A top-of-the-line gaming PC and a work laptop can set you back a lot. Not everyone can swing that so some will have to do with a machine that can handle both. There are a lot of different laptops that can handle both a professional’s workload and a gamer’s passion. These devices are expensive, so you’ll want to know everything you can before dropping a huge sum of money.
You’ve probably found that a 13-inch laptop is too small and a 16-inch one can be too big; the sweet spot lies in the 14-inch and 15-inch screen range. Recently, laptop companies have been putting more emphasis on 14-inch and 16-inch models, directing marketing efforts away from 15-inch laptops. I prefer a 14-inch screen; it just seems to offer the best balance of price, performance and size. So that’s why you’ll find many of CNET’s picks for the best 15-inch laptop have… 14- or 16-inch screens.
These are the laptops, from budget to premium, we consider to be the best 14- and 15-inch work and gaming laptop options based on:
Performance and battery life for a given set of specs and intended use, where the configuration specs include the amount of solid-state storage and memory (SSD and RAM), main processor (CPU) and graphics processor (GPU), and operating system (Mac OS or Windows).
Features for a given weight class, such as the combination of laptop screen size, type (touchscreen or not) and resolution (4K, QHD or FHD), ports (such as an HDMI port, Ethernet port, and the type and number of USB connections), webcam and fingerprint reader.
Design, both aesthetic and functional, including keyboard layout and feel (lots of people want a backlit keyboard and a numeric keypad on their laptops), build quality, upgradeability and reparability and so on.
If you’re laptop shopping, remember you don’t have to buy now if money’s tight or can afford to wait. If you decide to postpone your purchase, here are some tips for stretching the life of your old laptop. If you do opt to go ahead, think about recycling it.
This list is periodically updated with new models we’ve tested and reviewed. It’s a great place to start to get an idea of what’s available. If you need advice on whether a particular type of laptop or two-in-one is right for you, jump to our FAQ below this list.
It’s a 14 incher, but if you’re on a tight budget, 14 inches is your friend. It’s a good deal for the basics like email, word processing and much more, thanks to AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. It’s available with 11th-gen Intel processors, too. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. The Acer Swift 3 is also an incredibly lightweight laptop — less than 3 pounds — for a machine that can be found for less than $700.
Dell’s G15 has been a favorite budget gaming laptop for the past few years, along with the HP Victus line. In late 2022, a 16-inch G16 joined the veteran 15-inch G15. If you’re looking for a gaming laptop bargain, the G15 is the way to go. But if you can afford to spend a couple of hundred dollars more and don’t mind the slight step up in size, the G16 is a better bet for longevity. We do recommend waiting until it goes on sale, though, since the entry-price model incorporates only an RTX 3050, which may not future-proof you against the growing legion of power-hungry games. Read our Dell G15 and G16 Gaming Laptop review.
It’s a 16-inch rather than a 15-inch, but this Editors’ Choice-earning laptop is a serious contender for your 15-inch needs. It offers seamless integration with other Galaxy devices, coming closer to matching a MacBook’s Continuity behavior with Apple devices than any other Windows laptop. It delivers excellent performance, decent battery life and a great OLED display, all packed into a relatively lightweight design. And with Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series discrete graphics, it can be a pretty solid gaming system for occasional players. The sound isn’t terrific, and the oddly placed touchpad might annoy some people, but those may be minor nitpicks.
The two-in-one design means you can use the HP Chromebook x360 as a tablet (though it’s a bit heavy to use as a handheld device), and 14 inches is much less awkward to use that way than a 15-inch model. You can also tent it, connect an external keyboard and mouse and use it as a small all-in-one computer.
If you need any convincing that 15-inch (and 17-inch) laptops are a dying breed, take Apple’s killing them off as a confirmational nail in their coffin. If your major concerns are weight and price, and you don’t need much power, then the smaller MacBook Air rules.
The 2022 model we tested of the Blade 15 (we’ve reviewed the new 18-inch model) retains the title of least-gaming-like gaming laptop, but doesn’t forgo the speed, but like all Razer’s it’s pretty expensive. It’s got a streamlined, slim and sturdy design with plenty of ports and a comfortable Razer Chroma RGB keyboard, plus the latest from Intel and Nvidia and new high-quality panel options for gaming. For work, you can benefit from the 1080p webcam with Windows Hello support. It can get a bit warm when it’s revved up, though.
The highlights of this thin and light 15-inch Windows two-in-one are its excellent battery life, high-contrast OLED screen and the plethora of cross-device features it serves up for owners of Samsung’s Galaxy phones and accessories. It’s specifically designed for people who want a laptop experience similar to that of their phones, with similar responsiveness. For its size, it’s relatively slim and lightweight, and includes the excellent S Pen.
The Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 continues the company’s streak of fantastic premium two-in-ones. The 12th-gen Intel processor delivers a big performance jump in multicore tasks compared to its predecessor, and the features and design are worth the higher price. The latest model offers a big performance jump, top-flight sound and visuals and bundles a sleeve and stylus. It does go hot and heavy on the software and services upselling, though, so if that’s going to drive you nuts, run away.
The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computer-like devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device’s aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both those objective and subjective judgments.
Which is better, MacOS or Windows?
Deciding between MacOS and Windows laptop for many people will come down to personal preference and budget. Apple’s base model laptop, the M1 MacBook Air, starts at $999. You can sometimes find it discounted or you can get educational pricing from Apple and other retailers. But, in general, it’ll be at least $1,000 for a new MacBook, and the prices just go up from there.
What size screen do I need? Do I need a 4K screen?
One of the reasons I like 14-inch more than 15-inch displays is because they strike a much better balance among price, size and performance while sacrificing only about 0.6 inches (15.2mm) horizontally and 0.8 inches (20mm) vertically of screen real estate (although you lose more like 2 inches (50mm) horizontally if the comparison is between a 16:9 aspect ratio screen and 3:2).
Can I get a Chromebook instead of a Windows laptop?
A lot can be done entirely on the web these days, though you can use Chromebooks offline in some cases. Take stock of everything you do on a daily basis, and you may find there’s nothing you can’t accomplish with Chrome at its most basic level.
Can I use a hub to compensate for insufficient connections?
Yes and no. For the most part, USB-C hubs deliver seamless expansion in cases when you’ve traded off USB, Ethernet and display ports for the extra millimeter it can shave off a laptop’s thickness. But you can’t assume you won’t have any problems, especially when it comes to 4K monitors, webcams, gaming peripherals or the number of devices connected to it. Anything else sensitive to the quality and power of the signal could cause a problem. Or you may have to spend a lot for a Thunderbolt hub instead of USB-C to ensure sufficient power and bandwidth for your particular needs — that can cost upwards of $300.
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