By Kane Fulton
These days, the best laptops are necessary. However, there’s only one reason to pick up one of the best 13-inch laptops – they’re the perfect size. 15-inch screens are too big, and if it’s less than 12-inches, you’ll be left squinting. The best 13-inch laptops are just right, they’re perfect for watching some Netflix, getting work done and make up the bulk of the best laptops for college students. 13-inch laptops aren’t the most popular size for no reason.
And, while the Dell XPS 13 is still one of the top laptops we’ve ever used, we’d understand why someone would prefer the MacBook Air or even the HP Spectre x360. Because, even if the XPS 13 is gorgeous, thin and powerful, these other 13-inch laptops aren’t held back by awkward camera locations. The top 13-inch laptops are all good at different things.
When all is said and done, finding the best 13-inch laptop will boil down to your own personal preferences. Do you like traditional laptops, without any modern frills? Or, would you rather have one of the best 2-in-1 laptops that can transform into one of the best Windows tablets? What about one of the best Macs, running macOS Mojave instead of Windows 10? So many choices, so little time.
Luckily, the best 13-inch laptops are going to be more affordable than ever soon. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner, and fresh laptop deals with them. So, keep an eye on your favorite manufacturers like Apple and Dell, along with retailers like Amazon and Walmart to spot deals as they appear. And, as always, stay tuned to TechRadar for all your holiday shopping needs.
Its changes are subtle, and yet the Dell XPS 13 is still the best 13-inch laptop you can buy. On the high end, it now offers a 4K display, for a sharper picture across the board. But even if you can’t afford higher tier configurations, the beautiful design, lengthy battery life and even the SD card slot are still there – plus you’ve got a quad-core processor no matter what poison you pick. Better yet, the 13.3-inch display of the XPS 13 has been squeezed into a smaller frame, which explains Dell’s marketing line: ‘the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop.’ Now stew on that, as you admire the Dell XPS 13’s gorgeous, albeit more expensive, Alpine White finish.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
It’s not as powerful as its 15-inch counterpart, but everything else about the 13.5-inch version of the Surface Book 2 makes for one of the best 13-inch laptops for anyone looking for a mobile workhorse. No matter if you’re a professional or creative, the Microsoft Surface Book 2, with its more compact form factor, rocks an aesthetic that’s just as gorgeous as its predecessor. What’s more, the dynamic fulcrum hinge is even stronger now, which only complements its robust, quad-core processor.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2
You wouldn’t expect a Razer laptop to be prettier, thinner and lighter than a MacBook Pro, but this is the world we live in. The Razer Blade Stealth – in its all new gunmetal finish – rocks not only a gorgeous and practical aesthetic with its 400-nit display brightness and full-size USB 3.0 ports, but it also has a few tricks up its sleeve to make it a performance beast. The 8th-generation Kaby Lake R U-series processor makes the Razer Blade Stealth a force to be reckoned with. It doesn’t have the best battery life in the business, but it’s worth the 16 minutes of battery life to have one of the best 13-inch laptops.
Read the full review: Razer Blade Stealth
For anyone who prefers premium build quality over everything, the HP Spectre x360 contains everything you could ever ask for in a 2-in-1 without compromise. Weighing in at just 2.78 pounds and measuring just over half an inch thick, it’s as thin as it is light. Plus, with up to a 4K display and 8th-generation Intel processors, it’s one of the best ways to experience high-quality video streaming as well as 720p gaming on a hybrid. We didn’t even mention the plentitude of ports. You’ll get two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on top of a USB 3.1 Type-A – so you shouldn’t need a ton of adapters.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360
While Samsung may not be well known for its laptops – beyond its Tab Pro S convertible, at least – Samsung’s follow-up to the 2012 Series 9 Notebook has impressive performance at a competitive price. Marketed as an Ultrabook, it’s certainly disheartening to know it can only last 5 hours in between charges, but given its beautiful design, it almost doesn’t matter. As a bonus, with the Samsung Notebook 9, you won’t have to deal with the bloatware that makes many other Windows laptop the target of derision on tech forums.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9
- This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. Australian and UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Dell XPS 13
If you’re looking for a thin, svelte and fast 13-inch laptop to haul around with you, and you don’t mind giving up some premium features, you’ll fall in love with the Asus ZenBook 13. Coming in at just half an inch thick and weighing just 2.5 pounds, this is the perfect laptop to carry when traveling. And, don’t think you have to give up on power with all this portability, either. The Asus ZenBook 13 features quad-core Intel processors, 8GB of RAM and a fast SSD. The only thing you’re missing here is USB-C, and while it’s a nice feature to have, it’s easy to look past in a laptop this stylish.
Read the full review: Asus Zenbook 13
No one likes change, we get it. Still, the 15.6-inch frame of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin we once knew will soon be erased from our memories forever, but the new 13.3-inch model doesn’t seem like an awful upgrade. It’s bounced two generations into the future in terms of processing power, and even though there are no discrete graphics – we’re happy to see a keyboard that can compete with some of the heavy hitters. It’s not going to blow your mind, yet as far as hybrid notebooks go, this one ain’t too shabby (plus it’s cheaper than a weaker MacBook Pro).
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
- This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Surface Laptop
The original Surface Laptop was already one of the best 13-inch laptops – it had a gorgeous screen, competent internals and fantastic build quality. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that its sequel, the Surface Laptop 2 takes everything the original did and does it better. You’re not going to find any radical changes here, but the speedy 8th-generation processors, 8GB of RAM at the base level and, most importantly, the removal of Windows 10 S, all add up to make one of the best laptops out there. Especially if you’re a student.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop 2
As the best 2-in-1 laptops become more and more ubiquitous, their manufacturers have been improving them at a rapid pace. This is especially true for Lenovo – it has been crafting drop-dead gorgeous convertibles with standout watch-band hinges, much like that of the Lenovo Yoga 920. This version of Lenovo’s popular 2-in-1 hybrid brand brings Thunderbolt 3 to the table, an improved webcam and – most importantly – an 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake Refresh processor with every configuration. The fans can get noisy, but the Lenovo Yoga 920 is definitely one of the best 13-inch laptops you can buy today.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 920
The MacBook Pro 2018 feels like the final form of Apple’s pro series laptop since its 2016 redesign. It keeps the thin and light design, but brings a wealth of improvements, both to the hardware within and, more importantly, Apple has vastly improved the Butterfly keyboard – making it quieter and more reliable. So, you no longer have to worry about it breaking cause a piece of dust appeared under the spacebar. So, if you need an ultra-portable workhorse running macOS Mojave and you can justify the cost, the 2018 MacBook pro won’t let you down. Keep in mind, though, the model without the Touch Bar is still running last year’s hardware.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch Mid-2018)
Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article