If you’re looking for a balance between capability and bulkiness, a 13-inch laptop is an ideal option. That said, not all 13-inch laptops are created equal. In our opinion, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is one of the most innovative 13-inch laptops available today, but there are plenty of other options depending on the features you want and the price you're willing to pay.
Most of the top 13-inch laptops are focused on balancing power and portability, but you can find everything from budget laptops to high-end gaming laptops with a 13-inch display. Here are the best 13-inch laptops you should be looking at today.
Dell XPS 13 Plus
An innovative and sleek 13-inch laptop
- Irresistibly fresh design
- Great OLED screen
- Helpful performance modes
- Excellent haptic touchpad
- Webcam has been improved
- Gets warm on the bottom
- No headphone jack
- Battery life less than average
Why you should buy this: It's the best 13-inch laptop you can buy, and one of the best laptops period.
Who's it for: Anyone who wants the best 13-inch laptop money can buy.
Why we chose the Dell XPS 13 Plus:
It's hard not to sound like complete sycophants when talking about how much we love the XPS 13 Plus. The older XPS 13 was our favorite laptop for the previous five years, and the Plus version expands on the original with some innovative features and a new design. A haptic touchpad is state-of-the-art and works great, while the edge-to-edge keyboard is comfortable and modern. The Plus's 3.5K OLED display option also spices things up.
As with the XPS 13s that came before, this version is lightweight (under three pounds), portable, and exceedingly attractive. Base specs start with a 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1240P processor, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of PCIe NVMe solid-state drive storage. Ports include two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C (including DisplayPort and power delivery compatibility), and the laptop comes with a USB-C to USB-A adapter to help manage some of your older accessories. There's no 3.5mm audio jack, but Dell also bundles in a USB-C to 3.5mm audio adapter. More expensive options have a touchscreen and improve the processor.
Don't expect to play the latest and greatest games at high frame rates — that's not really what this laptop is for. No laptop is perfect, but the Dell XPS 13 Plus is as close as we've seen yet, suitable for a wide variety of tasks, and highly capable of handling them all. Note that there's a new version of the "standard" XPS 13 on the way that will offer a refresh of the design and an upgrade to Intel 12th-gen CPUs. It should compete for this spot.
Apple MacBook Air M2
It's a portable powerhouse
- Incredibly thin
- Upgraded webcam and speakers
- Shockingly good performance
- Battery life stomps the competition
- Screen and keyboard are world-class
- Worryingly hot internal temperatures
- Still only supports one monitor
Why you should buy this: It's the best laptop for students.
Who's it for: Any student who wants a laptop that's fast and long-lasting while being exceedingly easy to carry around.
Why we chose the Apple MacBook Air M2:
The MacBook Air M2 is the perfect laptop for students, with a massive update that brings it more in line with the standard MacBook design. It's lightweight, incredibly thin, super powerful, and stacked with the quality-of-life features that Macs are known for. From exceptional battery life to a large touchpad and one of the best laptop keyboards, the MacBook Air M2 comes with everything students need to succeed. It's relatively inexpensive, too, at least by Apple standards. It's also completely silent.
The latest MacBook Air features Apple's M2 chip that brings together CPU and GPU cores with system RAM. Over the Intel processors that proceeded it, M2 is built on a more power-efficient architecture. It's so power-efficient, in fact, that the MacBook Air doesn't even need a fan. It stays cool simply by passing heat through the aluminum body, so you can keep working without distracting anyone.
For portability, the MacBook Air M2 is 0.44 inches thick, and it only weighs 2.7 pounds. The port selection isn't great with just two Thunderbolt ports, but you can easily expand the selection with a Thunderbolt 3 dock. The new design brings back the breakaway MagSafe 3 power connection.
The MacBook Air M2 is a seriously impressive laptop, not just for students, but for anyone looking for a highly portable, very powerful machine. In some ways, it's even better than the MacBook Pro. One caveat, though: The MacBook Air M2 uses a slower SSD in the entry-level 256GB version than the 512GB version, meaning that if the highest performance is important you'll want to upgrade to the next level.
Asus ROG Flow X13
Incredibly portable gaming performance
- Amazing portability
- Good performance for its size
- Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
- XG Mobile is a good option
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Mediocre battery life
- Screen could be brighter
- Expensive for performance
Why you should buy this: It's the best 13-inch gaming laptop.
Who's it for: Gamers who want to play modern titles but want to play them on a smaller, lighter laptop.
Why we chose the Asus ROG Flow X13:
The Asus ROG Flow X13 took over our top spot as the best 13-inch gaming laptop thanks to a combination of modern components and innovative design. It's not only a gaming laptop but it's also a 360-degree convertible 2-in-1 with a taller 16:10 aspect ratio display, making it function for more than just gaming. Looking at it, you'll see the resemblance to the rest of the Asus ROG line, with a simple all-black exterior and diagonal lines on the lid and palm rest that add some flair.
It packs in some serious power, with our review configuration of an AMD Ryzen 9 5000HS CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. That's fast enough for modern titles at 1080p and decent graphical settings. And Asus built in a proprietary PCIe connection that allows you to expand the laptop's GPU via an external expansion box, bundled with some configurations, that supports up to the RTX 3080.
The ROG Flow X13's 13.4-inch display runs at a 1920 x 1200 resolution, which is fine for gamers, and it supports touch and a 120Hz refresh rate. Ports are a bit limited, but that's to be expected on such a small gaming laptop.
Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5
A lot of computer for around $500
- Responsive keyboard
- Impressive performance
- Great value
- Under 3 pounds
- Bad touchpad
- Mediocre display
Why you should buy this: It's the best 13-inch laptop under $500.
Who's it for: Anyone who wants a fast and flexible 13-inch laptop but has a limited budget.
Why we chose the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5:
If you want as much as you can get for around $500, we suggest the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5. The price fluctuates, and sometimes you can find it for less than $500. It’s a flexible 2-in-1 that still has enough performance for your everyday tasks. This can be particularly hard to find in this price range, where the combination of lower specs and older parts can mean power or speed issues for the unwary. But Lenovo has managed to build the Chromebook Flex 5 for performance, and the snappy Chrome OS loading helps make sure there are no annoying wait times as you work.
For this model, you get a four-core/eight-thread AMD Ryzen 3 5300 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a whopping 512GB of SSD storage. That's enough performance to make the lightweight Chrome OS fly through demanding workflows.
Battery life is almost good enough for a full day's work, and connections include USB-A and USB-C ports plus a microSD card reader. If affordability is your primary goal, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is a pretty great package for the price.
Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Nano
So much power, so little weight
- Solid productivity performance
- Extremely light
- Good keyboard and touchpad
- Excellent battery life
- Very nice 16:10 display
- Bezels are a bit large
Why you should buy this: It's the best lightweight 13-inch laptop.
Who's it for: Users who want a 13-inch laptop that won't weigh them down.
Why we chose the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano:
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is a super-light laptop that still packs a ton of power. The non-touch model weighs only 1.99 pounds, and the touch model is only slightly heavier at 2.14 pounds. That's even lighter than the most recent LG Gram, which has long claimed the ultra-portable throne with its 2.2-pound weight. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is built like other ThinkPads, too, sporting a carbon-fiber hybrid material that's as sturdy as laptops that weigh twice as much.
The high-end configuration comes with an Intel Core i7-1180G7, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. If portability is more important than power, you can also configure the ThinkPad X1 Nano with an i5-1130G7, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Regardless of the configuration, the machines come with a 16:10 2K display (2160 x 1350) with a peak brightness of 450 nits and support for Dolby Vision HDR.
The non-traditional resolution leads to better battery life overall, beating 4K displays like the one in the Spectre x360. Despite stiff competition from Dell, HP, and LG, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is a showstopper. It maintains the ThinkPad flair Lenovo is known for while cutting the weight significantly, all without sacrificing performance or battery life.
HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook
The ultimate premium Chromebook
- Outstanding Chrome OS performance
- Superior haptic touchpad
- Beautiful display
- Attractive aesthetic
- Google Enterprise support with vPro
- Excellent connectivity with Thunderbolt 4
- Below-average battery life
Why you should buy this: It's the best 13-inch Chromebook by a country mile.
Who's it for: Chromebook lovers who want the most powerful and innovative machine.
Why we chose the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook:
Although there are a ton of Chromebooks on the market, there's really just one that stands out for having excellent performance, a quality build, and a lovely design. That laptop is the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook, which represents the ultimate premium Chromebook and the one you want if you don't want any Windows or MacBook envy.
Yes, the Elite Dragonfly Chromebook is aimed at the business market, with up to a 12th-gen Intel Core i7-1265U with vPro for outstanding Chrome OS Enterprise support. However, the laptop is great for any high-end Chrome OS users, with up to 32GB of RAM and 512GB of PCIe SSD storage to power through the most demanding workflows. The 13.5-inch 3:2 WXUGA+ (2,256 x 1,504) IPS display is excellent as well.
But the icing on the cake is the presence of some advanced and, in some cases, innovative features. First, there's Thunderbolt 4 support, which is unusual on Chromebook. The vPro support is a first, as is the haptic touchpad that works as well as the MacBook Force Touch version. Finally, the 5MP webcam provides a superior videoconferencing experience. You'll pay for all this power and the breadth of capabilities, but it's worth it.
MacBook Pro 13 M2
The most power you can get in a 13-inch laptop
- M1 is insanely fast
- Beautiful display, as always
- Fantastic battery life
- Speakers sound brilliant
- Top-notch keyboard and trackpad
- Only two Thunderbolt ports
- Touch Bar is still frustrating
Why you should buy this: It's the best MacBook for Apple users.
Who's it for: Apple users who want the best 13-inch laptop available.
Why we chose the Apple MacBook Pro 13 M2:
The latest MacBook Pro is based on Apple's M2 chip. It's an update to the chip inside the MacBook Air, sporting eight CPU cores and 8GB of unified memory. The M2 comes with 10 GPU cores, up from eight. The extra cores should make a significant difference in graphics performance. We haven't yet reviewed the updated MacBook Pro 13 M2, but we linked to the M1 version review because outside of the CPU, the laptops are identical.
The MacBook Pro has active cooling, but you won't notice it. The fan never spun up in our testing, even when running games like Fortnite. And yes, the M2 can run games like Fortnite. Despite being cool and power-efficient, the M2 chip is powerful enough for gaming and productivity. This is still a MacBook Pro, after all.
Like previous models, the M2 variation still comes with an excellent Retina display, a top-notch keyboard, and clear onboard speakers. The M2 version maintains the updates made to the M1 model, too, sporting nearly twice the battery life of the Intel models that preceded it.
The MacBook Pro M2 is a breakthrough machine for Apple, bringing price and performance more in line with the rest of the market without sacrificing all the things that make Apple laptops special. Like the MacBook Air M2, the MacBook Pro 13 M2 256GB SSD is slower than larger storage options, so keep that in mind when buying.
Yes, it definitely does. The change in size can make things like working in applications side by side much more fluid. The overall size of the laptop also makes a difference in portability. Sliding a 15-inch laptop into a backpack isn't always possible, and neither is trying to use it in cramped locations like a small coffee shop table or on an airplane.
Perhaps more importantly, though, there are significant differences in configuration options between 13-inch and 15-inch laptops. Take the Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15, for example. The XPS 13 maxes out at a four-core processor with integrated graphics, while the XPS 15 can now include up to a 14-core processor with a discrete RTX 3050 Ti graphics card. The extra space in the chassis allows for these more powerful components, meaning they'll provide a significant boost in performance.
A 13-inch laptop may not seem as visually immersive as a larger screen can, but if your GPU can support your favorite game, then a 13-inch laptop would prove to be an excellent gaming device. While your situational awareness is undoubtedly improved with bigger displays, the screen may not fully support the game. It would be best if you double-checked your larger laptop’s specs; The processor, RAM, SSD, and GPU all need to be able to comfortably support the parameters required for your game.
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