The laptop was an invention to make the computer more portable. But the early laptops were anything but slim and lightweight. But we have come a long way from back then and now 13″ laptops are as powerful as a PC but more portable. So we decided to compile a list of the best 13-inch laptops which are portable yet powerful enough to match the performance of a PC.
Laptops these days have the most powerful components packed into their small bodies. Something like an RTX 2080, which is the second most powerful desktop GPU, can be installed inside a mobile device. With chips getting smaller and more power-efficient, you can expect more from laptops in the coming days.
The 13-inch laptop class is something that is a very portable solution. It is for those people who need to have a computer with them on the go. But they also want to be able to carry it around without being burdened by its size.
15-inch laptops are powerful since the manufacturers have more freedom to install bigger parts. But they are not very portable when compared to 13-inch ones, so when it comes to portability, they are the preference.
But worry not, no matter what is your trade, you can find a 13-inch mobile device for your need. Whether you are a designer or even a gamer, you can find powerful 13-inch mobile computers.
Now there are a few things about these portable yet powerful devices, they are limited by size. Science might have advanced a lot, but we are still progressing. In the future, we might have even more powerful laptops in the 13-inch form factor.
Here is a buyer’s guide to understanding what you need to look out for when purchasing a 13-inch laptop.
What to consider when buying a 13 Inch Laptop
While there is not much difference in size compared to 13-inch and 15-inch laptops, it’s big enough for manufacturers. They are able to work more freely with a bigger size chassis, but with a smaller one, they are limited by space. Which includes limited cooling solution, limited RAM slots, limited battery, and limited options in GPU, and CPU.
There are a few things that most computer users already know, powerful CPUs have a bigger power draw. The more power a CPU draws, it can perform better, but with more power comes more heat. That is why overclockers are recommended to buy beefy liquid IO coolers. But with laptops, that is not possible.
13-inch laptops are limited by space, so there is a limitation on what cooling solution you can install in them. Even the most powerful gaming laptops can only go a certain limit before they will start to throttle.
So laptop CPUs have a certain voltage cap on them, there are two reasons for that. One is to make sure that your CPU does not draw too much power. Since laptops run on batteries you would want them to last longer. Second is so they do not go over a certain temperature to extend their life.
But the newest generation processors are not only power-efficient but also produce less heat. They also have more cores in that boost to a significantly higher clock than previous-gen CPUs.
Finding a laptop with the latest Ryzen 4000 Series or Intel 10th Gen CPUs will benefit you in the long term. They will have support from their manufacturers the longest before they become obsolete.
Laptops these days prefer SSD storage in the M.2 form factor over the traditional 2.5″ drives. The reason behind it is to not only conserve space but also for faster storage. With USB transfer speeds reaching their highest in USB Gen 3.2, you need a drive fast enough to write and read with that speed.
But SSDs are more expensive than HDDs, they can cost a bit more for higher storage capacity. If you are planning on buying a bigger capacity SSD, make sure you have enough money for it.
Most laptop manufacturers will give you the option to customize your laptops. In the customizations, you can choose between different gens of CPUs and different capacities of memory and storage.
So choosing the storage capacity that will suit your needs is the best course of action to take here. You can be satisfied with the 256GB SSD or you can go higher and choose a 1TB storage option.
While people tend to like higher resolution displays, having a 4K display on a 13-inch screen is overkill. Not only will it consume battery faster but a small screen does not require so many pixels. You will be better off with FHD for the 13-inch form factor.
That is why laptop manufacturers also choose FHD 1080p display over 4K displays. It saves battery life and is ideal for a small screen. But if you do want a 4K display, then Razer Blade Stealth 13 and Dell XPS 13 have one.
Smaller laptops are bound to have a smaller GPU that does not have a high power draw. Very rarely will you find a 13-inch laptop with something like an RTX 2080 in them? Because a more powerful GPU will require more power and cooling.
So 13-inch laptops mostly have more power-efficient Max-Q variants of desktop GPUs in them. They have a slightly lower power consumption and thus lower heat.
Best 13-Inch Laptops Reviewed
Best for Content Creators
The Dell XPS series has to be the one that most professional editors choose for their work laptop. The XPS 13 is the more portable and comfortable solution with a solid performance thanks to Intel 10th CPUs powering it.
Search the best 13-inch laptops on Google, the first name to pop up would be the Dell XPS 13. There is a very good reason behind it too, it is because whether you want a work laptop or one for casual use, it doesn’t get better than this.
Powered by the latest 10th Generation CPUs with Iris Plus graphics, this laptop is the preferred choice for editors. It is a 2-in-1 which gives editors more freedom.
There is a 4K variant available as well for those who need an even more powerful display. But as we said in the buyer’s guide, expect it to have less battery life than the FHD display variant.
The one we reviewed was a Full HD display with InfinityEdge Touchscreen. The name comes from having almost a bezel-less screen on the edges of the laptop. It is an anti-reflective screen to avoid reflections and glares whilst using it in outside spaces.
Our laptop has an Intel 10th Generation Core i7-1065G7 with 4-cores and 8-threads. It also has Intel’s best-integrated graphics to date, the Iris Plus Graphics. There are other CPU variants available in this laptop if you want something a bit more reasonably priced.
For storage, you get SSD and DDR4 memory, it starts from 256GB of capacity and 8GB of memory and can be expanded as long as you have the money to pay for it.
The laptop is sleek and stylish, has an elegant look to it from whatever angle you view it from. It has a dual-fan cooling solution with a vapor chamber design for an added cooling performance.
The laptop stays cool during the most demanding editing tasks, making it the perfect choice for them. Whether you are encoding a high-resolution video or using the laptop for content creation purposes, the laptop handles it all smoothly.
The wrist rest is black carbon fiber for durability and added looks. The laptop will cost you around $1200 to $2200 depending on the specs you select.
Best for Gamers
The Razer Blade series of laptops are supposed to be really slim gaming machines. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is the smallest variant of the series with powerful specs to rival most gaming PCs out there.
Razer is the biggest gaming brand in the US according to sales. It has a very specific audience, gamers, but still is able to manage to make a huge amount of sales competing with other brands.
They are manufacturers of all things gaming, from keyboards to laptops. The Razer Blade series of laptops are super slim yet pack a powerful punch. The bigger variants have GPUs up to the RTX 2080 Max-Q version.
However, the limitations of the 13-inch form only allow the Razer Blade Stealth to have a GTX 1650 Ti. Which is not a bad GPU, but would struggle to play the demanding AAA titles on high resolutions.
But for 1080p ultra gaming, you can expect the Razer Blade Stealth to breeze through it. So the laptop is well worth its money.
The body is made of anodized aluminum for higher durability and mobility. It also has an ultra-thin body that is as smaller than a coin, while packing so much heat.
The battery life is decent, but with any gaming laptop having a huge battery life is very difficult. The ASUS Zephyrus 14 is one such laptop that has no issues with battery timings even though it is a powerful gaming laptop with similar specs.
The Razer Blade Stealth has the Intel 10th Gen Core i7-1065G7, a 4-core, 8-thread CPU. The CPU has a base clock of 1.3GHz and can boost up to 3.9GHz when under loads.
It has Thunderbolt 3 port for using it with an eGPU if you want to ramp up its gaming performance. But with the included GPU you can still game at medium to high graphics setting.
The laptop will set you back around $1500 and the price will increase as you expand its specs. The 4K resolution display variant goes for around $2200-$2400.
Best MacBook for Students
The new MacBook Air has an Intel 10th Gen CPU with Iris Plus Graphics. This makes it an incredibly powerful machine at a reasonable price, comparable to the XPS 13.
When it comes to minimalism, nothing beats a MacBook. It is a minimalistic approach by the company that has gained Apple, its huge following.
The new MacBook Air carries on the minimalistic approach that Apple has always taken when it comes to design. But it has huge performance gains over the last few generations thanks to the power of Intel 10th Gen CPUs.
Though it does seem Apple will be ditching Intel for inhouse CPU made and manufactured by Apple. But that does not mean support for the Intel CPU will end anytime soon.
Either way, Apple has nothing to lose here, and students will still have their favorite MacBook. Hopefully using inhouse silicone makes the MacBook Air even more affordable for students.
Let us talk specs, the MacBook has its flagship Retina Display which gives superb colors. The colors are very vivid, this display is the reason why photo editors love this laptop.
It has an Intel 10th Generation i5 CPU with 4-cores and 8-threads. The CPU uses 8GB of memory to feed the 4-core CPU with data and you have the option to choose between 256GB and 512GB storage.
The MacBook Air has the much applauded Magic Keyboard with backlit keys that tech enthusiasts called a welcome addition to all MacBooks.
The included Touch-ID makes your MacBook Air secure from anyone trying to peek into its contents. This also gets rid of having to remember your passwords, just touch and access your content.
It also has superb speakers when you are tired of your assignments and need to chill out with some music.
The MacBook Air with the Core i5 will cost you around $1200 on Amazon and includes a 512GB SSD in this price tag.
ChromeOS has enjoyed a good amount of audience thanks to its easy interface. If you are a fan of the Google Playstore Apps then you will love the ChromeOS and this laptop.
ChromeOS is pretty simple and easy to use, people often feel comfortable with its use. But you do not have the options you get from other OS like Windows, Linux, and Mac.
But sometimes simple is good, that is why ChromeOS is still gaining users. The Acer Chromebook Spin 13 has some of the best specs in Chromebooks available in the market.
With a 360-degree hinge, it becomes a tablet on your choice. With the included Acer Stylus you can write and take notes on it if you want. This is one of the features that make this laptop a fan favorite.
Armed with an 8th Generation Core i5-8250U, a 4-core, 8-thread CPU, this is a powerful machine. With 8GB of low power consumption RAM, you can bet this laptop runs for a long time before it needs a charge.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 13 has a 2K display, which is the best of both worlds. It does not consume as much power as a 4K display but gives a better display output than FHD.
One perk of ChromeOS is that it does not require you to have a huge storage capacity. Most apps are in MBs with the most storage demanding apps as big as 2GB.
So the laptop has 128GB eMMC flash storage which is sufficient for the OS. You can always use Google Drive to store your photos and videos if you are running out of space.
The laptop has an aluminum chassis making it quite durable. The battery lasts for about 10 hours if you turn the brightness to its lowest setting. Even with the brightness amped up to full, you can get about 6-8 hours of battery life which is not bad.
The laptop will cost you around $900 on Amazon which is quite affordable.
HP’s Spectre x360 13t is a convertible Ultrabook that brings a gem-cut design and solid performance at a reasonable price. Featuring the latest 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB RAM, and a 2TB M.2 PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), the laptop is made for ultimate multitasking.
The 13.3-inch touch display can be had in FHD or 4K, with a trimmed down bezel especially along the top, giving the laptop an even more attractive look. You also get an active pen to use with the touch display.
There are two Thunderbolt 3, USB-A 3.1, 3.5mm audio, and a microSD card reader for easy connectivity. It also features a fingerprint reader coupled with an IR camera for extra security. The edge-to-edge keyboard and Precision touchpad drivers offer a much better experience.
If you’re in the market for a 13-inch convertible Ultrabook with premium construction and powerful hardware, then you won’t go wrong with Spectre x360 13t.