Like their 13-inch counterparts, 15-inch laptops keep getting thinner and lighter, but they’re still the same workhorses they’ve always been — and that’s a good thing. They might not be as exciting or flexible as some of the better 2-in-1 laptops, but what they lack in versatility they more than make up for in muscle. Modern 15-inch laptops still routinely outperform their 13-inch counterparts, and usually offer better battery life — after all, a bigger chassis means room for a bigger battery.
So whether you’re in the market for a mobile workstation, a commendable gaming behemoth, or something a little more exotic, there’s something in the 15-inch form factor that’s sure to fit the bill. That said, here are the best 15-inch laptops on the market today.
Dell XPS 15 ($850+)
There’s no steadier hand in the 15-inch laptop market than Dell, and its XPS 15 exemplifies the reputation 15-inch laptops have rightly earned: They’re dependable, powerful, and robust. The latest XPS 15 features an Intel Core i7 processor, and an optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card. The XPS 15 is also one of the smallest 15-inch laptops available, weighing in at just 4 pounds and measuring a svelte 17 millimeters at its thickest point. Remarkably, the XPS 15 is nearly as thin and light as its 13-inch cousin, the XPS 13.
This extra real estate comes with a few perks though, not least of which is the display. The XPS 15 features an Infinity Edge display, meaning its bezels are razor-thin, and in our tests it was incredibly vibrant, hitting a contrast ratio of 770:1, with nearly pitch-perfect color accuracy. It’s also a capable gaming rig — if you don’t mind turning down some settings. All in all, it’s your best option if you’re looking at picking up a 15-inch laptop, and it starts at just $850.
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ($1,400+)
The ThinkPad laptop brand just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and its safe to say it’s just as relevant and capable as ever. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a worthy successor to the ThinkPad’s storied legacy, with a chassis made from carbon fiber, and a no-nonsense, straightforward design that exists solely to get out of your way and let you get to work. The X1 Carbon places the company’s signature, cherry-red TrackPoint in the middle of a wonderfully tactile keyboard, but modernizes the traditional ThinkPad design with a thin-bezeled display and fingerprint sensor.
Outfitted with the latest internals, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a robust and capable business laptop, and as such, it’s not exactly cheap. It starts at $1,400, but it has a lot of little features you won’t find elsewhere — like optional LTE connectivity. The spartan ThinkPad design is alive and well in the X1 Carbon, and for good reason. There’s just one catch: It’s technically a 14-inch laptop. That said, what you lose in screen real estate you more than make up for in versatility.
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Surface Book 2 ($1,500+)
Finding a 2-in-1 or tablet that comes in a 15-inch form factor is not an easy task. Thankfully, Microsoft’s latest version of the Surface Book features a massive 15-inch display that detaches from the keyboard to become one of the largest and most luxurious tablets on the market today. Coupled with support for a new, more colorful version of the Surface Pen and the intuitive Surface Dial, the Surface Book 2 offers access to a unique ecosystem of peripherals and accessories. When it comes down to it, however, it’s just a super-slick laptop.
If you’re on the fence about whether you should invest in a 2-in-1, a laptop, or a tablet, then you may want to give the Surface Book 2 a good look. This thing does it all, and a little more. The top-end model features an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, which could mean your Surface Book 2 can pull double duty as a gaming rig, or triple duty, if you count all the other ways you can use it (i.e., on your lap, as a tablet, or flipped around like an easel). Sadly, however, it starts at $1,500, meaning you definitely pay for the added flexibility.
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Acer Predator Helios 300 ($1,400+)
Finding a 15-inch gaming laptop is pretty easy — it’s where you’ll find most of them, to be honest. Some hit 14 inches, like the Razer Blade, while others venture into 17-inch territory and beyond, like the Razer Blade Pro and the Acer Predator 21x. For the most part, however the best balance between performance and form factor can be found in the 15-inch range. That’s where the Acer Predator Helios 300 lands. It’s not the slimmest or the fastest gaming laptop in the 15-inch space, but it’s one that benefits from impeccable balance.
Featuring an Intel Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card, the Predator offers solid gaming performance for about $100 less than the aforementioned Surface Book 2. It still features some of the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from gaming laptops, too, which can be a pro or a con depending on your preferences. Overall, the Helios offers a good mix of performance and affordability, assuming you can tolerate a little red.
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Acer Chromebook 15 ($250)
If you just need a 15-inch laptop to carry to and from class or the office — i.e., the kind of laptop that’s only ever going to open a word processor or send the occasional email — then the Acer Chromebook 15 is a good bet. At just $250, it’s not only one of the least expensive laptops in any segment of the market, but also the cheapest one on our list by more than $1,000. To be fair, however, you do get what you pay for. This isn’t a laptop that’s going to run even the most casual game, partially because its budget-oriented design means it’s not very powerful, and partially because it’s a Chromebook. This means you’re not running Windows, you’re running Chrome OS, Google’s desktop operating system.
Essentially, you’re limited to whatever you could feasibly run in a web browser. You can still access cloud storage, check your email, and sign into Slack and productivity suites like Google’s G Suite, but that’s about it. You’re limited here, not only by your hardware but also by your software. That said, it’s not a bad tradeoff for a 15-inch laptop that costs a fraction of what you’d spend on a new smartphone.
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Update: Added the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Surface Book 2, Acer Predator Helios 300, and Acer Chromebook 15.