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The best 13-inch laptop 2018: the top 13-inch laptops we’ve reviewed

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These days, having a laptop is almost essential, but there’s only one reason to own the best 13-inch laptop: 15-inch laptops are just too big. The best 13-inch laptops are the new standard for notebook displays, and with good reason. It’s enough for gaming, and it’s enough for work – and everything in between. And, because it’s the most common laptop size around these days, there is a wide variety of 13-inch laptops to cull through.

The Dell XPS 13 is, by far, one of the best laptops ever made, having won TechRadar’s Best in Class award three years running. However, we can also understand why someone would prefer the HP Spectre x360 or even the MacBook Air. While the XPS 13 is beautiful and thin without losing performance, these other laptops aren’t hindered by unfortunate webcam placements. What’s more, all of these laptops do different things.

In the end, what makes for the best 13-inch laptop is largely personal preference. Do you want a more traditional laptop that does its job well or a 2-in-1 laptop that gives you tablet mode? What about a machine that runs macOS High Sierra instead of Windows 10? You’ll find choices with all these qualities and more here as we run through the best 13-inch laptops on the market. The only facet they all share is their screen size – everything else varies by entry.  

Its changes are subtle, and yet the Dell XPS 13 is still the best 13-inch laptop you can buy. On the high end, it now offers a 4K display, for a sharper picture across the board. But even if you can’t afford higher tier configurations, the beautiful design, lengthy battery life and even the SD card slot are still there – plus you’ve got a quad-core processor no matter what poison you pick. Better yet, the 13.3-inch display of the XPS 13 has been squeezed into a smaller frame, which explains Dell’s marketing line: ‘the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop.’ Now stew on that, as you admire the Dell XPS 13’s gorgeous, albeit more expensive, Alpine White finish. 

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

As much as its performance pales in comparison to its all-powerful 15-inch counterpart, everything else about the 13.5-inch version of the Surface Book 2 is perfect for the mobile workhorse user environment. Whether you’re a professional or a creative, the Microsoft Surface Book 2, with its more compact flare, rocks an aesthetic that’s just as exquisite as its predecessor. What’s better, the dynamic fulcrum hinge is stronger than you remember, which only complements its robust, quad-core processor. 

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2

You wouldn’t expect a laptop made by one of the biggest names in PC gaming to be thinner and lighter than a MacBook Pro, and yet here we are. The Razer Blade Stealth – in its all-new gunmetal finish – boasts not only a gorgeous and practical aesthetic, what with its 400-nit display brightness and full-size USB 3.0 ports, but it also has a few tricks up its sleeves to make it perform faster. At long last, the 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake Refresh have made it into the newly 13.3-inch version of the Razer Blade Stealth. Though it received a ding on the battery life, an Ultrabook this fast is worth a 16-minute shorter use time on a single charge.

Read the full review: Razer Blade Stealth

For those who prefer premium quality parts over exceptional affordability, the HP Spectre x360 contains everything you could ever ask for from a 2-in-1 without compromise. Weighing only 2.78 pounds (1.26kg) and measuring just over half an inch thick, it’s as light as it is thin. Plus, with up to a 4K screen and 8th-generation Intel processors paired with integrated UHD graphics, it’s one of the best ways to experience high quality video streaming as well as 720p gaming on a hybrid. That goes without mentioning the ports, of which there are plenty. You’ll get two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connections in addition to USB 3.1 Type-A, a welcome variety to say the least.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

Best 13-inch laptop

While Samsung may not be well known for its laptops – beyond its Tab Pro S convertible, at least – Samsung’s follow-up to the 2012 Series 9 Notebook has impressive performance at a competitive price. Marketed as an Ultrabook, it’s certainly disheartening to know it can only last 5 hours in between charges, but given its beautiful design, it almost doesn’t matter. As a bonus, with the Samsung Notebook 9, you won’t have to deal with the bloatware that makes many other Windows laptop the target of derision on tech forums. 

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Dell XPS 13 

Everyone hates change. However, while the 15.6-inch frame of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin we once knew will soon be erased from our memories forever, the new 13.3-inch model doesn’t seem like a terrible upgrade. It’s bounced two generations into the future in terms of processing power, and although there are no discrete graphics present, we’re glad to see a keyboard that can compete with some of the heavier hitters. It’s nothing revolutionary, yet as far as hybrid notebooks go, this one ain’t too shabby (plus it’s cheaper than a weaker MacBook Pro).

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Surface Laptop 

The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a ‘traditional’ laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core i processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that. Despite the ports and operating system being limited, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance.

 Read the full review: Surface Laptop

As 2-in-1 laptops have become more prevalent in recent years, their manufacturers have been improving them at a nigh-equal pace. This rings true for few laptop makers more than it does for Lenovo, however, who has taken the liberty of crafting drop-dead gorgeous convertibles with standout watch band-like hinges, much like that of the Yoga 920. This rendition of Lenovo’s increasingly popular brand of hybrids sees the integration of USB-C ports, a centered webcam and, perhaps more interestingly, an 8th-generation Intel quad-core processor regardless of which configuration you opt for. It does purr more loudly than expected, and tablet mode could use some work, but the Lenovo Yoga 920 is ultimately worth its price of admission.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 920 

Best 13-inch laptop

In a market densely populated with slim-line laptops from a massive range of manufacturers, Apple’s MacBook Air fights on admirably – though it started showing its age on the outside a long time ago. It has Intel’s fifth-generation Core-series processors rather than the newest Skylake variants, but it’s still a capable machine; even more so since Apple made 8GB of RAM standard across the line.

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air

best 13-inch laptop

The latest iteration of Apple’s seminal MacBook Pro series is here, and as you would expect it makes a number of notable improvements over last year’s offering. While it might not exactly feature the strongest battery life in the game (scoring under an hour less than last year’s offering), it does offer increased performance by way of a new CPU and faster RAM. Add that to Apple’s continued dedication to simplicity and beautiful design and you have a laptop that is sleek, portable and reliable.  

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2017)

Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article