nvidia driver, I had no further problems. Then installing openSUSE Tumblewwed I had no problems, even before setting up Optimus on openSUSE, although I installed openSUSE almost two months after the others, allowing the open source driver time to catch up.

So, the distribution used must be considered before installing on the G5-5587. Distributions that have the latest proprietary drivers and will set up everything the graphics switching might be the best to use for users who want everything working out of the box.

Apart from this initial video issue on Fedora, the Dell G5-5587 works well on GNU/Linux. It even supports the Linux Vendor Firmware Service, which allows GNU/Linux users to easily update frimware without booting into Windows or using a manufacturer's preboot firmware flashing tools.

Recommendation

The Dell G5-5587 offers high performance, depending on the configuration, a seemingly durable and sturdy design, with the most easily upgradable components, thanks to the simple removable bottom panel. I recommend the Dell G5-5587 to GNU/Linux users who want a powerful laptop for use as a workstation, but do not have the budget for something like a Precision 7520 Mobile Workstation.

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