Whenever you’re thinking of a laptop, what you’re thinking about is a 15-inch one. It seems to be the exact magical ratio between comfort and display size on the one hand and portability on the other. Almost half the laptop market is taken up by 15.6” models, with 14-inch laptops being the second most popular and the 17-inch ones being third place.
With such an immense popularity and such a large share of the market, it comes as no surprise that the research and development invested in 15-inch laptops are also proportional. In practical terms, this translates into an extremely wide variety of models, produced by at least ten well-known companies plus a couple of lesser-known others. You can find very low-budget devices, starting from around $180, as well as hardcore gaming units and workstations which can go as high as $5000. No, it’s not a joke, and some people do have both the money and the necessity to pay for such equipment.
To make your life a bit easier, we’ve compiled a very practical list of our favorite 15-inch models. These are all excellent in their respect and, moreover, have great reviews on retail websites such as Amazon. This means that not only do they have good components, but also that satisfying user experience has been reported. Here’s what we think you’d like:
- 1 1. MSI GE62VR Apache Pro-001
- 2 2. Asus ROG Strix GL502VM
- 3 3. MSI GL62 6QF-627
- 4 4. Lenovo ThinkPad P50 20EN001EUS
- 5 5. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW
- 6 6. MacBook Pro 15” 2016
- 7 7. Samsung Notebook Pro 9 NP940Z5L-X01US
- 8 8. Asus K501UW-AB78
- 9 9. Acer Aspire E15: E5-575G-57D4
- 10 10. Dell Inspiron 7000
- 11 11. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 4 15 – 80SB0004US
1. MSI GE62VR Apache Pro-001
While the most expensive and high-performance gaming rigs are 17-inchers, this 15-inch beast is nothing short of spectacular. MSI has managed to squeeze an amazing amount of power inside this one and, if you’re the type to go for the latest releases, this is exactly the toy you want. It looks, feels, and weighs like a gaming laptop, at 10.5lbs, and it has a beautiful FHD IPS screen, which is as much as you’ll ever need from such a device.
The Apache Pro-001 is powered by the above mentioned Intel i7-6700HQ, quad-core, 2.6GHz and up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost. This is quite common among gaming laptops, but hold on tight for what’s next: a nVidia GTX 1080M, next-generation Pascal architecture, with 6GB GDDR5 VRAM, capable of handling the most demanding games on native resolution. There is also 16GB DDR4 RAM, with the possibility of upgrade to 32GB, as well as a 512GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. All things considered, this is our top recommendation for gamers.
2. Asus ROG Strix GL502VM
One of the market leaders, Asus produces laptops in every category of budget and purpose, from gaming devices to super-cheap Chromebooks. This is one example of technology hidden in a small shell: unlike like the MSI model above, this ROG Strix has the exact dimensions of a classic 15-inch laptop, at 1.18” and 5.1lbs, half the weight of our top model. The price is almost the same, and the build also reveals a gaming laptop, in spite of not being as obvious as the MSI Apache.
The processor inside the ROG Strix is the already common i7-6700HQ. However, as the GTX 1080M cannot be fitted inside slimmer units due to physical limitations, Asus has instead chosen a GTX 1060M with 6GB GDDR5, which is kinda the same thing. It has 16GB DDR4, the usual amount for high-end devices, and a 1TB HDD. No SSD, unfortunately, but that’s not essential for gaming anyway.
3. MSI GL62 6QF-627
The best bang for the buck in this category is yet another MSI model. A relatively new competitor on the laptop market, MSI seems to completely rock the gaming and workstation categories. That’s about it though; there are no true budget laptops, nor business models. This particular one is a classic laptop in every respect when it comes to design and weight, at 1.15” and 5.5lbs, but we have to admit: the beauty is on the inside.
The GL62 has the same processor as the others, the i7-6700HQ while going for a lower price. It features an Nvidia GTX 960M, with 2GB GDDR5. From the reviews, that’s enough to handle some of the 2016 releases like the latest Deus Ex on high settings. It also has 8GB DDR4, upgradable, and a 1TB HDD, also upgradable (there’s an M.2 slot for SSD available).
4. Lenovo ThinkPad P50 20EN001EUS
In spite of being a device for professed artists, this 15” laptop is about as boring as laptop design could ever get. It seems that the new ThinkPads still have the shell of old ThinkPads, albeit with entirely different innards. This classic design (which some would rightfully call “outdated”, and others “vintage”) weighs almost as much as our top gaming choice, at no less than 8.65lbs, and is no less of a monster. When it comes to video editing, this is THE thing.
This seemingly old and unattractive device hosted an ungodly Intel Xeon E3-1505MV5, quad-core, 2.8GHz and overclocked up to 3.7GHz, as well as a workstation-specific graphics card, a nVidia Quadro M2000M with 4GB GDDR5. The setup is completed by 16GB DDR4 and a 256GB SSD.
5. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW
As far as design is concerned, this model couldn’t be more different from the ThinkPad. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that they are both 15.6”. This ZenBook Pro is sublimely thin and light, at only 0.8” and 5lbs, and it has easily one of the best designs on this list. If the ThinkPad were developed with video editing in mind, the ZenBook would definitely make the day of any image editor, visual artist, or graphic designer with an astonishing UHD IPS touchscreen.
The internal affairs of this model go pretty differently as well. Actually, performance-wise, this looks more like a gaming setup: the same i7-6700HQ and GTX 960M we’ve seen on our budget gaming model. It also features 16GB DDR4, as well as a really neat 512GB SSD, which fulfills the requirements for both storage size and speed.
6. MacBook Pro 15” 2016
We’re not going to lie to you: you’re going to need a successful business to afford this one. Apple offers you yet again one of the most beautiful models on the market – in spite of not having changed their design much, it’s the little details that matter. Of course, it’s also the beautiful QHD+ Retina display, the Touch Bar which apparently saves you a lot of time on multitasking, and then there’s the beauty on the inside as well…
Just as our gaming models, this MacBook Pro features an i7-6700HQ. However, in a rather surprising move, Apple has joined hands with AMD, and this model is powered by a Radeon Pro 450 with 2GB GDDR5, on par with the Nvidia GTX 950M. It also has 16GB LPDDR3 @2133MHz and a 256GB SSD. As a businessperson, you should be proud of owning this model.
7. Samsung Notebook Pro 9 NP940Z5L-X01US
If you want the same performance of the MacBook Pro at only half the price, Samsung offers you the exact thing you want. It’s not only the tech specs either – this Notebook Pro is, in our honest opinion, just as pretty as its more expensive counterpart, with its classy black lines. What’s more, it’s only 0.7” thick and weighs 4.5lbs, yet it features an amazing 4K UHD display.
As said, the performance is nearly the same as that of our Apple model. It’s powered by the same processor and the above mentioned GTX 950M with 2GB GDDR5. It only has 8GB DDR4, but that’s honestly enough for all practical purposes and a satisfying 256GB SSD.
8. Asus K501UW-AB78
Asus approached the classic laptop market just like everything else: by completely overpowering the opponents. This relatively quiet piece of metal looks about as Asus as anything can get: a brushed aluminum case with sharp edges and rounded corners, recognizable even without the Asus logo. It’s a bit lighter than the average model in the 15-inch category, at only 4.4lbs, and also pretty thin (0.8”).
While this is not a gaming model per se, it’s at least gaming-oriented. It features an i7-6500U, dual-core, 2.5GHz and up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost, and the same Nvidia GTX 960M we’ve seen on similarly-priced models. It also has a nice 8GB DDR4 and, surprisingly, a 512GB SSD, quite a bit for the price.
9. Acer Aspire E15: E5-575G-57D4
A way cheaper alternative, the Aspire E15 is made to satisfy the need of the mid-range user, who may play a couple of games from time to time, use a bit of Photoshop, and so on. It’s nowhere near a powerhouse, but it’s really good considering the price, and the Acer design considerably evolved from previous models. It has the exact dimensions expected from a classic model, at 1.15” and 5.27lbs.
This is the only model on this list with a latest-generation CPU, an i5-7200U, dual-core, 2.5 and up to 3.1GHz, as well as a mid-range GTX 940MX graphics card, with 2GB GDDR5. It has the necessary 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, which again is great for the price range.
10. Dell Inspiron 7000
This 15-inch laptop is, in our honest opinion, also one of the best-looking on this list and we wouldn’t be ashamed of using it ourselves. It has a design rather similar to the Asus K501UW-AB78, and it does not lack in performance, either. The difference is that this is a 2-in-1, that is, a laptop AND a tablet, and therefore has an FHD touchscreen instead of the usual display.
The processor is an i7-6500U, 2.5 and up to 3.1GHz, with the Intel HD 520 integrated graphics chip. It comes with 12GB DDR4, which is a lot, and a beautiful 512 GB SSD, a rare sight on the budget market.
11. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 4 15 – 80SB0004US
Yet another great design, a whole world of difference from the bulky ThinkPad P50, this 15-inch Flex is the personal choice of those who prefer a sharper design instead of the rounded corners of some of our other models. It’s pretty slim already, although not quite like the Inspiron 7000, and the satin black finish makes it look slimmer yet. Just like our other 2-in-1, the Flex 4 also has an FHD touchscreen.
The performance is more or less identical to the Inspiron 7000. The difference is in memory (this one has 16GB DDR4 instead of 12) and storage (this one has a 256GB SSD instead of 512GB). It’s up to you which one you prefer, but they are both exquisite models and will perform amazingly.
There are 15” laptops for basically every possible type of user. Whether you are a gamer, a graphic designer, video editor, writer, businessperson, teacher, student, potato digger, pirate, or alien hunter, it’s impossible not to find something that suits both your taste and your budget. The problem, however, also lies precisely in this large palette of products. How do you know which one is better? How do you know you’re not overpaying for an underperforming product, or simply getting a high-end setup you will never use? How do you know that your laptop will do exactly what you’re telling it to do, exactly the way you want?
Well, here’s how. First, you need to do a rigorous assessment of your financial possibilities and necessities. In other words, how much are you willing to pay for a laptop and what are you going to do with it. The question of the budget comes first because otherwise you’ll just be inclined to spend more money than you could afford on a device that will be too high-spec for you. As such, decide on a budget first and, when it comes to spending, do not go any further than 10% beyond that price. For instance, if you have a $700 budget, do not spend more than $770 or so, regardless of how appealing it seems. Exceptions are only for those who use the laptop for their main source of income; they can go a bit further and spend around 20% extra.
Now that the question of price is out of the way, there’s the purpose still in need of clarification. Gamers, for instance, will require a gaming rig, which is pretty much the most expensive type of laptop and has the highest specifications. Choose something with a strong processor, like the Intel i7-6700HQ and a dedicated graphics card, such as a nVidia 960M or higher. Workstation users will have to spend similar amounts on a similar setup; the difference is that a nVidia Quadro or, at least, Intel Iris graphics chip will be required, as well as an SSD. Also, get a good screen, for the love of Picasso. This is even more important for graphic designers and Photoshop users as well.
From here on, it only gets easier and cheaper. Businesspersons need a slim, light, and classy device which works perfectly every time without being overpowered – MacBooks are perfect examples. Travelers need similarly thin, and light laptops with as much battery life as possible, and so do students and others who carry it on a daily basis. Finally, the average home user needs nothing more than a good budget device, which should work for any purpose like reading, writing, Internet shopping, movie watching, and so on.