Update: With the introduction of Intel’s 7th-generation “Kaby Lake” processors, Dell has brought forth an all-new iteration of the XPS 13. As such, we’ve added it to our review assembly, replacing last year’s model at number 1. Read on for more details!
Thirteen inches. Arguably, it’s the perfect size for a laptop screen. Not too big nor too small, the best 13-inch laptop will sidestep the flimsiness and squint-inducing terror of a smaller notebook, absent the need to intimidate with a gargantuan form factor.
They’re not all Windows laptops either; Apple fans will rejoice at the fact that the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air continue to stun in 13-inch flavors. Whatever the case, you ought to find a notebook that – at the very least – incites interest. Whether it’s a 2-in-1 or a traditional clamshell you’re after, we’ve encapsulated the spice of life in our list of the very best 13-inch laptops.
For a broader view, take a gander at the best laptops in the world today, and if it’s thin and light you’re after, you can also find the best Ultrabook from TechRadar. But, whatever you do, be sure to read on to find our favorite 13-inch picks of the past few months in no particular order.
1. Dell XPS 13
If it ain’t broke, make it handsome
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
Now graced with 7th-generation Intel Core i processors, Dell has struck (rose) gold with the XPS 13. The lush design, lengthy battery life and even the SD card slot are still intact, only now it’s souped up with improved internal specs and sleeker appearances reminiscent of the MacBook and HP Spectre lineups. What’s more, the full-size processor and 13.3-inch display are crammed into an 11-inch frame made possible by Dell’s own nearly bezel-less InfinityEdge display technology.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
2. 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
The smallest MacBook Pro is a force of nature
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Though it may not have the 12-inch MacBook's slick design, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina features Apple's Force Touch track pad that uses different levels of sensitivity instead of mechanical buttons to make clicks. Even without the fancy Touch Bar, the MacBook Pro exceeds expectations with two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, quieter fans, louder speakers and even a battery life exceeding 7 hours in our anecdotal testing. Despite a controversial keyboard mechanism, the MacBook Pro is thinner, lighter and ready to travel.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)
3. Samsung Notebook 9
Great performance on the cheap
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5-6200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display | Storage: 256GB SSD
Though it's failed to make a dent in the laptop space with much more than its Tab Pro S convertible, Samsung's follow-up to the 2012 Series 9 notebook boasts not only capable specs, but a competitive price as well. Marketed as an Ultrabook, it's certainly disheartening to know the battery life lasts only five hours, but given its sleek and sexy design, it almost doesn't matter. What's more, with the Samsung Notebook 9, you won't have to deal with bloatware made infamous by many of the other Microsoft OEMs.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9
4. Asus ZenBook UX305
A truly excellent ultrabook at a very agreeable price point
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 – 5300 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) IPS | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
The ZenBook UX305 is a well-built, fully metal machine that's thin, light and attractive. Now available with Intel's full-fat Core i-series processors in addition to the usual Core M chips, the UX305's astonishing value makes it hard to ignore. Updated with a gorgeous QHD+ display, it stands out as a shining example of a computer that offers power and portability in a small package that doesn't break the bank.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX305
5. 13-inch MacBook Air
The best battery life in a 13-inch laptop
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, LED HD (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
In a market densely populated with slim-line laptops from a massive range of manufacturers, Apple's MacBook Air fights on admirably - though it started showing its age on the outside a long time ago. It has Intel's fifth-generation Core-series processors rather than the newest Skylake variants, but it's still a capable machine; even more so since Apple made 8GB of RAM standard across the line. If you don't like the look of its lowly 1,440 x 900 pixel-resolution display, there's always the 12-inch MacBook - and new MacBook Air models are expected to launch this summer.
Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air
6. Acer Aspire S 13
A budget-friendly, thin-and-light powerhouse
CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
That’s not a typo you just read on the specs sheet – the Acer Aspire S 13 truly is a beast. Replete with a Skylake Core series processors shoved inside a tiny, 13.3-inch body, the Aspire S 13 can handle practically anything you throw at it productivity-wise. Unfortunately, the catch is that with all this power comes a distinct shortage on battery life. It may be an Ultrabook, but the Aspire S 13 only managed 3 hours and 12 minutes in our PCMark 8 battery test. Luckily, the Acer Aspire S 13 also comes with the benefit of USB 3.1, all but a boon in this awkward early age of USB-C.
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Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article