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Best 15-inch laptop lineup for 2020 for work, play and balance

When 13 inches is too small and 17 is too big, a 15-inch laptop from Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Acer or another maker may be just the right blend of size and power you're looking for.

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 options to choose from in both sizes.

So, what's the best 15-inch laptop? Well, we've pulled together a lineup of our top device picks based on design, specs and overall power. 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 something more tailored to specific needs, 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.

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 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 and specs.

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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 $400, hits all those targets and more, including a solid assortment of ports and easily upgradable 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, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is a great device for both creative work and gaming. If you're willing to go with a black Razer Blade and an emptied wallet, you can get an Adobe RGB calibrated 4K OLED display and a GeForce RTX 2070 for $3,300. 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 the flexibility of kiosk mode (also called "stand mode") and tent mode (my personal favorite), which are the best ways to use a laptop that hangs around the house. Read our Lenovo Yoga C940 (15.6-inch) 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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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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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). Like most Chromebooks, it costs hundreds less than a similarly configured Windows counterpart. Read our Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 review.

Read more: Best MacBook Air alternatives for 2020    

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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 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.

Read more: Best tablets for the holidays

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The Acer Predator Triton 500 is a gaming powerhouse in a thin and light package, at least in the pricey full-on configuration with specs including an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q. The keyboard isn't terrific and it can run hot and loud, and like any gaming laptop it has pretty short battery life. But if you need maximum graphics and CPU performance in a reasonably portable device, this is a good option. Read our Acer Predator Triton 500 review.

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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. Read our Dell G5 15 5590 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. And for two-in-ones, the slightly smaller size makes them less awkward to use as a tablet. The Yoga C930 has a great design in addition to its weight and battery-life advantages; small touches like the bundled active pen having a storage and charging slot in the body and the physical webcam shutter make it stand out from the crowd. Read our Lenovo Yoga C930 review.

Now playing: Watch this: Top 5 laptops with the best battery life (2019 edition)

Interested in a Surface laptop ($669 at Walmart)Read our Microsoft Surface Book 2 review.

Originally published Oct. 11 and updated periodically with new products and information.