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Best 13-inch laptops in 2021

Dell XPS 13 (2020) vs MacBook Air (2020)
(Image credit: Future)

The best 13-inch laptops offer a balance between portability and productivity. Students can effortlessly carry 13-inch laptops around campus and business professionals can slip them into briefcases when traveling (or you can easily move them from your home office to the couch). Yet despite their size, a 13-inch laptop equipped with an Intel U-series or AMD Ryzen CPU can provide enough performance for most users. 

We've compiled the best 13-inch laptops, but if you're not sold on this screen size, check out our best overall laptops page or the best 15-inch laptops if you need more screen real estate. Students should see our best college laptops page, where they'll find the best notebook for their respective fields.

There are plenty of upcoming 13-inch laptops that we're excited to get our hands-on. Those include the rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro refresh with an upgrade to the M1 chip. We're also expecting to get the newest Envy 13 in for review to see if it can swap places with the 2019 model that once topped this list. 

Here are the best 13-inch laptops for every budget.  

Which 13-inch laptop is best?

Dell improved upon a winning formula with the latest XPS 13, which has a smaller footprint than the previous model thanks to the removal of the bottom bezel. The laptop has everything you could want in an ultraportable notebook, including gorgeous display options, a sleek design and fast performance. The only downside is the lack of a legacy USB-A port. 

For that, you should consider the HP Spectre x360 13. It uses a drop-jaw hinge for its USB-A port. On top of that, the Spectre x360 13 has a premium chassis that can convert into a tablet along with speedy performance and nice 1080p or 4K panel options. Speaking of 2-in-1s, Dell updated its premium convertible recently with the XPS 13 2-in-1. It's a good choice for consumers but those looking for a cheaper option should get the HP Envy x360 13. 

Now that every Apple laptop has been updated with the Magic Keyboard, we recommend going with the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1. If you're on a tight budget, you'll be happy with the MacBook Air, but the MacBook Pro is a great all-around upgrade if you can splurge on it.

Best Laptops 2021: Dell XPS 13 (Model 9310, Late 2020)

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

1. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

The best overall laptop you can buy

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD | Display: 13.4-inch, 1200 | Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive, premium chassis
Great performance
Good battery life
Lacks legacy ports

What do you get when you put one of Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors into a Dell XPS 13? Even more awesome. The latest Dell XPS 13 keeps all the things we loved about this year’s previous model, such as a smaller frame, four-sided InfinityEdge bezels and a larger keyboard. But this refresh brings Intel’s 11th Gen Tiger Lake processor and a host of promised features, including better CPU and graphics performance and longer battery life. You also get Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6.

But does Tiger Lake live up to the hype? Absolutely. With the new Intel Iris Xe GPU, you can play certain AAA games on an integrated GPU, albeit on low settings. And in many cases, the overall performance is top-notch as well. The battery life even surpasses Intel’s new Evo standards by two hours. For those looking for a laptop with equal parts beauty, power and longevity, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you. 

See our full Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) review.

And here is our review of the Dell XPS 13 with 4K display

 

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020)

Apple's new MacBook Pro with M1 for 2020 improves upon its predecessor with better performance and battery life. (Image credit: Future)

2. Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2020)

The best 13-inch Apple laptop

CPU: M1 | GPU: M1 (integrated) | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Breathtaking performance
Outstanding battery life
Slim unibody aluminum chassis
iPhone and iPad app support
Great speakers and Magic Keyboard
Few ports

This is the huge leap forward we've been waiting on. It is all thanks to the new M1 chip, Apple's first-ever custom SoC for laptops. With the best power-per-watt performance of any processor, the M1 brings the MacBook Pro's performance and battery life to the next level.

More specifically, the MacBook Pro is more powerful than nearly every PC on the market, including some workstations. And despite cramming so much power into such a slim and sleek chassis, the Pro lasted for an outstanding 16 hours and 32 minutes on our battery test, which simulates real-world testing.

With an image processing unit, the webcam (sadly, still 720p) is better than before and since it runs on Apple's ARM-based architecture, iPad and iPhone apps are now available on Mac. Yep, you can run all your favorite iOS games and apps on your laptop now. 

Rounding out the numerous enhancements found in the latest MacBook Pro is Big Sur, the latest version of macOS. The largest update since OS X launched a decade ago, Big Sur is a beautiful redesign of the desktop OS.  

See our MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1, 2020) review

MacBook Air with M1

Apple's new MacBook Air with M1 improves upon its predecessor with more power and endurance. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

3 MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020)

The best Mac for students

CPU: M1 | GPU: M1 (integrated) | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 11.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Breathtaking performance
Outstanding battery life
Slim unibody aluminum chassis
iPhone and iPad app support
Great speakers and Magic Keyboard
Few ports

If you prefer macOS to Windows 10, then go with the Apple MacBook Air. The biggest improvement to this year's model is the new M1 chip, which delivers outstanding performance and excellent battery life, making the new MacBook Air the fastest ultrathin laptop ever.  

Best of all, the MacBook Air still costs only $999, and yet, you can unrivaled performance along with 14 hours and 41 minutes of battery life. This is a combination you'll only find from the very best Windows 10 laptops, and even they can't compete in head-to-head performance. 

So why buy the MacBook Air instead of the Pro? While the Pro has better sustained performance, the MacBook Air is cheaper and is pin-drop silent because it doesn't have a fan. And, of course, Apple's least expensive 13.3-inch model is the most portable, coming in at only 0.6 inches thick and 2.8 pounds. 

But now the MacBook Air is slower to parity with the MacBook Pro than ever before. It has similar speed and battery life, the same 720p webcam, a comfortable Magic keyboard and two USB-C ports. Also, the 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel Retina display on the M1 model was improved with P3 color coverage, making it more vibrant than the previous panel. 

See our full Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

4. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

The best 13-inch business laptop

CPU: Intel Core i7-1160G7 | GPU: Iris Xe | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Display: 13-inch, 2K (2160 x 1350) | Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.66 inches | Weight: 2 pounds

Stylish, stealthy design
Bright 13-inch, 2K display
Weighs 2 pounds
12-hour battery life
Limited ports
Small touchpad

You are probably familiar with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon at this point. It has been our favorite business laptop for ages due to its lightweight design, excellent performance and convenient features. The X1 Nano uses the Carbon as a platform but packs everything into an even smaller chassis with a 13-inch, 2K display. 

That panel is an excellent one, flaunting a sharp picture and gorgeous colors. Despite the high-res panel, the X1 Nano lasted for 12 hours on a charge, making it great for frequent travelers. The performance is good, not great, but you still get a fast machine that weighs only 2 pounds. 

It isn't a perfect laptop — we still favor the X1 Carbon — but for those who need the absolute most portable solution, the X1 Nano is the way to go. 

See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano review.

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000, offering similar benefits to the Spectre at a lower price.

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000, offering similar benefits to the Spectre at a lower price. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

5. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

The best 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Outstanding performance
1080p display is bright and vivid
Stylish and compact aluminum design
Long battery life
No IR camera

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000 and one of the best 13-inch laptops on the market. While it doesn't come with a stylus (neither does the Surface Pro), the Envy is a 2-in-1 so you can flip it into tent or tablet mode. What makes this such a fantastic value is its entirely aluminum design and Herculian AMD Ryzen processors. 

In our testing, we found that an Envy x360 13 with a Ryzen 5 4500U CPU can outperform laptops with 10th Gen Intel chips. This specific Envy costs just $800 and can outmuscle laptops that cost well over $1,000, including the exorbitant MacBook Pro. Moreover, the Envy x360 13 has a bright, vivid 13.3-inch display and a comfortable keyboard. 

There is very little we don't like about the Envy x360. If you can get over the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port and IR camera, then it is the ultimate money-saving laptop.

See our HP Envy x360 13 (2020) review

Pixelbook Go

Google went back to the basics with the clamshell Pixelbook Go, an excellent 13-inch Chromebook.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

6. Google Pixelbook Go

The best 13-inch Chromebook

CPU: Intel Core i5-8200Y | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB SSD | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p touch screen | Dimensions: 12.2 x 8.1 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.3 pounds

Superslim design
Bright, colorful display
Great battery life
Solid performance
Lackluster speakers

The Pixelbook Go is easily one of the best Chromebooks you can buy. Google's laptop is super slim and light at just 2 pounds, and it sports an easy-to-grip design. The extreme portability extends to this Chromebook's battery life, as it lasted a very impressive 11 hours and 29 minutes on our web-surfing battery test. 

Other highlights include a vibrant 13.3-inch display and solid performance form its Core m3 processor (Core i5 is available). The speakers aren't stellar and Chrome OS still has its limitations, but overall the Pixelbook Go is a great option.

Read our full Pixelbook Go review.

Razer Book 13

Offering beauty and brawn, the HP Spectre x360 13 is among the best 13-inch laptops.  (Image credit: Razer)

7. Razer Book 13

The best for creators

CPU: 11th Gen Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200, 60Hz | Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Powerful overall and graphics performance
Plenty of ports
Bright, vivid display
Comfortable, customizable keyboard
Sluggish file transfer

Razer is known for producing high-quality gaming laptops and peripherals. So, will its slim Razer Book 13 power your favorite AAA games at high settings? Absolutely not. It has integrated graphics, and such, can't run those demanding titles. So why is it such a good option? 

Well, for one, you get the outstanding built quality Razer is known for in the form of a unibody aluminum chassis. The Book 13 can also pose as a gaming laptop with its splendid RGB keyboard, and the 13.4-inch 1920 x 1200-pixel display is a beautiful one. Oh, and not to mention, the 11th Gen Intel CPU paired with Iris Xe graphics delivers excellent performance for such a thin and lightweight laptop. 

See our Razer Book 13 review.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review

Dell's XPS 13 2-in-1 takes everything we love about the clamshell version and adds the flexibility of a convertible. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

8. Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

The best 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (11th Gen) | GPU: Intel Iris Xe | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Display: 13.4-inch,1920 x 1200-pixel or 4K | Size: 11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Slim, attractive design
Top-rate build quality
Bright 13.4-inch display
Long battery life
Scant on ports
Shallow keyboard

Dell's new XPS 13 2-in-1 takes everything we love about the clamshell XPS 13 — fast performance (thanks to 11th Gen CPUs), a sleek, lightweight design and very long battery life — and put it in a flexible convertible chassis. You also get a unique 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200-resolution display. 

No, that's no typo; The XPS 13 2-in-1's touch screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, making it taller than almost every other 13-inch display. Better yet, that panel is both bright and vivid. While the shallow keyboard won't be for everyone, the XPS 13 2-in-1 makes up for it with long battery life and excellent build quality. 

See our full Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review.

ThinkPad X13 (AMD)

ThinkPad X13 (AMD) (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

9. Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD)

The best business laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U | GPU: AMD Radeon | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB SSD | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.3 x 8.6 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Outstanding performance
Durable chassis
Best-in-class keyboard
Plenty of ports
Subpar battery life
Thick display bezels

Lenovo's ThinkPad X13 with AMD CPUs is the best business laptop for students because it has tons of features at a low price. Starting at well under $1,000, the ThinkPad X13 gets you all the best ThinkPad features, including a world-class keyboard, a webcam cover, a rubber pointing stick and a magnesium chassis rated to military-grade durability. 

On top of those security and durability features, the ThinkPad X13 delivers outstanding performance thanks to its AMD Ryzen CPUs, which blow away their Intel counterparts. While the ThinkPad X13's battery life is a bummer, the price-to-performance ratio makes up for it. Oh, and you can tons of ports so there is no need to buy a dongle. 

See our full ThinkPad X13 (AMD) review.

Asus ZenBook 13

Asus ZenBook 13 (Image credit: Kimberly Gedeon/Future)

10. Asus ZenBook 13 (UX334FLC)

The laptop with the best design

CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U CPU | GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Display Size: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 11.9 x 7.4 x 0.76 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive chassis
Military-grade durability
Touchpad doubles as a mini-display
Nice variety of ports
Dim display

We've always liked the Asus ZenBook line and the new ZenBook 13 (UX334FLC) only increases our appreciation for it. With ZenBook, it's first and foremost about design; the blue lid with its concentric circles makes your basic silver laptop, like the MacBook Pro, look bland. Oh, and by the way, the chassis is MIL-STD-810G tested, so it can withstand some unsavory environments. 

If that wasn't enough, the touchpad on the ZenBook 13 is a ScreenPad 2.0, or a miniature display that can launch apps, be used as a toolbar, or extend the main 13.3-inch, 1080p panel. Adding a cherry on top of this already sweet package is the ZenBook 13's great audio, a decent variety of ports it offers despite being such a portable laptop, and awesome performance bolstered by a discrete GPU. 

See our full Asus ZenBook 13 (UX334FLC) review.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is one of the best 13-inch laptops on the market

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 is one of the best 13-inch laptops on the market (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

11. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

A sleek choice for Windows 10 users

CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB | Display Size: 13.5 inches, 2496 x 1664 pixels | Size: 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Elegant, premium design
Sharp, vivid display
Good performance
No Thunderbolt 3 ports
Thick display bezels

Windows 10 users envious of the MacBook Pro should turn their direction to the Surface Laptop 3. With a first-rate build quality and a slim, elegant aluminum chassis, the Surface Laptop 3 is arguably more attractive than Apple's beloved notebooks. It also has a similarly fantastic 13.5-inch display (with a 3:2 aspect ratio) that is more vivid than the one on the newest MacBook Pro.

Other things we like about the Surface Laptop 3 are its fast performance more than 9 hours of battery life. The keyboard is also fantastic, and even more comfortable to type on than the new Magic Keyboard on the MacBook. So although there are no Thunderbolt 3 ports and the bezels remain a bit chunky, the Surface Laptop 3 is a wonderful laptop for people who want a stylish ultraportable machine with outstanding build quality. 

See our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 review.

Best Gaming Laptops 2021: Asus ROG Flow X13/Asus ROG XG Mobile

(Image credit: Future)

12. Asus ROG Flow X13

Best 13-inch gaming laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5980HS | GPU: Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q/ Nvidia RTX 3080 | RAM: 32GB | Storage: Dual 1TB PCI m.2 SSDs | Display: 13.4 inches, 4K | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Head-turning, versatile design
Great gaming and overall performance
Excellent battery life
Keys are a bit small
Display could be brighter and more vivid
Expensive

Asus has done it again. They’ve changed the definition of what the best gaming laptop is. By itself, the Asus ROG Flow X13 is a compelling laptop. It’s very rare to see a 13-inch gaming laptop and even rarer for it to be a 2-in-1. But Asus didn’t stop there, they threw a high-powered AMD Ryzen 9 processor into the mix and even outfitted the notebook with its own discrete Nvidia GPU. 

It’s when the XG Mobile comes into play where things get interesting. For the life of me, I’m baffled about how they fit an RTX 3080 into such a small enclosure. Even though I wish Asus could have found a more elegant solution than that huge proprietary plug, I can’t argue with the results. The XG Mobile is the proverbial trap card, transforming it into the dark magician of gaming laptops. It doesn’t have any right to be as powerful as it is, but here we are, again impressed by Asus’ ingenuity.

See our full Asus ROG Flow X13 review.

How to choose the best 13-inch laptop

There's a lot to consider beyond screen size when choosing the best 13-inch laptop.

The first is portability. 13-inch laptops are popular, especially among college students, because they offer a good balance between screen real estate and portability. The Dell XPS 13 is a great example. It weighs around 2 pounds and is just 0.5 inches thick yet you get a 13.3-inch edge-to-edge display.  

Battery life is another key component because portable machines should deliver long runtimes.  Consider a laptop that gets at least 9 hours of battery life, which should be enough to get you through a full day of work or a long international flight. 

When it comes to specs, we recommend buying a laptop with an Intel U-series or H-series Core i5 CPU, at least 8GB of RAM (16GB is great) and a minimum of 256GB of storage. AMD is coming in hot with its 4000-series chips, so keep an eye out for those. You might notice that the new MacBook Air 2020 doesn't fit those requirements (it has a low-power Y-series CPU) but it's still a good option if you prefer macOS and don't want to spend a fortune. Speaking of which, Chromebooks like the Pixelbook Go offer excellent value and we're seeing more and more 13-inch models. 

Other things to consider include a comfy keyboard and sensitive touchpad. And when it's time to watch Netflix or YouTube, be sure to get a laptop with a vivid and bright display (like any of those listed here). 

How we test laptops

We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect of the laptop, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.

In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of the laptop's display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings at 1080p resolution. 

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas of the laptop. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. For MacBooks and premium Windows 10 laptops, a runtime of over 9 hours is considered a good result whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered for longer than 5 hours deserve praise. 

These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers who critique everything from the laptop's materials to the feel of its touchpad.