By Kane Fulton
The best laptops are incredibly important in 2018. However, there’s only one reason to opt for one of the best 13-inch laptops – they’re the perfect size. 15-inch laptops are just two big, and anything less than 12 inches is just to small to get anything done. The best 13-inch laptops, then are the sweet spot for notebook displays – they’re perfect for streaming media, work and are even awesome Back to School notebooks. And, because the best 13-inch laptops are the most popular display size, they’ll be full to the brim with all the latest tech.
And, while the Dell XPS 13 is still one of the best laptops we’ve ever used, we’d understand why someone would prefer the HP Spectre x360 or even the MacBook Pro. 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 best 13-inch laptops are all good at different things.
At the end of the day, the best 13-inch laptop is going to come down to your own personal preference. Do you need a more traditional laptop that does its job well, or one of the best 2-in-1 laptops that you can flip around into tablet mode? What about a machine that runs macOS High Sierra instead of Windows 10? There are so many choices on the market, and with this list we’ve tried to cover as many as possible.
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
We didn’t expect a laptop made by Razer to be thinner and lighter than a MacBook Pro – not to mention prettier, but here we are. The Razer Blade stealth – in its all-new gunmetal finish – rocks not only a beautiful 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 make the Razer Blade Stealth a force to be reckoned with. It might not have the best battery life, but an Ultrabook this fast is worth the 16 minutes of battery life you give up.
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, stylish and speedy 13-inch laptop to carry around with you, and you don’t mind giving up some high-end features, you’re going to love the Asus ZenBook 13. Measuring just half an inch thick and weighing just 2.5 pounds, this is the ideal laptop to carry when you’re traveling. And, don’t think you have to give up on power with all this portability either. The Asus Zenbook 13 is strapped with an 8th-generation quad-core Kaby Lake R processor, 8GB of RAM and a speedy SSD. The only thing you’re missing here is USB-C, and while it’d be 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 Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first effort at a ‘traditional’ laptop – even if it does come with a PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard. It also features specs that’ll make the 12-inch MacBook Blush, like a U-series 7th-generation Kaby Lake CPU – making Apple’s thin and light look obsolete. It might be hampered by limited ports and the default S Mode – but that’s easy enough to overcome. It’s real appeal is its design, gorgeous display and serious performance.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop
As the best 2-in-1 laptops become more and more common, their manufacturers have been improving them steadily. This is doubly true for Lenovo who has been crafting drop-dead gorgeous convertibles with standout watch band-esque hinges, much like that of the Lenovo Yoga 920. This version of Lenovo’s popular 2-in-1 hybrid brand sees the integration of Thunderbolt 3, an improved webcam and, most importantly, an 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake R processor at every configuration. It’s loud, but the Lenovo Yoga 920 is without a doubt one of the best 13-inch laptops you can buy today.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 920
The 2018 MacBook Pro feels like the natural evolution of Apple’s pro-series laptops since it was redesigned a few years ago. It keeps the slim-line design, but improves on the keyboard, making it quieter and more reliable, while also boosting performance to new heights. If you need an ultra-portable workhorse running macOS, and you can justify the cost, the 2018 MacBook Pro won’t let you down. Keep in mind, though, that the model without a Touch Bar has yet to be upgraded.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch Mid-2018)
Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article