As portable as the best 13-inch laptops are, they’re also surprisingly powerful. Thanks to all the progress manufacturers have made on the internals, many of these devices can compete with some of the best laptops out there with 15-inch or 17-inch options. Even if you’re tackling more intensive processes like photo or video editing, these diminutive beasts will get you through your workload without sacrificing their thin and light form factor.
One of the prime examples of this deadly combination of power and portability is the MacBook Air (M1, 2020), an incredibly thin 13-inch notebook that can easily handle some gaming and light video editing. This combination is perfect for college students and professionals who need great performance but is easy to carry.
If you require a device that’s both portable and powerful, especially this back to school season, the best 13-inch laptops of 2021 are worth checking out. Here are our top picks, alongside our price comparison tool so that you might find some money-saving laptop deals while you’re perusing.
Apple finally out their much-talked about M1 silicon chip that’s so far been a real game-changer. And, the first laptop to receive it is the company’s thinnest and lightest, putting it on the list of the most exciting Apple laptops of recent years. With this new chip, the MacBook Air is better than ever, touting excellent performance alongside its brilliant battery life – without raising the price to keep it (fairly) affordable still. It’s not going to be the cheapest option for students, but for those who have a slightly bigger budget, this is the best student laptop to get.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
The second-generation HP Elite Dragonfly ups the ante in the best 13-inch laptops game. HP’s impressive business laptop is back with its smart design, great battery life, and 2-in-1 prowess. Of course, it’s more powerful now than it’s ever been, touting 11th-gen Intel Core chips, Intel Iris Xe graphics, and now a 4K display, upgrading from its previous Full HD models. There’s a lot to love here, and it might just be as close to being the perfect business laptop as any manufacturer can get. If you can afford it. However, as it is meant for professionals, it’s definitely worth the investment.
Read the full review: HP Elite Dragonfly G2
While Apple blew us away with the new MacBook Air (above), arch rival Microsoft has also impressed us with its new Surface Laptop 4. As with previous Surface devices, build quality and design is absolutely top-notch here, and its gorgeous PixelSense touchscreen really sets it apart from the competition (a touchscreen is something we've yet to see on an Apple laptop, as Microsoft likes to remind us). It also comes with a brilliant keyboard that's a joy to type on, and some pretty great specs as well, which ensures that Windows 10, and all your favorite apps, run extremely well. Battery life is also very impressive – lasting over 13 hours in our tests – and the price is impressively competitive as well.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4
If the Asus ZenBook 13’s striking OLED display, with its bright, rich colors, doesn’t make a convert out of you, then maybe its incredibly long battery life will. This 13-inch notebook has a lot going for it. It’s powerful enough to handle most of your day-to-day tasks, even if the graphical performance is somewhat underwhelming, particularly when compared to Intel’s Iris Xe. There’s, surprisingly, also no headphone jack or Thunderbolt 4 support. But, if you can live with those shortcomings, this diminutive portable is a multi-tasking champ that will get you through a whole day’s worth of work on a single charge.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook 13
The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro may not be reinventing the wheel but that’s okay. It’s a great, if somewhat unexciting, 13-inch portable that rivals the MacBook in a lot of ways. It’s not only very light and provides great day-to-day performance, but has the kind of battery life most other laptops aspire to, making this the ideal kind of laptop to take on the road. On top of that, it’s a fully featured machine that integrates well with Samsung devices, such as the company’s smartphones for an Apple-like ecosystem.
Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy Book Pro
The flagship HP Spectre x360 (2021) is the newest in the flagship product line and continues the tradition of pairing elegance and premium design with the newest in specs for a 2-in-1 laptop that’s as much substance as it is style. This gorgeous Windows laptop comes with the new 11th-gen Intel CPU and enough battery life to get you through a long day at work. While it does come with a price tag to match and its 2-in-1 factor can be bulky for those making use of its tablet mode, not to mention that it can get loud, it’s a stunning laptop with excellent performance.
Read the full review: HP Spectre x360 (2021)
If you’ve long been admiring Google’s premium Chromebook but the price is holding you back, then you might want to consider the new Google Pixelbook Go instead. Freshly-baked by Google, this alternative to the manufacturer’s pricey Pixelbook boasts many of its high-quality features, but without that steep price tag – namely, an incredible battery life and that coveted keyboard. If your computing use is limited to sending and responding to emails, creating documents and excel sheets on Google Docs and Sheets, and streaming movies and videos after work, then this one’s a winner.
Read the full review: Google Pixelbook Go
The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) may not have gotten a massive design overhaul, but what it lacks in that department, it makes up for big time in performance and battery life. Thanks to Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch delivers excellent performance and exceptional battery life. Its performance is so impressive, in fact, that it can easily handle 4K - and even 8K - videos. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that keeps things small and lightweight, this is the best 13-inch laptop money can buy.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
At this point, we doubt that the Dell XPS line can do anything wrong. Its yearly updates have consistently made it to our best laptops list, and they’re only getting better. The Dell XPS 13 (2020) is not only a gorgeous piece of kit. It also comes, as expected, with excellent performance, a stunning display and long battery life, alongside a few others. Much like its predecessor, it’s a pricey investment – but that is barely reason enough for us to discourage Ultrabook fans. This is among the best 13-inch laptops, and it’s worth every penny.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 (2020)
With the Lenovo Yoga C940, the company continues with its tradition of making elegant and stunning Ultrabooks. And, don't be thrown off by its looks, there's plenty of power hiding inside. With a comfortable keyboard, stylus, TrueBlock Privacy Shutter and rotating soundbar, it's quite a feature rich machine as well. It's not perfect - that soundbar is a work in progress and the battery life could be better - but it's a great portable that can stand up to the competition.
Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga C940
- Want more choices? Check out our list of the best laptop 2021