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The best 13-inch laptop 2021: the top 13-inch laptops we've reviewed

best 13-inch laptop
Many of the best 13-inch laptops are powerful enough to make our best laptops or best Ultrabooks lists. (Image credit: Future)

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.

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is the first laptop to receive Apple's M1 chip.

(Image credit: Apple)

1. MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Best laptop for students with a flexible budget

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+macOS Big Sur is fast and responsive+Battery life is great+Silent in use
Reasons to avoid
-Fanless design could impact performance

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 HP Elite Dragonfly G2 has a smart design, great battery life, and 2-in-1 prowess.

(Image credit: HP)

2. HP Elite Dragonfly G2

One of the best laptops we’ve tested

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB - 32GB
Screen: 13.3-inch diagonal BrightView LED FHD, 400 nits – 13.3-inch diagonal BrightView LED 4K UHD HDR-400 550 nits
Storage: up to 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Comfortable keyboard+Excellent screen
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-USB-C ports on only one side

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 

The Surface Laptop 4's build quality and design is absolutely top-notch

(Image credit: Microsoft )

3. Surface Laptop 4

An excellent 13-inch laptop from Microsoft

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 / AMD Ryzen 5 - 7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe / AMD Radeon
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) touch
Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable keyboard+Beautiful screen
Reasons to avoid
-Not enough ports-Alcantara fabric might get gross over time

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

The Asus ZenBook 13 is a multi-tasking champ

(Image credit: Asus)

4. Asus ZenBook 13

A gorgeous AMD-powered ultraportable

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800U
Graphics: AMD Radeon
Screen: 13.3-inch OLED FHD (1080p), 400 nits
Storage: 1TB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous OLED display+Decent CPU performance
Reasons to avoid
-Radeon graphics underwhelming

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 has an amazing battery life

(Image credit: Samsung)

5. Samsung Galaxy Book Pro

Samsung makes a MacBook rival

CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5 - i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3” FHD Touch Display
Storage: 256GB – 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Amazing battery life+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Design is a bit boring

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 HP Spectre x360 (2021) combines elegance and premium design with the newest in specs.

(Image credit: HP)

6. HP Spectre x360 (2021)

A brilliant update

CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 – Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch diagonal, FHD (1920 x 1080) OLED touch – 13.3-inch diagonal, 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) OLED touch
Storage: 256 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD – 2 TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design+Excellent battery life+Great performance for day-to-day work
Reasons to avoid
-Fans can get noisy-Pricey

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)

Google Pixelbook Go boasts many of its high-quality features, but without that steep price tag.

(Image credit: Google)

7. Google Pixelbook Go

The best mainstream Chromebook

CPU: Intel Core m3 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch Full HD – 13.3-inch 4K Ultra HD Molecular Display
Storage: 64GB – 256GB
Reasons to buy
+Amazing ‘Hush’ keyboard+Rare 1080p webcam
Reasons to avoid
-No biometric login

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)'s performance is so impressive

(Image credit: Apple)

8. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

Apple’s little MacBook Pro gets a big refresh

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 LED-backlit Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm
Reasons to buy
+Huge battery life+Great performance+Can run iOS apps
Reasons to avoid
-Still lacks ports

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)

The Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020) is a gorgeous piece of kit.

(Image credit: Dell)

9. Dell XPS 13 (Late 2020)

Dell does it again

CPU: Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i7-1165G7
Graphics: Up to Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 32GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x
Screen: 13.4" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 13.4" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe
Reasons to buy
+Stunning design+Gorgeous 16:10 display+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Sound quality is just OK-Pricey

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) 

Lenovo Yoga C930 has a few aces up its sleeve.

(Image credit: Lenovo)

10. Lenovo Yoga C940

The Lenovo Yoga is back and it means business

CPU: up to 10th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM: up to 16GB
Screen: 14” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, touchscreen, glossy, 400 nits –14" UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS, touchscreen, glossy, HDR 400, 500 nits
Storage: up to 2TB SSD PCIe
Reasons to buy
+Excellent design+Great performance+Comfy keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Battery life

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