Good 15-inch laptop with a great keyboard?


My current laptops include a 2010 Thinkpad with 13″ screen and a 2012 HP 17″ notebook (heavy, but this is the one that I actually take with me because the keyboard and screen are large enough to do real writing).

I briefly tried a friend’s Dell XPS 13 and found the keyboard too cramped so I am thinking that perhaps a 15-inch notebook computer is the best option.

Who has bought one of these recently and found a keyboard with the same spacing as a standard desktop keyboard? I don’t need a numeric keypad.

This is for business use so it doesn’t have to be cheap, but on the other hand I don’t want it to be so expensive that I will cry if I drop it. My desktop is Windows 10 so, to avoid a cross-wired brain, the laptop should also run Windows 10.

Thanks in advance for any ideas.

[Separate question: A 480 GB SSD retails for less than $100 on Why is that mainstream laptops from Dell and HP are still being shipped with mechanical hard drives? (Or desktop computers for that matter?) The $1,000 Dell XPS 15 ships with a “hard drive” and you need to spend $1,500 for a version with a 256 SSD. Bumping this up to the same capacity as the $100 SSDs at Amazon costs $1,829. Why would a PC vendor want to build machines that consumers will grow to hate?]

19 thoughts on “Good 15-inch laptop with a great keyboard?

  1. I’ve used both the Lenovo X1 Carbon and Asus UX305. These are 14 and 13 inch laptops, but both of them have good keyboards. X1 Carbon is my favorite laptop. But Asus UX305 is also great considering its price. It is solid and definitely does not feel “cheap”—it just has a cheap processor.

  2. A good 14″ laptop is the sweet spot for me between size and function.

    You could also check out the DELL XPS 15″ which has almost no bezel for close to 14″ size with 15″ screen…

  3. On the hard drive question, we just bought one of the Dell convertibles for my wife and like what you see, Dell wanted close to an extra $500 for a SSD. I had her purchase it with the cheaper drive, bought the (much less expensive Samsung) SSD off Amazon and used Dell’s own backup and recovery tools to put the disk image onto the SSD. I just have to remember that the SSD is not warrantied by them.

  4. I downsized to a HP 13.3 inch Spectre last year. It is a 2 in 1 laptop with a touch screen so I an use it in lots of ways. It has a good keyboard and I find the screen size almost as good as my old 17 inch Dell. The small HP has long battery life and it is light to carry. It is great for me. I no longer tot around one of those giant 17 inch machines or ever use my old desktop. I am down to one machine to maintain. Yea…..

    You may be limiting your use of the13 inch size due to the ThinkPad track pointer limiting how you type. I use a external mouse for most of my work.

    I agree the SSD thing really makes me mad. All the companies (Apple, Samsung, HP, etc. ) are charging 2-4X cost for memory and then making it non-expandable to force buyers to the bigger SSD based product. I think the computer guys are still selling HDD because they are really cheap and many buyers don’t care or know any better.

  5. recent macbook 15 is overpriced by 40% but nice overall if you can tolerate non-matte glass screens. liked the old (2011) keyboard a little better. touchscreens are ridiculous – hope you like looking at oily fingerprint smudges.

  6. MacBook with VMWare so when your Windows 10 implodes (and it will), you can restore it in 10 minutes. My entire company went Mac years ago and we strictly do Windows development. So many countless hours of frustration saved over Lenovo and Dell hardware and Windows software. Never, not once had a MacBook die. I knew all the Dell techs by name, their wives’ names and their kids birthdays before we called it quits.

  7. You can run Windows 10 on a Macbook Pro. Whether or not the keyboard is to your liking is another issue. I personally don’t even like to do “real writing” or heavy coding on my 17″ Macbook Pro from 2009, so I doubt I’d like the 15″ version any better. I have large hands and fat fingers, though. YMMV.

    A lot of people around my office who used to exclusively use Macbooks have recently switched to Razer laptops (we do NVIDIA GPGPU stuff so we need NVIDIA instead of AMD GPUs). Again, no idea what the keyboard is like but you do seem to get more for your money than with an MBP, barely:

  8. I got my daughter the following laptop [1] and she loves it. It’s a laptop that can be turned into a tablet that comes with a digital pen (which nicely slides into the laptop). The only thing I upgraded on it, when I placed the order, was the CPU. The day that it arrived, I replaced the hard-drive to SSD and maxed out the RAM; it was much cheaper to do so then upgrade.

    For RAM upgrade, I used [2], for SSD, I got it off Amazon (Samsung Evo is my pick)

    I found the keyboards comfortable to work with (this is from someone who literally hates laptop keyboards) and the switch from laptop to tablet mode very smooth (I installed Windows 10 Pro on it). The touch screen and especially the digital pen is great; you write on it as if you are writing on paper.

    With regards to SSD and RAM, I have now for years got the lowest configurable option on HD and RAM when buying a laptop, I then upgrade everything else (HD, RAM and OS are the easy ones). Sellers play the fast-food game: a cheeseburger at McDonalds cost $1.29 [3], but as soon as you ask for tomato, lettuce, etc. you hit $4-5 price range.

    If you are thinking of getting a Lenovo (they are well built, still have the IBM look and feel (stay away from IdeaPad, they are cheap)) contact me offline.


  9. HDD/SSD — A HDD makes no sense in a laptop due to heat and mechanical issues. Except for the bottom end (where there is a significant difference in price), it allows the computer company to charge $150 for a $100 drive as an upsell, because who wants an HDD in their $1500 laptop? As for the desktop, there are use cases where an HDD makes sense. I’m saying HDDs are not dead not just because I opened a large position in Seagate (11% dividend!). For example, my family doesn’t ‘get’ NAS (which is stored on an HDD, too) and the SSD always got filled up, so I added a couple of HDDs which I back up to the NAS.

  10. Re: SSD. A laptop pre-configured with SDD is expensive. What I have done is buy a laptop with HDD, (and you may want to chose a laptop which has access panel to the HDD on the bottom.). Immediately purchase an SDD and a SATA USB transfer cable. Initialize/configure your laptop (with HDD) for the the first time, adding your applications, and deleting all the crap software. Hook up your new SDD to a USB port via the transfer cable and then clone from the HDD to the SDD. I use Macrium Reflect software to do this (a free version is available). This can take awhile. When done, swap the HDD out for the SDD. Now you have a much faster booting computer, plus you can use the original HDD as a backup drive by hooking it up through the same SATA transfer cable, i.e. no need to buy a backup drive! This is a very inexpensive way to go (<$125 for 480GB SSD + cable).

  11. The HP EliteBook 8540W (probably not sold any more) has a good keyboard, it is much sturdier than usual. It also has metal on the palmrests and on the other side of the LCD screen.

    HP’s low-end notebooks are crap; their high-end ones might be better.

    (Imagine my surprise when this several-year-old laptop was plugged into a 4K monitor via DisplayPort and immediately recognized it and drove it correctly.)

    The Lenovo notebooks seem to have the keyboards that have the most vertical travel, this might be important to you. The EliteBook has good keys and sturdy response that stays the same even after a year of my pounding, but the vertical travel seems much shallower than the Lenovo.

  12. Since the Dell XPS 15 was mentioned: I currently use one (previous model). Fine as a PC, but note the keyboard is exactly the same size as on the XPS 13 — the extra space is simply wasted.

  13. Apple charges $100 additional for about $3 more memory for many of their products so I can see why other vendors would want to get in on that sweet action.

    I got a laptop with a built-in hard drive, a boxed SSD, and an external drive bay (like this) in December. I’d also downloaded Windows 10 in advance, so when I got the machine, I swapped drives, installed Windows 10 fresh on the SSD in the laptop, then hooked up the old drive in the docking station and had Windows look at that disk to get all the drivers it needed. Windows 10 didn’t even ask for a serial number. This was fast and easy, and the leftover gear makes a complete external hard drive.

  14. If you’re not hung up on super light weight or slim bezels and thinness, the “gaming” laptops are the way to go. I don’t play computer games and use a Lenovo Y40 “gaming” laptop. I guess the Y700 series is the relevant model now.

    I just don’t care about a laptop being 350 grams heavier or a quarter inch thicker and wider. I do care about having an SSD, a good screen, and a relatively high end CPU. So the various gaming oriented lines are great bang for the buck.

  15. Some Lenovos have an empty slot in the M.2 format which can be used either for a cellular network card or for an SSD (the “drive” doesn’t look like a drive but like a little memory stick which is what it really is) . What I did for my daughter’s computer is keep the “free” factory spinning disk for long term storage/backups and the OS and apps reside on the SSD.

    Back in the (IBM) day, ThinkPads used to have noticeably better keyboards and build quality than Dell & HP (not to mention Acer and Asus) but the current models seem to be just as flimsy as every other Chinese product. I bought mine “factory refurbished” from the Lenovo outlet which was a significant savings. However the little pencil eraser mouse wasn’t working. Eventually I found out that the machine had been returned by its previous owner because of this. “Refurbished” apparently means restoring the factory disk image without fixing anything. Lenovo offered to send me a new keyboard together with instructions for removing a dozen tiny screws and the necessary tool (the keyboard came out from the top so it was better than some where you have to take the entire machine apart to change keyboards). When I opened it up, I found that the only problem was that the ribbon cable for the mouse had come loose so now I have a spare keyboard for the next time my daughter spills something on the keyboard (the bottom of the machine has drain holes for this purpose).

  16. If you’re looking for the latest/greatest, you probably don’t want a 2.5″ drive (well maybe a bay for one as extra storage). The hot new thing is PCIe M.2 modules, such as Samsung 950 Pro. Those top out at 512GB, I just received a Toshiba/OCZ RD400, those are available in 1TB. You need to carefully check that your M.2 supports PCIe and not just SATA. Transfer speeds on these PCIe parts are about 4X the SATA limit.

    Personally (for work) I try to only buy Lenovo and Apple, though the occasional Dell and Microsoft Surface slips in.

  17. John: Agreed that a PCIe SSD is better than a SATA SSD. But isn’t a $100 (retail) SATA SSD still a lot better in terms of performance than the HDD that these mainstream PC vendors are putting into systems? Thus my question remains: for lower-end systems, why are mechanical hard drives still in use? (I actually do have a 6 TB hard drive on my desktop computer, which is useful for archival storage of photos and videos.)

  18. Phil: yep, almost certainly a good SSD is way better than a spinning disk. I can’t answer your question why the standard configs don’t use SSD, I guess it is a business decision. All the businesses I have created haven’t been profitable, so maybe Lenovo/Dell/HP etc know what they are doing? My desk drawer is filling up with 320 – 500GB spinning notebook drives.

    Oh, just a shout-out to Dell: thanks for that PCIe M.2 slot on the Optiplex 7040. Would have been nice if you would have included the tiny screw (not commonly available / different threads from all the other M.2 retaining screws I have). Duct tape seems to be holding.

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