10 best 13-inch laptops 2015: which is right for you?

Where portability meets power

Best 13 inch laptop

The 13-inch laptop has gone on leaps and bounds recently, thanks massively to Intel's Ultrabook specifications.

In many ways, a 13-inch laptop is the perfect size for a portable PC; they're not as fiddly and squint-inducing as netbooks, but not as heavy and awkward as a full-on notebook.

And there are plenty of PC and Mac options available, too.

For a broader view, look at our best laptops in the world today. But whatever you do, read on to find our favourite 13-inchers of the past few months in no particular order.

Best 13 inch laptop

Dell XPS 13

A revolution in laptop design

We thought the Dell XPS 13 from 2014 was already a brilliantly thin and light 13 inch machine, but this year the company has really pulled all the stops with the 2015 model. The new Dell XPS 13 is a 13.3-inch notebook, but it has the small footprint of an 11-inch machine.

Fortunately for us, the XPS 13 isn't all beauty and no brains. This laptop features the horsepower to make work and play enjoyable, and it has just enough battery life to never leave you in a lurch. Regardless of whether you choose to upgrade to the touchscreen quad HD+ version, or if you stand pat with the full HD model, the Dell XPS 13 will provide you with a delightful experience for years to come.

Read: Dell XPS 13 review

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display (early 2015)

Best 13 inch laptop

The fastest small MacBook Pro yet is a force of nature

The new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro has kept things familiar on the outside while making big improvements on the inside. It packs Intel's latest Core i5 Broadwell processor which is more powerful than last year's Haswell chip and comes with improved integrated Intel Iris 6100 Graphics. That fifth-core processor also means a bump in battery life compared to the 2014 Retina MacBook Pro.

Though it may not have the new MacBook's slick design, the new MacBook Pro features Apple's Force Touch Trackpad that uses different levels of sensitivity instead of mechanical buttons to make clicks. Solid Apple build quality, a great display and decent levels of performance across the board make the new MacBook Pro with Retina one of the safest bets on a 13-inch laptop today.

Read: MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display (early 2015) review

Best 13 inch laptop

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

Lenovo's flagship Ultrabook won't entirely bend to your will

If you're all about style and don't need a super powerful machine, it doesn't get much better than Lenovo's latest flagship Ultrabook. While it may not be as punchy as its predecessor (thanks in part to its low-power, fanless Intel Core M chip), it can still manage all of the usual tasks you would throw at it.

And given its new metallic hinge and super thin design, the Yoga 3 Pro makes a better case than ever for its multitudes of usage modes. At any rate, this is one of the thinnest, lightest and sharpest Windows laptops to date. And while you'll certainly pay for it, the price for such panache will be worth it for style nuts.

Read: Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro review

Best 13 inch laptop

Asus ZenBook UX305

A truly excellent ultrabook at a very agreeable price point

While the Asus UX305 does not necessarily break any new ground in the Ultrabook scene, it's a nearly flawless device, for an extremely affordable price and that in itself is worth high praise.

The ZenBook UX305 is a superbly-built, fully metal machine that's thin, light and very attractive. This lightweight system' also easily handled all my daily tasks whether I was browsing the web, watching video or editing images. What's more, you can get excellent battery life out of the machine considering its 1080p display.

Of course, the most striking thing about the UX305 is that it comes at a $699 or £649 (about AU$902) price. This is a great price for any mobile computing machine, but in this case you're getting a premium, full-metal Ultrabook with an excellent full HD display and a 256GB SSD to boot. While isnt' exactly a shining symbol of innovation in the Ultrabook space, it is the most affordable Ultrabook out today and it won't disappoint you.

Read: Asus ZenBook UX305 review

Best 13 inch laptop

Acer Chromebook 13

Say hello to the longest-lasting Chromebook yet

Powered by Nvidia's ARM Cortex A15-based Tegra K1, this Chromebook packs a lot of punch in a tiny frame. Users will love its 13.3-inch 1080p resolution screen, as well as its portability. At 3.31 pounds, the Acer Chromebook 13 is a relatively light laptop.

This Chromebook does have some minor issues: it doesn't multitask very well and the laptop itself only comes in one color. But for the price ($279 about £165, AU$300), you're likely to enjoy the simplicity and productivity, as you learn to overcome the design limitations.

Read: Acer Chromebook 13 review

Best 13 inch laptop

MacBook Air 13-inch

Does the Air finally put all-day battery life within our grasp?

In a market becoming densely populated with slim-line laptops from a massive range of manufacturers, Apple still holds the trump card with the MacBook Air. It packs in cutting-edge technology from Intel, along with faster RAM and updated connection ports compared to its predecessor, offering a great experience. The keyboard is excellent (and backlit), the Multi-Touch trackpad works brilliantly, and it's as fast as you like.

Read: MacBook Air 13-inch review

Best 13 inch laptop

Acer Aspire S7

Acer's luxurious laptop is an ultraportable star

Acer has updated it's luxury laptop with a super sharp QHD display. This 2560 x 1440 panel is prepared for the day when hyper-HD content is finally viable to watch over wireless internet. In the now, text looks gorgeous, as do images – thus adding to the near-future feel of this device.

The build quality on display here, from the Aspire S7's aluminum and Gorilla Glass frame is palpable. That goes for the snappy keyboard, with its fancy electroluminescent lighting, too. The Acer Aspire S7 (starting at $1,349, £1,199, AU$2,599) truly feels like a machine built for the now, and one that you won't mind using well into 2016, possibly longer. So, love the Aspire S7 for its cutting edge build, fine typing experience and premium specs.

Read: Acer Aspire S7 review

Best 13 inch laptop

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Finally, a gorgeous 1080p screen on a Chromebook

For $329 (about £205, AU$382), the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a gorgeous and affordable laptop that doesn't have many weaknesses. It comes with more RAM and a full HD 1080p screen, making it a step up from other models in this class, like the Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer C720.

But potential buyers should note that the Toshiba Chromebook 2 moves the Chromebook category closer towards the territory of an affordable Windows 8.1 laptop. So you might be overpaying if you're not purchasing this laptop specifically for the Google ecosystem.

That being said, the 1080p screen is a huge bonus and the laptop speakers made by Skullcandy are booming. Add it all up and the Toshiba Chromebook 2 might be an ideal streaming system for everything from YouTube and Google Play to Hulu Plus and Netflix.

Read: Toshiba Chromebook 2 review

Best 13 inch laptop

Acer Aspire S3

An Ultrabook-style laptop with dedicated gaming hardware

If you've ogled thin and powerful gaming laptops like the Razer Blade 2015 but don't have the money to spend, the Aspire S3 could fit the bill. While its Nvidia GeForce 735M is nowhere near as powerful as what you'll find in top-end portable battlestations, it's capable of running titles from recent years with the settings and resolution dialled down a notch or two.

Its gaming performance is packed into a slim and light ultrabook body that features a great 1080p display and nippy 16GB SSD. Battery life isn't stellar, but the overall package is an attractive one if you want to play lesser demanding games on a highly portable laptop without breaking the bank.

Read: Acer Aspire S3 review

Best 13 inch laptop

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus

A Retina-beating display, new Haswell processor and cutting-edge design. Is this the ultimate Ultrabook?

Samsung was one of the very first PC manufacturers to jump on the Ultrabook bandwagon. It's done a fine job of representing Intel's baby ever since, with some stunning offerings, including the Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch and, more recently, the top-of-the-line Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D.

Samsung's new Ultrabook: the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus (starting at $1,399, £1,412, AU$2,259), might keep the company ahead of the game for a while, at least if its on-paper abilities are anything to go by.

It's a wonderful-looking unit. It's thin and carefully crafted, with shiny, chamfered edges lining its all-aluminium chassis. But its plain black exterior might lend some clues as to its intent: This is premium-priced Ultrabook focused as much on the business user as the coffee shop regular.

Read: Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus review

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