If you’re buying a new laptop, most people want to make sure it’s actually something they can easily carry around and bring to work or school every day. I actually have a bigger laptop right now, and I can tell you that fitting it into my bag is a pain. Because of that, it almost never leaves my desk and has effectively become a desktop. That’s why I’m writing this article, so you don’t have to suffer the same fate. I’ll help you can find a laptop that’s small and portable but can still compete with the best of them as an actual computer.
Read on or click here to see our best 13-inch laptop.
- What Should I Look for When Buying a 13-Inch Laptop?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best 13-Inch Laptops
- #1: Asus ZenBook 13 (Best Value – All-Purpose)
- #2: HP Envy 13 (Best Machine)
- #3: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (Best 2 in 1 Laptop)
- #4: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Best Low Cost)
- #5: Apple MacBook Pro (Best Apple Laptop)
- On a Budget? Try These:
- #1 Budget: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
- #2 Budget: Lenovo Ideapad 3
- #3 Budget: Acer Chromebook R 13 Convertible
- Verdict: Your Best 13-Inch laptops
What Should I Look for When Buying a 13-Inch Laptop?
When you’re looking to buy a smaller, 13-inch laptop, it’s important to remember that a laptop is a laptop. You’ll be looking at the same features to determine what separates the good computers from the bad ones, but there will be a generally lower bar for performance among smaller laptops. That being said, here are the main criteria you’ll want to focus on when buying your 13-inch laptop.
Criteria #1: Speed – We’re living in the Internet age, and we want the fastest performance all the time. The miniaturization of technology has come a long way, and any modern 13-inch laptop is better and faster than a full-sized desktop from as recently as five years ago. So while it will lag behind compared to bigger laptops or desktops from today, you don’t need to worry too much about sacrificing speed when you decide to go portable. There are two main features you’ll want to look at when you evaluate how fast a laptop will be – the processor of the laptop, and the amount of RAM.
The processor is basically the brain of the computer. It’s the part responsible for completing almost every task you ask of it. So if a specific application, program, or task causes your laptop to slow down, it probably means the processor isn’t up to par. Unfortunately, there isn’t any specific number to look at when assessing a processor, but you should know that the most popular series of processors right now is the Intel Core series, with the Intel Core i5 being the standard and the Intel Core i7 being the top-of-the-line processor. Some laptops still running on the slightly less powerful Intel Core i3 processor.
RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory, is what helps a computer multitask, so unlike the processor, it’s very unlikely that any single task is being affected by your RAM or lack thereof. However, if having a lot of windows and applications open at once causes the performance of your laptop to lag behind, that’s a good sign you don’t have enough RAM. RAM is much easier to evaluate than a processor, as there’s one simple rule to follow: The more, the better. RAM tends to come in certain standard sizes of 4 GB and 8 GB, with anything over 8 GB being extraordinary (especially if it’s in a 13-inch laptop) and anything under 4 GB being subpar.
Criteria #2: Battery Life – This one’s easy for everyone to understand. We all know how annoying it is to have to stop what you’re doing and run around looking for your charger and an outlet because your laptop is about to die. Especially if you’re going out fo your way to buy a smaller laptop, you probably want something you can carry around, and you don’t want to be glued to your charger all day. A nice secret of the trade is that smaller laptops tend to have better battery life, so you won’t need to settle for a sub-par battery when buying your new 13-inch laptop.
Criteria #3: Storage Space – I usually don’t focus on storage space too much when discussing laptops, because most have enough memory that the average user won’t need to worry about using it all. Even if you do, you can always buy an external hard drive. However, if you’re looking at smaller laptops, you probably can’t be bothered to carry around an external hard drive with you. Smaller laptops will tend to have slightly less memory, so while not a pressing issue, it is a bit more of a concern. Just like RAM, storage memory, which usually comes in the form of an SSD (Solid-State Drive) is measured in gigabytes and tends to come in set amounts of 256 GB and 512 GB. With smaller laptops, you may see SSDs that are smaller than that, but I would aim for at least 256 GB.
Criteria #4: Price – We don’t want you to have to spend your hard-earned money for no reason, and that’s why we’re going to make sure that the laptops on our list deliver the bang for their buck. Luckily, a lot of the smaller laptops out there tend to be cheaper. So if you’re first and foremost looking to save, we’ll have an entire section of cheap laptops just for you. However, if you want a smaller laptop that can keep up with the big boys, you will need to be willing to splurge a little.
Criteria #5: Size – Size is our last criteria on the list because, for obvious reasons, it will fluctuate the least from laptop to laptop. However, it’s important to remember that when we discuss 13-inch laptops, the 13-inch part only refers to their screen size. It is technically possible for a laptop to have a relatively small screen but still be bulky and heavy, giving you the worst of both worlds. We want to help you find a laptop that’s sleek, light, and portable so that you can slide it right into your bag when you’re ready to go without having to move things around.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best 13-Inch Laptops
Using the criteria above, we thought about what you might want from a laptop to determine the best 13-inch laptops on the market. If you want top performance fit into a smaller laptop, you’ll want something different than someone prioritizing portability over everything. Likewise, if your chief concern is staying within your budget, we wouldn’t want to waste your time talking about the newest and most expensive models out there. No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.
And without further ado, here are our best 13-inch laptops.
#1: Asus ZenBook 13 (Best Value – All-Purpose)
Most of my articles about laptops end up having at least one Asus computer on them, and it’s easy to see why. The Asus ZenBook 13 hits all of the high-water marks we mentioned in the criteria section of this article. While it’s sold in different versions so you can adjust it to fit your budget, it comes standard with the elite Intel Core series Intel Core i7 processor. So even if you go with the cheapest model, it will be able to keep up with all of your demands.
It has 16 GB of RAM, so you can keep all of those Chrome tabs open, and the ZenBook will just keep on chugging. On top of that, the ZenBook has a 512 GB SSD, giving you more than enough room for all of those pictures and videos from your last vacation and whatever movies and games you want to keep stored on your hard drive.
Despite its incredible performance specs, the ZenBook 13 weighs only 2.6 pounds and has an amazing battery life that lasts up to 14 hours, so it’s exactly as portable as advertised. You can bring this laptop along for any trip, even that big flight you’ve been saving up for, and you can use it the whole way there. That, in tandem with the memory, means you won’t be stuck browsing through the in-flight movies looking for something decent; you can choose from your own collection.
Where this 13-inch laptop really starts to pull away from the competition is in its ability to fit everything in there while still staying small. It uses a creative trackpad that doubles as a number pad to save space and lets you fill out those forms and spreadsheets.
It manages to have all the ports you can need. A lot of smaller laptops have fewer ports, but the ZenBook has a USB-C port, USB-A port, an HDMI jack, and a microSD card reader. Whatever you need to connect to your laptop, you can. Plug it into a TV for movie night, upload all of the pictures you took on your phone, or plug in a mouse or flash drive. This laptop does it all.
Now we get to possibly the best part – the price. Considering its performance, the Asus ZenBook 13 costs the same amount as a laptop twice the size would cost you. It comes in three main options, with the most expensive costing around $1130 and coming with the 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor and the GeForce MX250 GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). The mid-tier option comes with the same core i7 processor, but a slightly weaker GPU in the Intel UHD Graphics GPU, and costs more than $100 cheaper at about $1000. The cheapest option has the 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor from the Intel Core series – the same GPU as the (roughly) $1000 option – and is only about $20 cheaper.
I recommend the middle option, as the only difference is in the graphics card, and the Intel UHD Graphics are more than good enough, unless you plan on doing some serious hardcore gaming. And at that point, you should honestly probably buy a bigger laptop. I firmly believe that “13-inch gaming laptop” is an oxymoron. No matter which option you go with, this is one of the best laptops out there – 13-inch or otherwise. All things considered, it’s the best deal on this list.
#2: HP Envy 13 (Best Machine)
The Asus ZenBook earned the number one spot on our list of 13-inch laptops because, while it’s not exactly cheap, it’s the best deal for your dollar. But if that’s not a concern of yours and you’re willing to break the bank for the best laptop money can buy, then you’ll be looking at the HP Envy 13. This laptop has incredible specs that far surpass even bigger laptops and desktops. So if you need to have it all and need to keep it in a compact package, this is the laptop for you. There are two main reasons you might want to shell out for the Envy 13 instead of the ZenBook.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Storage Space
There’s no other way to say it, this baby’s hard drive is absolutely massive. The Envy 13 has an incredible 2 Terrabyte SDD. That’s 2000 GB. I’m not kidding when I say you couldn’t fill up this hard drive if you tried. You could store every movie you’ve ever watched, every song you’ve ever heard, and every picture you’ve ever taken on this laptop and still have room left over to download every single episode of Friends. So go ahead and download, download, download. You’ll never have to worry about how much memory you have with this laptop.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Design and Hardware
Another reason you may want to treat yourself to this laptop instead of going with the cheaper ZenBook is the Envy’s design and hardware. It has almost no bezels on the display, so you get as much screen size as possible, and it has the same two USB ports as the ZenBook – one type-C and one type-A – but their connection speed is probably faster than the Asus laptop’s speed. On top of that, the HP Envy 13 has a killswitch for the webcam, so you can feel safer about your camera being hacked into with a physical off switch. (You can still keep that sticky note over the camera if you want.) It also has a touch screen.
While the Envy 13 is one of the most powerful laptops out there, there are certain drawbacks it has compared to the ZenBook besides the fact that its price range falls around a whopping $1600. It’s battery life, while still very good, is (slightly) worse than the ZenBook’s at an estimated 12 hours.
While its design is appealing to some, the Envy doesn’t have a number pad like the ZenBook does, and it weighs about twice as much. But if the design suits your taste, or you just can’t say no to that extra memory, this is the laptop for you.
In terms of software, it’s pretty much identical to the ZenBook in every other regard. They have the same Intel Core i7 processor and the same amount of RAM, though the Envy does have a better graphics card. (I’ve made my feelings on that known when it comes to 13-inch laptops.) You’re mostly paying for the massive 2 TB SSD, but that may be worth it for you.
#3: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (Best 2 in 1 Laptop)
If you think that 2-in-1 laptops are a gimmick, or that they’re just tablets trying to pretend to be laptops, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is here to prove you wrong. This laptop/tablet can go head-to-head with any proper laptop but gives you the fully portable, convenient, experience of a tablet at the same time.
The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 has the best available Intel Core Series Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. That processing power means that this laptop/tablet can complete any task that you’d need to perform on your “real” laptop. While the 8 GB of RAM is less than the first two laptops on our list, which both have an incredible 16 GB of RAM, 8 GB is still plenty, so don’t worry if you’re sometimes bad about remembering to close out all of your apps. The 256 GB SSD of storage space is also plenty, especially since most storage is making its way to the cloud these days.
The real appeal of this laptop is obviously the 2-in-1 design, which makes it ideal for traveling and commuting. No more struggling to fit your device on the airplane tray table. While in laptop mode, the XPS 13 2-in-1 weighs 2.7 pounds, but its design makes it feel much lighter and more portable than that. This, plus its 15-hour battery life, makes it the perfect travel companion.
This Dell costs about $1000, and while the XPS has a performance that can rival any laptop, there are drawbacks to the 2-in-1 design in terms of hardware. Namely, that this laptop (or is it a tablet?) has no input ports other than one port for the charger and another for headphones. The main appeal of 2-in-1 laptops is that it’s one less device you need to buy. So if you need a new tablet and also want a top-tier laptop, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is calling your name. It’s one of the best laptops available, and certainly the best tablet, all in one 13-inch frame.
#4: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Best Low Cost)
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Especially when compared to the XPS 13, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 is probably more in line with what you imagine when you think of 2-in-1 devices. To be clear, it still outperforms any tablet and is a solid laptop in its own right. This 2-in-1 comes in two standard versions, but I’ll only be focusing on the cheaper one, which costs about $600 and is our #1 budget 13-in laptop.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 4 comes with the Intel Core Series Intel Core M, which is tailor-made to give this device the best battery life possible (which can last for 9 hours straight of video playback). Unfortunately, this battery comes at the expense of processing power, and the Core M is weaker than even the Core i5. It has 128 GB of SSD memory, which is the lowest we’ve seen so far, but still enough for most users, especially if you make use of the cloud and monitor your downloading just a little. The main drawback of this 2-in-1 laptop is its 4 GB of RAM. That will be enough to handle a few browser windows, but you’ll need to make sure to close out your apps, or you will start to see a drop in performance.
2-in-1 devices are very convenient, and this one is almost weightless and is the lightest laptop on our list at 1.7 pounds. Its display is just a tad bit smaller than our mark of 13 inches at 12.3 inches, but that will obviously also make it easier to fit into your bag. Unlike the Dell 2-in-1, you will have to sacrifice performance a bit if you decide to go with this laptop, but that’s why it comes at such a cheap price. If you’re trying to stay on a budget, want the portability, and won’t ask too much of your laptop, the Surface Pro 4 is a great choice.
#5: Apple MacBook Pro (Best Apple Laptop)
For a lot of people, having all-Apple is a lifestyle choice. It’s not hard to see why. The electronic powerhouse has made a series of products that works best if you have the lot of them, and the iPhone and MacBooks both have user-interfaces that are intuitive and keep everyone coming back for more.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is very customizable, so its about as good as you want it to to be, or as good as what you’re willing to pay for. It comes standard with the Core i5 processor, but you can choose between either the newest 10th generation processor which runs at 2.0 GHz, or the 8th generation processor which runs at 1.4 GHz. The SSD comes in three options: 256 GB for the 8th generation processor, and 512 GB or 1 TB for the 10th generation processor. I don’t need to go into detail about how drastic that difference is from one end to the other. The MacBook Pro also comes standard with 16 GB of RAM, so you’ll be able to do everything at once no matter which version you buy.
Apple products are known for being a little pricey, and the flagship MacBook Pro is no exception. Even if you elect for the 8th generation processor and the smaller 256 GB hard drive, this 13-inch laptop costs about $1300. If you go for the souped up version with the 10th generation i5 and 1 TB of storage, that price goes all the way up to the $1850 range. If I were to buy the MacBook Pro, I would probably go with the middle option, which would be the 10th generation processor and 512 GB of storage, as this option is roughly $200 less than with the 1 TB SSD, and 512 GB is still more than enough. No matter what, you’ll need to splurge a little, but that’s the price of the fan-favorite in Apple.
On a Budget? Try These:
With the exception of the Surface Pro 4, all of the computers on this list have been a little pricey so far, so if you need to save, this is the section for you. Every laptop in this section of the article will be under $1000 and will get progressively cheaper. These options will mostly be what you’re looking for if you just need something for school or work.
#1 Budget: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
This 13-inch laptop-and-tablet is closer to the Dell XPS 13 than the Surface Pro 4. It’s powered by the 8th generation i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. Basically, it hits our standard in every metric. It’s a little bulky, weighing 3.4 pounds, but it does have a fingerprint reader. The biggest drawback of this laptop is the 5-7 hour battery life, but it’s a very solid buy for its estimated price of $840.
#2 Budget: Lenovo Ideapad 3
With 8GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD, this laptop is powered by the dual-core AMD Ryzen 3 processors. I can’t pretend this laptop will perform at a stellar level, but it will more than get the job done, and it has a decent 10 hours of battery life. I hope you’ll forgive me – it’s actually 14 inches, not 13. But for its price of about $480, it’s one of the best budget buys out there.
#3 Budget: Acer Chromebook R 13 Convertible
You won’t find many laptops cheaper than this 13-inch laptop. There are no two ways about it, you get what you pay for: It only has 4 GB of RAM and an almost impressive 32 GB hard drive. I would only buy this laptop if you really need to keep it as cheap as possible, or will mostly be using it for web browsing and typing up word documents.
Verdict: Your Best 13-Inch laptops
If you want the best value for money, pick the Asus ZenBook 13.
If you need the best 2-in-1 device, pick the Dell XPS 13.
If you want to keep the spending under $700, pick the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.
Remember that its possible none of these laptops will be exactly what you’re looking for, but we hope they offer a starting point and help you learn what to look for. You may have to mix and match a little or compromise one feature for another.