Skip to main content

Best 15-inch laptops in 2021

Included in this guide:

Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021)
(Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

When it comes to portability, performance, and display real estate, 15-inch laptops are a top choice as they split the difference between svelte ultraportables and bulky desktop replacements. 

With laptop manufacturers getting smarter with design, notebooks across the board are getting lighter and slimmer, making the decision to slip a laptop into a bag that much easier. Even better, although 15-inchers are getting thinner, in many cases, it's not due to sacrificing performance with many laptops sporting powerful processors, graphics cards and SSDs. In other words, for those of us who like the middle, it's a wonderful time to invest in a 15-inch laptop. But the question is, which one?

There are a number of laptops out there covering a gamut of budgets and use cases. While some can be happy with a basic system for web surfing and social media, others need a laptop that can handle more intensive tasks such as data calculation, 3D rendering, and laptops for photo editing. Whether you're looking for a college laptop, a budget Windows machine, a Chromebook, a premium stunner, a business laptop, a formidable gaming laptop, or a jack-of-all-trades 2-in-1 laptop, there's a 15-inch laptop with your name on it.

When 17-inch laptops are too big and 13-inch laptops don't have enough screen real estate, 15-inch laptops are there to fill that midsize hole in your life. Check out the best 15-inch laptops on the market today. 

The best 15-inch laptops right now

Over the course of the year, the staff at Laptop Mag thoroughly review over 100 laptops. We employ rigorous benchmarks, hands-on testing, and comparisons to separate the wheat from the chaff. We've identified some of the best 15-inch laptops on the market based on budget and use case. 

The Dell XPS 15 is our top 15-inch laptop. The 2021 iteration has made a number of small tweaks that add up to big change. The XPS 15 OLED is a better version of the laptop we've consistently praised over the past several years. It fixes past problems (remember the nosecam?) while refining every inch of the package. The highlight of this particular configuration is the stunning 3.5K OLED display with its jaw-dropping colors, contrast and brightness. It's a panel befitting of the XPS 15's stylish and portable design that blends a machined aluminum exterior with a woven pattern on the inside. On the deck are a gargantuan touchpad, spacious keyboard and powerful speakers. 

Samsung is making a pointed return to the laptop market with the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360. This laptop boasts class-leading portability, a vivid 15-inch AMOLED display, and long battery life, but a few missteps prevent it from rising to the very top. Still, the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 15 is still among the best you can get. Nestled in a stunning blue aluminum chassis, the Flex 15 takes all the great things about the recent Galaxy Note smartphones and brings it to laptops. The Flex 15 offers a responsive stylus for taking notes and it's the first laptop to feature a QLED display. The stunning 2-in-1 also lasted over 15 hours on our battery test. And armed with an Intel Ice Lake processor and Nvidia graphics card, it's a serious force to be reckoned with.

Gamers looking for their next mobile battle station should take a long, admiring look at the Asus ROG Zephyrus G15. The follow-up to the excellent ROG Zephyrus G14, the new laptop features the highly sought-after AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processors and Nvidia's RTX 3000 Series GPU. The G15 serves up some powerful performances whether you're gaming or creating a presentation for work. 

(Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

1. Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021)

The best 15-inch laptop overall

CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
RAM/Storage: 16GB/512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display : 15.6-inch, 3456 x 2160 (3.5K) OLED
Size: 13.6 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Breathtaking 3.5K OLED display+Supercharged performance+Slim, premium chassis
Reasons to avoid
-Below-average battery life-Heavier than some competitors-No USB Type-A

Productivity, multimedia, and even a bit of gaming — the Dell XPS 15 can do it all — and do it well. Starting at $1,299, the XPS 15 offers an attractive, slim design that's bursting with power. 

The XPS 15 OLED is the best Windows laptop for power users who need to take their work (or play) on the road. Its attractive design screams luxe, the 3.5K OLED display is stunning, and the oversized touchpad would impress even a MacBook user. Combine those XPS staples with excellent performance from 11th Gen Intel and Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti chips and it's easy to recommend this machine to students, business users or content creators, like photographers, videographers or graphics designers. 

For those that aren't fussed about the OLED display, Dell tends to use top-rate 1920 x 1200-pixel panels, so we recommend that anyone who cares about battery life opt for the FHD+ display. 

See our full Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021) review

(Image credit: Future)

A powerful convertible for content creators

CPU: 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-10750H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
RAM/Storage: 16GB/1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display : 15.6, 3840 x 2160, 4K
Size: 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Attractive, versatile design+Strong overall and gaming performance+Good battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Weak audio-Display could be more vivid

Designed for creators, the ConceptD 7 Ezel has something for everyone. For consumers that place a high premium on design, you get a slick, convertible system that combines form and function. Those in need of power can rely on the Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia RTX graphics. And despite the high-powered specs, the laptop has solid battery life and even comes with a pen and some light security features. 

The Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel is what happens when a gaming laptop has a kid with a premium 2-in-1. On one hand, you have the powerful performance of the Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU, plus the SSD is smoking fast. On the other, you have the adjustable 4K display which delivers versatility plus sharp details. Overall, if you’re a multimedia content creator or you like playing games and working on a sleek, powerful system with good battery life, the Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel is the system for you. 

See our full Acer ConceptD 7 Ezel review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

3. Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

Longest lasting gaming laptop ever

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM/Storage: 32GB/1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440, 165Hz
Size: 14.0 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 4.2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Killer AMD and Nvidia performance+Longest-lasting gaming laptop ever+Lightning fast SSD
Reasons to avoid
-No webcam-Poor keyboard lighting

The Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 is easily one of the best gaming laptops you can buy right now. The laptop offers amazing performance from its AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. It even boasts a similarly long-lasting battery life, a clicky keyboard, a 15.6-inch, 1440p display, and a set of powerful speakers wrapped up in an even more elegant Moonlight White design.

The Zephyrus G15 boasts a 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel panel with a 165Hz refresh rate, making it sharper and smoother than its 14-inch counterpart. It comes in at the top of the food chain with an RTX 3080 GPU (with an 80-watt TDP) with 8GB of VRAM. This monster shrugged off our benchmarks and tore through the competition.

See our full Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The best 15-inch Chromebook

CPU: Intel Core i5-8350U
RAM/Storage: 8GB/64GB eMMC storage
Display Size/Resolution: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080
Size: 14.4 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Premium, durable chassis+Great performance+Over 10 hours of battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Poor audio-Dull, dim display

The Acer Chromebook 715 is a premium Chromebook that offers a durable aluminum chassis packed with great performance and over 10 hours of battery life. Its Intel Core i5-8350U processor with 8GB of RAM hit 14,088 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, sailing past the 6,100 Chromebook average. Its integrated numpad is also a boon for students. And even though its 15.6-inch display is a little dull, it's sharp, at 1920 x 1080. If you like buying from Acer, this is among its best Chromebooks.

See our full Acer Chromebook 715 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best 15-inch business laptop in class

CPU: 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-9850H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q
RAM/Storage: 32GB/1TB SSD
Display Size/Resolution: 15.6, 3840 x 2160
Size: 14.2 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Phenomenal 4K HDR display+Blazing-fast performance+Luxurious design
Reasons to avoid
-Below-average battery life-Runs warm-Expensive

Lenovo didn't make any major changes to the design of this sophomore effort. This machine's sleek, thin-and-lightweight chassis remains the best presentation (alongside the X1 Carbon) of Lenovo's iconic ThinkPad aesthetic. With a similarly attractive and portable design, blistering-fast performance, and a gorgeous 4K HDR display option, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 is a great choice for content creators and business users alike. It's also one of the best ThinkPads around. 

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 is a breath away from being the best 15-inch laptop on the market. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen is almost a perfect laptop for content creators and business users. Its sleek design looks great, and it's surprisingly durable yet portable. Performance is also impressive thanks to a Core i7 CPU and GTX 1650 Max-Q graphics. You can even equip the X1 Extreme with 64GB of RAM, although storage maxes out at only 1TB. All things considered, the 2nd Gen ThinkPad X1 Extreme is an excellent laptop with one glaring flaw that many customers will find hard to overlook.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Gen 2) review

(Image credit: Future)

Kickass performance, beautiful display and a sexy design

CPU: Intel Core i7-10870H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
RAM/Storage: 16GB/1 TB SSD
Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/4K
Size: 14.2 x 10.9 x 0.7~0.8 inches
Weight: 5.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Awesome performance and graphics+Gorgeous 4K OLED display+Stylish design
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life-Expensive

This baby has it all. Power, beauty (on the inside and out) and a soft touch. The Alienware m15 R4 will grace you with its intense Intel Core i7  processor and Nvidia 3000-series GPU, a poppin’ 15.6-inch, 4K OLED display, and a punchy keyboard wrapped in a familiar but stylish design. But don’t let this thin figure deceive you; there’s a mighty Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Max-Q GPU with 8GB of VRAM lying beneath the surface. 

The Alienware m15 R4 is a stunning notebook that hits almost all of the boxes when it comes to being the best gaming laptop. The Alienware m15 R4’s 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160-pixel (4K) OLED display is luxurious, delivering images that are incredibly bright and vivid. You can’t deny its raw power, incredible display and bangin’ keyboard. Overall, the Alienware m15 R4 is one of the best gaming laptops you can own if you can afford it. 

See our full Alienware m15 R4 review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

7. Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2

The best 15-inch workstation

CPU: Intel Core i7-11950H vPro
GPU: Nvidia RTX A5000
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, FHD (1920x1080)
Battery: 10:40
Size: 14.7 x 9.9 x 1.2 inches
Weight: 6.2 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Class-leading performance+Excellent array of ports+Bright display+Durable build+Comfortable keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Fans can get loud-Expensive-Heavy

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 improves on what was already a winning formula with the original ThinkPad P15 with upgraded performance and stellar battery life for the 1080p model.

The laptop’s 11th Gen Intel Core i9-11950H CPU, Nvidia RTX A5000 GPU, and 32GB of RAM make it an absolute workhorse of a workstation. If raw performance is your goal, it will be hard to beat the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2, after you screw up the courage to hit the buy button with that daunting price tag above it. The one concern for creatives will be the display, but if that’s crucial for you consider the OLED panel option or perhaps an external display.

The comfortable keyboard, durable build, and solvable display concerns make this laptop an easy recommendation for a wide variety of users. 

You could absolutely spend less on a workstation laptop and still have a solid experience, but if you are using this laptop for work where saving minutes or even seconds on every task makes a meaningful difference for you then the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is likely the choice for you.

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 review

(Image credit: Future)

8. MSI WS66 10TMT

A 15-inch laptop with class-leading performance and endurance

CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK
GPU: Nvidia Quadro 5000 Max-Q
RAM/Storage: 64GB/1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 4K
Size: 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.6 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Outstanding performance and graphics+Long battery life+Sleek, portable design
Reasons to avoid
-Only one USB-A port-Fans run loud-Expensive

The tug-of-war between performance and battery life just doesn't exist in the WS66's world. You get stellar performance from a 10th Gen Core i9 CPU and 64GB of RAM and long battery life at 10+ hours. This, despite the WS66 having a relatively slim chassis, which, by the way, is tested to military-grade durability.

The MSI WS66 10TMT is an excellent workstation with few downsides. You get fast performance, impressive graphics, and long battery life in a durable, yet portable chassis. The display and keyboard, while short of class-leading, are great and the extra-wide touchpad will be useful to some business users. The WS66 also comes with the features you'd expect from a premium enterprise notebook, including a fingerprint sensor, IR camera and a decent selection of ports.

See our full MSI WS55 10MT review

(Image credit: Future)

9. HP ZBook Studio G8

The Wagyu of content creator mobile workstations

CPU: Intel Core i9-11950H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 6GB vRAM
Storage: 2TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, OLED 4K (3840 x 2160)
Battery: 4:56
Size: 14.13 x 10.08 x 0.64 inches
Weight: 3.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Stunning 4K OLED display+Powerful overall and gaming performance+Comfortable keyboard+Good audio
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Can get hot-Poor battery life (on 4K OLED model)

The HP ZBook Studio G8 (2021) holds on to the award-winning G7 series styling but bumps up the power to help content creators with their creative projects either in the studio or in the field. 

This salacious attention grabber comes with an 11th Gen Intel Core i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU that will more than handle all your Adobe Creative Suite power-hungry needs and then some. What's more, that OLED 4K touchscreen is bright, vivid, and positively stunning. if you’re on the hunt for a durable, portable powerhouse the HP ZBook Studio G8 is the way to go.

See our full HP ZBook Studio G8 review

(Image credit: Future)

One of the most powerful workstations around

CPU: Intel Xeon W-10885M
GPU: Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000
RAM/Storage: 32GB/1 TB SSD
Display Size/Resolution: 15.6/4K
Size: 14.17 x 9.53 x 1.08 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Powerful performance and graphics+Bright 4K display+Amazing battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Exorbitantly expensive-Display could be more colorful for the price

If you’re looking for the king of workstations, we might’ve just found it. The Dell Precision 7550 offers incredible performance from its Intel Xeon W-10885M CPU and Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU. There’s also a bright 15.6-inch, 4K display, long battery life, a comfortable keyboard and even a pair of high-quality speakers. Not to mention, this machine is super configurable. 

The 4K panel is bright with crystal-clear details and lusciously saturated colors. The laptop consistently beat its competitors on both overall and graphics performance. Given all of the pros that come with this laptop, especially the battery life and power combo, the Dell Precision 7550 is undoubtedly one of the best workstations you can buy, that is, if you can afford it.

See our full Dell Precision 7550 review

Super fast, long battery life, really expensive

CPU: Intel Core i9-8950HK
GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of VRAM
RAM/Storage: 32GB/2TB PCIe SSD
Display Size/Resolution: 15.6,2880 x 1800
Weight: 4 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Insanely speedy general performance+Fastest SSD we've tested+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Exorbitant price-Warm underside-No USB Type-A ports

It's the last of Apple's 15-inch laptops, at least for now. The last 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.

If you're a MacBook Pro fan, but aren't too keen on either the 13 or 16-inch variations, you should purchase the MacBook Pro 15-inch. It's got plenty of power and endurance and now that the system's being retired in favor of its larger cousin, prices should be dropping substantially over the next few months, but don't wait too long or you might miss out.

See our full Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch 2019) review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Razer's beautiful chassis with a show-stopping OLED display

CPU: Intel Core i7-10875H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM/Storage: 32GB/1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Display Size/Resolution: 15.6-inch, 2560 x 1440, 240Hz refresh rate
Size: 14 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.4 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight, attractive design+Great overall and graphics performance+Good battery life+High refresh rate display
Reasons to avoid
-Keyboard a bit mushy-Dim screen-Expensive

Lightweight, pretty and powerful. Those are the basic hallmarks of a Razer Blade. The latest iteration of the $2,999 Blade 15 Advanced Model raises the bar with a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU. It’s the epitome of a portable powerhouse, plus you got that beautiful Chroma keyboard and a display with a fast refresh rate. Razer’s even providing gamers with a measure of security. 

See our Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model (2021) review

(Image credit: Future)

Two gorgeous screens, one powerful laptop

CPU: Intel Core i9-10980HK
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
RAM/Storage: 32GB/1TB SSD
Display : 15.6-inch, 4K UHD
Size: 14.7 x 9.8 x 0.85 inches
Weight: 5.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Excellent build quality+Great overall and gaming performance+Dual-screen functionality is easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Awkward keyboard and touchpad

Two is better than one. This is especially true of the Asus ZenBook Pro Duo which employs a pair of 4K displays into a single laptop with the goal of increasing your productivity. Did we mention the main display is an OLED panel? So not only do you get crisp detail, but you also get mind-blowing color. But the ZenBook Pro Duo is more than just stunning touch displays; it boasts an overclockable Core i9 processor, 32GB of RAM, a seriously fast 1TB SSD and a powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 GPU. That means there’s not much this laptop can’t do.

Second displays on laptops aren't a new concept: Asus had quite a library of dual screens in the early 2000s. However, it's currently the only company that does the conceit justice. The ZenBook Pro Duo not only gives you an absolutely beautiful 4K OLED touch panel but also gives you a full-length, 4K touch display right underneath. Overall, the ZenBook Pro Duo is a serious contender for creative and mobile professionals looking for a worthy alternative to Apple.

See our full Asus ZenBook Pro Duo review

(Image credit: Future)

An excellent choice for content creators

CPU: 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-10870H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
RAM/Storage: 32GB/1 TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 4K, 60Hz
Size: 14.0 x 9.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 4.4 pounds
Reasons to buy
+4K, OLED Samsung display+Sturdy, all-aluminum design+Great overall performance
Reasons to avoid
-Poorly placed webcam-Quiet speakers

Gigabyte got a lot of things right with the Aero 15, including its sturdy, all-aluminum, jet-black chassis, gorgeous OLED panel and satisfying, clicky keyboard. Its gaming and performance benchmarks are decent, too. The Aero 15 is an excellent choice for content creators. Photo and video editors will benefit from the Aero 15’s color-accurate 4K panel, but they’ll also enjoy the pleasures of diving into one of their favorite triple-A titles after a long day of work.

The Gigabyte Aero 15 packs a powerful Nvidia RTX 3070 GPU that can handle all of your taxing triple-A titles — just make sure to game in 1080p. If you’re a professional photo editor and/or video editor who loves gaming, the Aero 15 will be a beastly companion that will help you accomplish your work tasks in the morning and fire up your favorite games with decent frame rates at night. The Gigabyte gaming rig is a fine choice for early adopters who want to get their hands on an Nvidia 30-series laptop with a spectacular Samsung 4K AMOLED display.

See our full Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

15. Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360

One of the best portable 15-inch laptops ever

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Iris Xe
RAM/Storage: 16GB
Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p AMOLED touchscreen
Size : 14 x 9 x 0.47 inches
Weight: 3.1 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Class-leading portability+Attractive design (in Mystic Blue)+Vivid 15.6-inch AMOLED panel+Excellent battery life+S Pen included
Reasons to avoid
-Display could be brighter-Lots of bloatware-Hinges are a bit loose

The Galaxy Book Pro 360 is an excellent option for those who want a large screen on an ultra-portable chassis. Content creators will appreciate the vivid 15.6-inch AMOLED display, and the Book Pro 360's slender yet durable aluminum frame means frequent travelers won't even notice the laptop in their backpack, purse or briefcase. 

It doesn't use the most powerful processors but the Core i7-1165G7 CPU with 16GB of RAM delivered fast performance in our benchmarks and real-world tests alike. Plus, you get more than 13 hours on a charge and the trusty S Pen is included for artists and note-takers. 

Overall, if you want an ultra-thin, ultra-lightweight convertible laptop with a 15-inch display, the Galaxy Book Pro 360 is as good as they get, even though it's a few missteps short of competing with the likes of the XPS 15 or MacBook Pro as an overall package.

See our full Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 review

(Image credit: Future)

16. Asus ZenBook 15

Twice the screens, more powerful performance

CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U
GPU: GeForce GTX 1650 GPU
Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p
Size: 13.9 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.7 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Glamourous, durable design+Improved ScreenPad functionality+Comfortable keyboard+Great audio
Reasons to avoid
-Mixed performance-Display could be brighter

Asus sure knows how to make a beautiful laptop. The company also knows how to turn gimmicks into bona fide features. Asus combines both talents on the ZenBook 15 (UX534F). The laptop bucks the silver/rose-gold trend and goes with a bewitching blue chassis that's as durable as it is alluring. The company also brings back ScreenPad in a larger space, with even more functionality. Throw in an Intel Comet Lake processor, discrete graphics and longer battery life, and you've got a great laptop for mobile professionals.

 The ZenBook 15 maintains the glamorous looks of its predecessor and adds MIL-SPEC durability to the mix. It keeps the surprisingly useful ScreenPad, makes it bigger and adds more useful apps. The keyboard now sports a number pad and the bezels are noticeably smaller. Heck, the battery life is now nearly twice as long.  The biggest addition to the ZenBook is Intel's Comet Lake, which is powerful enough for multitasking and is a great choice for mobile professionals who want to squeeze every bit of functionality possible out of their notebook. 

See our full Asus ZenBook 15 review

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 how we test laptops for more details on our benchmarking procedures.

Laptop 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.