Best 15-inch laptop of 2020 for work, gaming or both

September 7, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments

Why a 15-inch laptop? As the middle child between smaller, less powerful 13-inch laptops and more expensive, big-screen 17-inch models, 15 inches strikes the Goldilocks balance between price, performance and size for many people — at least in the US. Some other regions find 14 inches more to their liking, which is why we have so many similar laptop computer options to choose from in both sizes.

There are a lot of powerful laptops out there, so we’ve culled a lineup of our best 15-inch laptop picks based on design, performance for a given set of specs (aka, their configuration) and features for the money. Because configurations, specs, designs and availability tend to change so frequently, we’ve limited our choices for this particular roundup to laptops we’ve reviewed roughly in the past year. So, for instance, the LG Gram 15, which blew us away with its battery life and light weight back in March 2018, isn’t listed here because we haven’t run our battery tests on current configurations. 

We’ve included both budget and premium laptops, and taken into consideration features like battery life, GPU and graphics card, processor, hard drive, SSD storage, whether or not it has a touchscreen, fingerprint reader, 4K display or a backlit keyboard, and more. Screen size shouldn’t be the only thing dictating your laptop computer purchasing decisions! 

If you’re looking for a focus on lower prices or a broader set of options, check out our picks for budget laptops and budget gaming laptops. And picking just a handful out of a sea of hundreds pretty much ensures that you’ll miss some important devices, especially if you’re looking for a more powerful laptop that’s tailored to specific needs, like video editing, so you should also head over to see our best gaming laptops, two-in-ones and Chromebooks, as well as the best choices for college students, our picks of computers and tablets for creatives and the best MacBook Pro alternatives for the Windows set. Plus, if you just want a model with pure power or long battery life, our rankings of battery life and performance are for you. We update this list periodically with new products and information.

Read more: Best laptop backpack for 2020  

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It’s hard to find a budget laptop that’s also thin and light, much less one that has decent performance and battery life. The Aspire, which starts at less than $500, hits all those targets and more, including a solid assortment of ports (including a USB type-C port) and easily upgradable hard drive storage and memory. It’s got a budget build, but you can’t expect everything for so little money.

Read our Acer Aspire 5 (2019) review.

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Razer’s featureless-slab aesthetic fits seamlessly into almost any environment, making it the best 15-inch laptop for work and play. If you opt for one of the higher-end configurations and specs — like a great graphics card — the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a great device for creative work and is a stellar gaming laptop. If you’re willing to go with a black Razer Blade and an emptied wallet (this is among the most premium laptops), you can get an Adobe RGB calibrated 4K OLED display and a GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q for $3,300. The less-expensive Base Edition starts at $1,800 and isn’t too shabby, either.

Read our Razer Blade 15 Advanced review.

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A middle ground between smaller 13-inch ultraportable two-in-ones and heavier, faster or more expensive models — it weighs about the same as a 16-inch MacBook Pro, at 4.4 pounds (2 kg) — the Yoga C940 incorporates a six-core Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q discrete graphics. The result is quite respectable performance for a two-in-one. Plus, you gain design flexibility — kiosk mode (also called “stand mode“) and tent mode (my personal favorite), which are the best ways to use a laptop with a touch screen that hangs around the house.

Read our Lenovo Yoga C940 (15.6-inch) review.

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If, like me, you’re not a big fan of OLED screens for photo editing — they’re not optimized for Adobe RGB and aren’t great at tonal range in the shadows — then what you need is a laptop with a good IPS display. The Dell XPS 15 9500 with the 4K screen option delivers that, and it’s not as reflective as the OLED screens I’ve seen. It doesn’t qualify as an “RTX Studio” laptop because it tops out at a GTX 1650 Ti, but that graphics processor is sufficient for most photo editing and you don’t need the Nvidia Studio drivers for most photo editing. Dell’s PremierColor software isn’t perfect, but it gives you more control over screen settings than most I’ve seen, and it’s got two Thunderbolt 3 controllers to make your external drives happy.

If you’re willing to go a little bigger for a lot more graphics power, the 17-inch XPS 17 9700 doesn’t feels smaller than it looks.

Read our Dell XPS 15 9500 review.

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The Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 further expands the boundaries of what you can expect from a Chromebook in 2020. The standout feature is a terrific 15.6-inch, 4K convertible display — but it also has a complement of solid components and a sturdy, tasteful aluminum chassis (though the keyboard is a little mushy and you can’t run those few Windows- and MacOS-only applications on Chrome OS).The battery in this device should last about 10 hours after being fully charged. Like most Chromebooks, it costs hundreds less than a similarly configured Windows counterpart.

Read our Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 review.

Best 15-inch budget gaming

Dell G5 15

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Dell’s G series comprises some of the best mainstream gaming laptops you can find, with strong performance, a variety of component options and a more travel- and user-friendly design than most. Plus, battery life is a lot better than a typical gaming laptop’s, and a solid-performance base configuration starts at less than $1,000.

Note: This 2019 model is no longer available; our testing for the 2020 model is in progress, but we don’t expect it to be a weak competitor in this category. Don’t assume it will continue to be an Editors’ Choice, however.

Read our Dell G5 15 5590 review.

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OLED displays have a combination of color gamut (100% P3) and contrast that IPS panels are struggling to match, but need calibration to keep your colors from chaos. The 15-inch Gigabyte is sleek and powerful — it’s got all the Nvidia Studio specs, it just lacks the logo, and you can download the more creative-application-focused Studio driver yourself. A color-profile switcher utility makes it more convenient to use, and it’s a well-designed laptop that performs solidly. Note that the battery life isn’t great, though better than a lot of the gaming notebooks these laptops are based on, and the webcam is in a ridiculous spot.

Read our Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED review.

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It may now have a 16-inch screen, but the MacBook Pro remains a 15-incher in size and spirit. I’m not a fan of the Touch Bar, but at least the keyboard’s improved, and the combination of the MacBook Pro’s hardware and MacOS extracts the maximum performance from the components while delivering class-leading battery life in a way Windows systems never seem to do, and the Retina Display screen remains terrific. You pay for it, though — base price for the 16-inch MacBook Pro model is $2,399.

Read our Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) review.

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Given that there are only really two dual-screen options available at the moment — the other is the fast HP Omen X 2S gaming laptop — choosing one doesn’t seem that big a deal. But the ZenBook Pro Duo has a lot going for it, including a color-accurate OLED screen plus a smaller IPS panel below it. The secondary display may be only about half an extra screen, but it’s still really useful for video editing and other tasks when you want to fit more video or photos on the main 15-inch monitor or work in a small space. The ZenBook Pro Duo’s primary OLED touchscreen display provides excellent color accuracy for Adobe RGB and P3, plus it’s got a high-powered i9-9980HK eight-core processor, making it a portable powerhouse. It’s relatively heavy for its class at 5.5 pounds, though, and the high-end model we loved costs $3,000 — don’t expect blazing speed from the less expensive Core i processor and RTX 2060 configuration (though it should be respectable). Plus, the battery life isn’t very good and the keyboard can be uncomfortable without the wrist rest.

Read our Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review.

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It’s not for everyone — it’s not from a mainstream manufacturer and it’s not an Intel processor — but for pure speed in something smaller than a megalithic 17-inch, the Eon15-X’s Ryzen 3900 desktop processor packs in the CPU cycles, turning it into a rendering powerhouse. With its GeForce RTX 2070 it’s not quite a gaming powerhouse, though.

Read our Origin PC Eon15-X (2020) review.

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Dropping down to 14 inches does confer some benefits, notably lighter weight, and since the components tend to be less powerful than in the 15-inch models, battery life is typically much better. Toss in Lenovo’s latest privacy and security updates and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon makes a great business travel companion. If you want a two-in-one instead, its sibling the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th gen) earns a similar recommendation.

Read our ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review.

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