While any cheap old laptop can play back movies finding the best laptop for watching movies is a whole ‘nother issue. There are some features you may want to consider to get the best viewing experience especially if you are paying hard earned money for it. Yes, some of you may be OK with any laptop to watch random shows and movies but the rest of are more interested in getting the best pristine and most engaging conditions to enjoy our movies.
Who wouldn’t want to replicate the viewing experience we get from movie theaters or a full blown television with our laptop. This may be impossible with a laptop but we can try and get pretty close to it right? At very least…to not be interrupted in the middle of the movie from a few errors or any other malfunctions (background noise, low brightness).
What features should we look out for then?
Unfortunately it’s not that simple…
It depends on how you watch your movies and where: battery life may be important for some, and not for those who have access to an external plug; an external DVD player if you don’t stream or ports for external ports, viewing angles may not be an issue for others, some can deal with headphones if sound quality is an issue, etc.
And if you are a beginner to computers…picking a laptop for watching movies may get worse especially when dealing with computer jargon for displays: brightness levels, contrast ratios, IPS panels, color reproduction, matte or glossy displays, which processor or graphics card is adquate (or are they all fine), etc.
The Good News is…
You need to look nowhere else. In this article you’ll find a complete guide where everything will be explained and your questions answered for you to pick the best laptop for watching movies according to your specific preferences and needs. However, it can be quite long so I’ll go over the top 5 best laptops for watching movies first. Alternatively, you can always jump to the guide first and come back to check out these later.
Top 5 Best Laptops for Watching Movies
Whatever your budget is and whatever your preferences or special needs are for watching movies, you should find a suitable laptop from this short list. If you don’t understand any terms being used just jump to the guide for a quick overview and explanations.
Best Laptop For Watching Movies
CPU: Intel Core i7 6700HQ | RAM: 16GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 | Display: 15.6″ 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge IPS touch Screen
It should come to no surprise that the DELL XPS 15 is the best laptop for watching movies or watching anything honestly. Why? As far as I’m aware it has the best display for laptops today.
Not only is the resolution the highest you can get from laptops (3840×2160) but the XPS series have introduced the “infinity edge” feature to the market too.What is it? The bezels are so thin they actually make the display look bigger, no in fact, it is bigger than 15” as there’s more space to fit in a screen. How is this useful? You’ll be pretty much feel as if you are looking a hologram when watching a movie (remember no edges around!) making watching movies feel more engaging than what other displays can offer.
That’s not where it ends, it also comes with an IPS naturally. You’ll have no issues if you just want to lay back switch positions and the high quality images/videos will just look the same. It’s color reproduction covers far more than 100% of the sRGB spectrum (188%) which translates to having the accuraste color reproduction from laptop’s display. Yes, it even surpasses the MacBook Pro’s accuracy. Lastly, its brightness levels are far above average too: 266 nits. And on top of that it’s a touchscreen display you can play with for selecting your movies, play them back, rewind them, etc.
Playing movies doesn’t really require a high performance laptop, in fact, any laptop would do. But performance might be an issue with this one, it’s not that it’s too low it’s actually far too much for just watching movies. You can pretty much run just about any software with blazing fast speeds with it. Consider buying it if you have other activities in mind that require a GPU and the latest processors.
As for storage, 512GB will be plenty to store dozens of movies on it plus it’s an SSD and one of the latest ones at that in other words which has the advantage of booting up your system in no time. You’ll be back where you left of in case as soon as you turn it up. Surprisingly, it’s quite light too: 3.9 lb, you won’t find a laptop lighter with the same features (or even close to) the DELL XPS 15.
Despite the high performance and the display which eats battery life like kittles, its battery life is actually quite good and the highest you can get from laptops having “similar” displays: 8 hours.
The only issue (besides the price) is the camera placement which is actually expected…where would you fit it in a display with no bezels?
If budget isn’t an issue, the DELL XPS can give you the most realistic and engaging experience when watching movies. The Display’s quality will even let you see your favorite actor’s wrinkles and other details that require extremely high quality displays. You will never need to consider an external monitor with it.
Best 2in1 Laptop For Movies
CPU: Intel Core i5-7y54 | RAM: 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 | Storage: 512GB SSD | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 515| Display: 13.3 1920 x 1080 pixels IPS full HD touchScreen | Ports: HDMI micro
It’s very unlikely you can afford the DELL XPS 13 or the Razer Blade Pro. I’m sure a lot of you just want something simple and affordable to watch movies. No worries the following laptops are not that expensive. Let’s start with the best out of them: The ASUS ZenBook Flip.
First thing first, the display. Despite being a 2in1 it’s actually full HD which is actually a huge bonus among laptop near its price. Since your movies are in full HD , you won’t miss out any detail if you where using another device. It’s also an IPS Panel Display and a TouchScreen to play with your media player buttons.
It has a decent color accuracy compared to the DELL XPS 15 and other high quality laptops although it does produce +100% of the sRGB color gamut ( 102). The brightness levels is average but for watching movies you won’t notice a difference unless you try and compare laptop display’s on a sunny day outside.
Lastly, in case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s a 2 in 1 laptop you can turn into a tablet allowing to get as close as you can to the screen when watching movies. Think about reading a book this time there are no letters.
So what’s caveat? The performance: its below average but if all you have in mind is watching movies and basic computer usage ( web browsing , simple editing, non-3D Games and multitasking between these apps). However if you are a power user and looking for a 2in1 capable of handing just about any software even 3D games & programs: then consider the SurfaceBook or Surface Pro.
As expect from its CPU and tablet like design, the battery life is great. It goes up to 10 hour, it merely weights 2.9lb. You can confidently drag this one and continue to watch your movies in the train, bus, subway, anywhere. It’s fanless to so no interruptions or distractions to the sound.
This is by no means the best performance 2in1 laptop out there bu it’s actually one of the best deals you can get for it’s price. The performance has been cutdown to allow the laptop to be fanless and in return increasing the audio quality from its speakers. Bottom line is: this one has everything you’d want from a laptop for watching movies and basic tasks at an affordable price.
CPU: Intel Core i5 6200U 2.3GHz RAM: 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM | Storage: 1000 GB HDD | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 510 | Display: 17.3 HD+ (1600×900 pixels)
For those who dig huge displays to watch movies or simply do anything on them: word processing, simple games, web browsing, etc. There’s no better deal today (2017) than the Lenovo IdeaPad.
Although performance isn’t an issue for watching movies, this one hasn’t bad specs either: i5 core processor and 8GB RAM will be enough for multitasking and having several tabs open for your to research where to watch your movies from or what movies to watch next. Where it excels at , it has actually 1TB for Storage. This should be plenty to store about 200 full HD Movies with it.
The Display is decent for a big laptop: it’s not full HD but it’s better than what average laptops offer (720p). It doesn’t have an IPS Panel but the viewing angles aren’t that bad either provided you are not using with a large audience at extreme angles away from the screen there should be no complaints.
Despite its size it’s battery life isn’t that bad: 4 hours but it’s extremely heavy at 6.6lb. The bonus of the huge size is also the sound, there’s more space to fit in components so you will get the best quality sound from them. You will not find a cheaper laptop with this size for watching movies.
Best Cheap Laptop for Watching Movies
CPU: Intel Celeron Processor N2840 | RAM: 4GBGB DDR3L SDRAM memory | Storage: 16 GB Solid-state Drive (SSD) | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | Display: 13.3 IPS Screen full HD
If you are really on a budget but still want some decent features for watching movies, why not consider a Chromebook? If you don’t have a collection of movies waiting to be stored in your laptop then there should be no issues with them especially this one.
Unlike most Chromebooks out there, where the display quality has been stripped down to nothing, this one has done the oppossite. Not only is it a full HD laptop but also has IPS technology to improve your viewing angles and color accuracy as well.
The performance on the Chromebook world, it’s average. Enough for multitasking and basic tasks or apps that Chromebooks allow. And as long as you have a decent internet connection, there should be no problems when trying to stream movies.
The advantage of Chrome Books is the fact that their portable (3lb) and have long battery lives even when watching movies (9 hours), this one is recommended for those who want to watch movies away from outlets or during trips too. Ah, this one like all laptops here, also has enough ports for any external peripherals including an HDMI port for external displays. Just don’t expect a CD/DVD reader from chromebooks!
Best Portable Laptop For Watching Movies
CPU: Intel Core i5 1.6GHz (Up to 2.7GHz) | RAM: 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 | Storage: 256 GB PCIe SSD | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | Display: 13.3 (diagonal) LED-backlit Glossy Widescreen Display, 1440 x 900 resolution
For those seeking the most portable machine for watching movies on the move, there’s no rival to the MacBook Air. Why? It has the longest battery life known to mankind, nah, but it’s very long: 13 hours and some even report 15 hours. One of the reasons (not the main reason) is the display, it’s not full HD but it’s not the worst resolution either (1440×900). Less pixels means less energy, if you want a laptop with incredible battery life you’re gonna have to sacrifice a little resolution. Luckily, this one mantains its IPS technology which will both give you accurate colors and great viewing angles.
Another reason to pick the Air for a portable machine is its design: its rock solid and extremely thin to fit in your backpack or to easily carry it with you during your trip or away from your hotel room for security purposes.
The performance will allow you to do far more than basic multitasking and basic applications for sure and the storage capacity can easily fit in 50 full HD movies on it. It’s worth mentioning it’s got one of the latest SSD technologies and for some reason one of the fastest (or fastest) boot up times from ultrabooks and consumer laptops.
If you go with Apple, you get one of the best supports in the entire industry and will enjoy the durability that they offer. The Air is sure to last you and let you watch movies from for the next 5 or 6 Starwars episodes or remakes in the next 10 years for sure.
How To Buy The Best Laptop For Watching Movies
As mentioned before although many of us watch movies in different ways, there are still top requirements that every movie aficionado must look out for when shopping for devices to watch their favorite movies. Let’s go through them.
Truth is, any cheap old laptop will have enough computing power to play any of your movies and favorite shows.
If you simply have watching movies in mind, then you can choose any CPU, RAM size (even 2GB will do) and any Graphics Card.
It’s very unlikely you’ll be using your laptop just for movies…otherwise you might as well buy a DVD Player. Here’s a few tips:
- For Basic Use and heavy multitasking between apps, just stay with an i5 core processor an i7 processor is nice but not necessary unless you do some heavy editing or run other intensive applications.
- Get at least 4GB RAM or more for multitasking and running dozens of web browsing tabs.
- Only consider storage capacity if you plan on storing all of your movies on your storage drive. For this 1TB HDD will do just fine.
- An SSD drive is not recommended, there’s not much benefit from it if you watch movies but it’s nice to have for all other applications and to have your laptop boot up in no time.
- Graphics Card. A beefy and latest graphics card will not have any impact on the video quality of your movies, any graphics card will do just fine.
Obviously, this is the most important feature and where you should spend all of your budget if you want the best viewing experience. It’s just a big display that will do (at least for some of us) because trust me there are actually laptops with pretty bad displays….that will make watching movies very unpleasent. Here’s what you need to watch out for:
If you don’t watch out for brightness you’ll eyes will suffer trying to make out what’s going on the movie especially if you use your laptop in bright settings.
But if you’re used to watch indoors and you have the ability to turn off the lights (unless your in the school library or your office), then the worst display with the lowest brightness levels will do! But still invest your money on a decent level I’m sure there will be a few instances you won’t have control on the light hitting your screen, the plane the train the library…
What’s a good brightness level?
A rating over 300 nits is solid and a rating above 500 nits is extremely good. Only a few devices can put out that much light. Televisions are a different story, and the brightest go north of 1,000 nits.
Likewise, Contrast levels are important, if not the most important feature when it comes to display.
What is Contrast Ratio?
It pretty much means the bright colors should LOOK bright, and the darkest colors should be DARK. If you have a DARK COLOR glowing and being bright, it will distort the entire picture since it will pretty much be on the same brightness level as the real bright colors Here’s an example of what a bad contrast ratio can do to you:
Obviously you want your screen to look like on the right side, so look for the highest contrast ratio you can get your hands on.
What is a Good Contrast Ratio?
Unfortunately, manufacturers do not list what brightness levels their laptops have. Well they do but it’s all manipulated and distorted, don’t trust the numbers. You’ll have to rely on third party testers and web reviews for these. Don’t worry I’ve included a link of those tests so you can make sure it’s the right description.
Tip: Laptops seldomly have bad contrast ratios but they do come with very bad brigihtness levels, so when looking out for specs just watch out for brightness levels!
Laptops can also have a wide range of color accuracy, in other words, the colors they’re supposed to represent frmo your movie will be the colors that the movie actually wants you to see. Superman’s cape will look red and not bright red in other words, pink!
Although you may not notice a difference between laptops with the best color accuracies since most of them will do just fine for watching movies (this is more important for professionals who actually go through the pain of making these movies or photo editors). However, a laptop with the highest color accuracy is a huge bonus and always nice to have.
If you are interested in it, look for laptops in the range of the 85-100% color gamut (sRGB). If you don’t know what that means, you can read my article on displays. For now just look out for those specs.
I have to say an IPS Panel is a must have for watching movies you’re just not gonna have a good time without one. Why? It will have great viewing angles, meaning no matter which angle you look at your screen, it will look the same regardless. You won’t have to stare straight at your screen to get the best viewing performance out of your laptop! Plus displays that have IPS panels come with better design and technology all around so you’ll get better contrast ratios and color accuracy as well.
Regardless it’s a must if you want to lay back and watch your movie at its best also with company. Your images will never look distorted for you and for your company.
Obviously the biggest the display size the better, the problem is the weight that comes along with it and the reduce portability too. A huge screen size is hard to carry around and fit in your backpack while a nice portable 13” laptop can fit in anywhere and be taken too. It’s all up to you.
Stick with at least full HD resolution since most movies today play at that same resolution. Don’t even think about going for lower resolutions. Regardless of where you get your movies from…I don’t want to point fingers. They all come out with full HD (1920X1080).
You don’t really need 4k resolution displays but they’re always a huge bonus since it’s not just the resolution that will be upgraded when you buy them but the color accuracy contrast ratio and much more, that is if you have the budget.
Glossy vs. Matte
This is the last feature to look out for I know this is getting too long already but you if you want the best laptop for watching movies, you gotta put up with it.
In a nutshell, a glossy screen will reflect much more light off your screen to you and will not be visible in bright settings outside, the library, highly illuminated areas where you have no control over the lightnining. The good side of em is the fact that if you do avoid bright settings, you get very vivid images and colors, they won’t look pale but very real.
A Matte display on the other hand is designed to avoid the distortion that may happen with glossy screen but diffusing light off your screen in all directions as a result your images and videos will look better in bright settings but you lose the advantage of having vivid colors and images. But don’t sweat it, it’s not that big of a deal. Even designers and photo editors roll with matte displays! The difference isn’t that great, it’s all up to you.
Sound & Audio
Unfortunately this isn’t a feature laptops excel at , after all there’s not much space left to put in high quality speakers. Generally no matter how much money you invest you’re not gonna get the same audio quality from laptops as you do from your TV or speaker system. However you still want to avoid pretty bad ones so you can at least distinguish clearly what the dialogue is all about.
How do I avoid laptops with low audio quality?
Rely on reviews and third party testers. As a general rule however if the speakers are on the bottom of your laptop of choice, then that’s a pretty bad sign. The audio will get distorted depending on the surface your laptop is sitting on.
You can just use your headphones or attach external speakers and its all good. If you don’t like using external periperals then watch out for sound quality when shopping for one. Don’t assume yours will be good just because it’s expensive.
Weight and Battery Life
If you’re still looking for a huge laptop with decent weight, stop. You’re not going to find it. The bigger the screen size the heavier your laptop will be. If you want a nice portable laptop, then you have to roll with 15” or 13”.
If you want a portable laptop with simply the best displays available for movie watching…then it’s gonna get expensive. It’s unavoidable.
Also, if you want that laptop to have a long battery live that will also cost a lot more. There are actually 15” displays with quite long battery lives: the MacBook Pro and DELL XPS 15 being two of them while at the same time being relatively portable around ~4lb.
DVD CD Player
This a nice bonus to have if you legally get your movies from stores and don’t stream through NetFlix and other services. However, keep in mind they consume a lot of battery life. If you are going to play a movie directly from your DVD, you gotta make sure your laptop is plugged in otherwise it won’t last long.
Consider that when using a DVD /CD Player or shopping a laptop with one.
Luckily most laptops today have external ports needed for watching movies: an headphone jack, plenty of USB ports for external speakers and peripherals and usually one of the many ports used for external displays , the most popular one being HDMI ports.
However if you are buying utlrabooks or small screen sized laptops you gotta check out if these ports are available, you’ll be surprised some of them actually don’t have them but this is very unlikely.
This is a huge bonus if you want your laptop to last you for quite some years. If you can a laptop with a good cooling system. Go and get it, playing movies from a DVD Drive does generate quite some heat and reading that DVD/CD for quite some time might take a toll on its components too.
It’s not necessary for your laptop to last you but its a nice feature that will help out.
For performance a laptop from the 90s will do just fine and will be able to play back all of your movies and favorite series. However you need to consider displaying features beyond size to have the best viewing experience.
If you have suggestions for more laptops or need a few suggestions based on how you watch your movies, please let us know in the comments below. We would all love to enjoy the next Lord of The Rings on a laptop (I hope).
- I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.