When 17-inch laptops are too big and 13- and 14-inch systems don’t have enough screen real estate, 15-inch laptops are there to fill that midsize hole in your life. Whether you’re looking for a budget Windows machine, a Chromebook, a premium stunner, a business notebook, a gaming beast or a jack-of-all trades 2-in-1, there’s a 15-inch laptop with your name on it.
We thoroughly review dozens of laptops using benchmarks and hands-on testing and comparisons to determine which ones are worthy your money. Here are our top picks for 15-inch laptops.
News and Updates (September 2018)
- Good performance, solid battery life and stunning design–check out our review of the surprisingly budget-friendly Asus VivoBook S15.
- Described in our review as “a stone-cold killer, with its cool temps and precise keyboard,” the MSI GT63 Titan is a gaming force to be reckoned with.
- Samsung recently launched its new gaming laptop, the Notebook Odyssey Z. Stay tuned for a full review.
Best Overall: Dell XPS 15 Best Overall
Productivity, multimedia and even a bit of gaming — the Dell XPS 15 can do it all — and do it well. Starting at $999, the XPS 15 offers an attractive, slim design that’s bursting with power, including an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q. The keyboard is surprisingly comfortable, and the Infinity Edge display is simply lovely. Oh, and did we mention the speedy M.2 PCIe SSD and nearly 12 hours of battery life? In short, you’ve got a certified beast on your hands.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM/Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU * RAM/Storage: 16GB/256GB M.2 PCIe SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Value: Acer Aspire E15
With its colorful display, plethora of ports and decent performance, it’s hard to believe the Acer Aspire E15 costs less than $500. It even has a DVD drive. The E15’s Intel Core i3 processor makes it more of a light multitasking machine, but after you’re done writing emails, you have that 15.6-inch display that covers an impressive 159 percent of the sRGB gamut. With its wide viewing angles, it’s great for watching a movie or two, and with nearly 9 hours of battery life, it can seamlessly transition between work and play.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.2-GHz Intel Core i3-8130U CPU * GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620 * RAM/Storage: 6GB/1TB 5,400-rpm HDD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook 15
In the Chromebook arena, the Acer Chromebook 15 is supersized, but that just means there’s more laptop to love. The attractive aluminum chassis, large 15.6-inch touch display, comfortable keyboard and over 9 hours of battery life belie its sub-$400 price. And if you’re familiar with Google Chrome, you know how to use Chrome OS. And now that Chrome OS plays nice with apps in the Google Play Store, the Chromebook 15 is even more versatile.
Key Specs: CPU: 1.1-GHz Intel Pentium N4200 CPU * GPU: Intel HD Graphics 505 GPU * RAM/Storage: 4GB/32GB Flash * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Gaming Laptop: Alienware 15 R4
Light shows, awesome graphics performance and long battery life. The Alienware 15 is a gaming, virtual reality and multitasking machine, thanks to its 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU. If that wasn’t enough, the notebook is outfitted with a customizable backlit keyboard and a luminous, -colorful display with more than 5 hours of battery life, which is pretty good for a gaming laptop. The Alienware 15 also has an integrated eye tracker and Alienware’s revamped Control Center. All of this is wrapped up in a new Epic Black chassis for a touch of stylish, intergalactic sophistication.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.1-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 6GB of VRAM/Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU* RAM/Storage: 16GB/256GB PCIe m.2 SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Business Laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad E580
Lenovo’s ThinkPad E580 has the solid performance, wide port selection and good build quality you need. With its Core i5 CPU and integrated graphics, the E580 is ready to plow through all your work. And it’s one of the few ThinkPads Lenovo offers in a handsome silver chassis. Throw in an excellent keyboard, and you have a 15-inch productivity powerhouse that even a startup can afford. Although it’s not MIL-Spec tested, the notebook is plenty sturdy.
Key Specs: CPU: 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-8250U CPU * GPU: Intel HD 620 GPU * RAM/Storage: 8GB/256GB SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Gaming Under $1,000: Dell G7 15
Just call it a gaming laptop of a different color. Dell’s new G-series laptops are an evolutionary step forward, replacing the company’s entry-level Inspiron series with something more interesting and powerful. Regarding the G7 15, you get a 15-inch laptop with solid gaming and overall performance, thanks to the TK graphics. This Dell also delivers good sound in an eye-catching Alpine White chassis. The system’s a great choice for gamers who don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to play their favorite titles.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM * RAM/Storage: 16GB/128GB SSD with 1TB 5,400-rpm HDD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Photo/Video Editing: Apple MacBook Pro 15
The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is definitely the best yet, with some of the fastest speeds we’ve ever seen, a better screen and a better keyboard — provided you have deep enough pockets. Available with an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, 32GB of RAM and an AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU with 4GB of memory, the MacBook Pro 15 is an undeniable powerhouse. And whether you’re editing photos or watching movies, you’ll enjoy the Retina display with Apple’s TrueTone technology, which delivers rich, mesmerizing colors and sharp detail.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU * GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU with 4GB of VRAM * RAM/Storage: 32GB/2TB PCIe SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/2880 x 1800
Best 2-in-1: HP Spectre x360 15-inch
What do you get when you combine luxurious design with serious power? If you’re talking about laptops, then you’re probably referring to the HP Spectre x360. In addition to a gloriously vivid touch display, you get an Intel Core i7 CPU that’s enhanced with Intel’s Kaby Lake G technology and paired with an AMD Radeon RX Vega M GPU that’s encased in lovely aluminum. And while it has discrete graphics, the x360 targets creative professionals, allowing consumers to transform from a traditional laptop to a tablet to a tent mode with ease. However, with only 5 hours and 20 minutes of battery life, you’ll want to keep the power cord handy.
Key Specs: CPU: 3.1-GHz Intel Core i7-8705G CPU * GPU: AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics * RAM/Storage: 16GB/512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/3840 x 2160
Best Innovation: Asus ZenBook Pro 15
The Asus ZenBook Pro 15 doesn’t just look good; it works damned hard, too, making it a great choice for mobile professionals. You get a slim, sophisticated system with a striking 4K display, an Intel Core i9 processor, an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU and a smoking-fast SSD. In addition, you get the ScreenPad, an LCD display that can easily switch between a touchpad, a music player, a productivity shortcut toolbar and a viable second display. Plus, you get an absolute beauty of a notebook, which, despite its svelte dimensions, manages to fit some extremely powerful specs. However, all that power and innovation comes at a cost to productivity as the notebook barely lasted over 4 hours with the ScreenPad enabled.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.9-GHz Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU with 6GB of VRAM/Intel UHD 630 Graphics * RAM/Storage: 16GB/512GB NVMe PCIe SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/3840 x 2160
Best Gaming Thin-and-Light: MSI GS65 Stealth Thin
MSI’s GS65 Stealth Thin is one of the company’s slimmest and prettiest laptops to date. But don’t let the sophisticated and svelte design fool you, as this is still a gaming laptop. Packed with a Nvidia GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, the notebook is capable of delivering high frame rates at the highest settings, which, coupled with the 15.6-inch display with a 144-Hertz refresh rate, makes for a bona fide portable gaming laptop.
Key Specs: CPU: 3.9-GHz Intel Core i7-8750H CPU * GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM * RAM/Storage: 16GB/512GB M.2 SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
Best Workstation: Dell Precision 3530
The Dell Precision 3530 will knock you off your feet — figuratively with its Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro P600 graphics, and literally with its tough MIL-STD-810G durable chassis. It also features some decently loud speakers with a comfortable keyboard, a cadre of ports and over 8 hours of battery life. It’s the ideal choice for engineering or creative types who require a system with a lot of graphical and overall power.
Key Specs: CPU: 2.7-GHz Intel Xeon Processor E-2176M with vPro * GPU: Nvidia Quadro P600 GPU with 4GB of VRAM * RAM/Storage: 32GB/512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 50 SSD * Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/1920 x 1080
How We Test Laptops
When we bring a laptop into our laboratory, our goal is to see how it would work if you brought it into your home or office. While we use a number of industry-standard benchmarks such as Geekbench and 3DMark, we focus heavily on real-world tests that we have developed in-house.
To test endurance, the Laptop Mag Battery test surfs the web at 150 nits of brightness until the system runs out of juice. To judge pure processing power, we use a giant spreadsheet macro that matches 65,000 names with their addresses, a video transcoder that converts a 4K video to 1080p and the Geekbench 4 synthetic test. We measure graphics prowess with both 3DMark Ice Storm / Fire Strike and a series of actual game titles.
We use a colorimeter to measure screen brightness and color gamut while other instruments help us determine a laptop’s key travel and ambient heat. See this page on How We Test Laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.
Specs: 1080p / Core i5 / 8GB Are Best Bets
You can spend a lot of time delving into specs, but here are the key components to think about. If you just want really good mainstream performance, go for a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p screen.
- Screen Resolution: Unfortunately, 66 percent of consumer laptops and 51 percent of business systems have low-res screens. If at all possible, get a display with a 1920 x 1080 (aka 1080p, or full HD) or higher resolution.
- CPU: An Intel Core i5 provides good mainstream performance. Some budget systems will come with Core i3, Celeron or Pentium CPUs, which are good for basic tasks, but not heavy multitasking. Get a Core i7 or a quad core processor (serial number ends in HQ or HK) for gaming or high-end productivity tasks such as video editing and 3D modeling.
- RAM: 8GB is ideal for most users. 4GB is acceptable for budget systems. Secondary laptops and Chromebooks may have less.
- Storage: Unless you’re a gamer or a power user, 256GB of internal storage is probably enough. If at all possible, get an SSD (solid-state drive) rather than a hard drive, because it’s going to make your computer a lot faster.
- Graphics Chip: Gamers and creative professionals need to do some research and figure out which discrete GPU is good enough to run their favorite software. Everyone else will be happy with the built-in Intel HD Graphics that come with the CPU.
If you want to learn more about buying a laptop, check out our full Laptop Buying Guide. Gamers should read our Gaming Laptop Buying Guide and list of Best Gaming Laptops.