One of the most obviously significant advantages of laptops is they can go with you anywhere, but as screens get bigger and bigger, that particular value decreases in a big way. Fortunately, there are a lot of great 13-inch laptops out there, and they’re slimmer than before. While investing in a 13-inch laptop often means making a bit of a sacrifice in terms of hardware, you can still find a great 13-inch laptop suitable for gaming and productivity if you know where to look.
Fortunately, the only place you need to look is HotRate. We’ve compiled a list with analysis of 10 of the best 13″ laptops in 2020, and we’ve also included a guide that can help you understand the key specs and features.
- 10 Best 13 Inch Laptops for 2020
- Compare Models
- 13-Inch Laptop Buyer’s Guide
10 Best 13 Inch Laptops for 2020
1. Dell XPS 13 Laptop, 13.3″ 4K UHD
The Dell XPS 13 by Dell may be small in stature, but it's got a big brain and a big heart. The Intel Core i7 processor packs in a meaty six cores, making it ideal for everything from productivity to gaming, and it draws from Intel's latest 10th generation architecture for an even greater boost to performance. An entire half gigabyte solid state drive finds the perfect balance between size and speed, and there's 16 GB of memory here to help with the processor's heavy lifting.
Then there's the screen of the Dell XPS 13 itself. A tiny bezel helps Dell make the most of the real estate here, and the ability to play videos or games at a 4K resolution means that your favorite entertainment will look every bit as good as it was meant to. But the biggest game changer is the touch screen technology built right in.
2. Apple 13″ MacBook Pro
The Apple MacBook is in a class all its own, and while a large part of that has to do with savvy marketing from Apple themselves, working on an Apple MacBook Pro really does feel substantively different from working on a traditional PC. The latest MacBook Pro may be pricey, and it may not be able to match the competition in the value for the specs built in, but it sports solid and polished sensibilities that are largely unrivaled.
So what sets the MacBook apart from the competition? The bright and crisp Retina display is one thing, and its high resolution performance is matched by True Tone technology for richer and more vivid colors. Then there's the Touch Bar and Touch ID technology, which gives you an easier way to customize your keyboard and create a productivity environment that's perfectly suited to your own needs.
3. Acer 13.5″ Chromebook Spin
A smaller screen is often seen as a liability for the sake of price and portability, but some manufacturers understand that it can allow users to accomplish more than they could with a bulkier laptop. Case in point: the Acer Chromebook Spin. Built to run on the Chrome operating system, this affordable laptop doubles as a tablet as well. Flipping it between configurations is easy, and it even comes with its own stylus for more precise operation.
While the Chrome OS sometimes has a reputation for being lightweight, the specs are anything but. It utilizes an eighth generation i5. What is lightweight is the frame, which comes out to just 3.5 pounds. Despite all that, it's one of the sturdiest laptops within this price range thanks to both a durable aluminum chassis and the inclusion of Gorilla Glass to protect the 2K resolution touch screen.
4. Microsoft Surface 13.5″ Laptop 3
Microsoft has quickly become the manufacturer to watch for devices that straddle the space between a traditional laptop and a tablet, and the entry level Surface Pro 3 is undoubtedly one of the best choices for customers who are looking for an alternative to the MacBook Pro. It's slickly designed, sleekly built, and it hits all the key factors you'd want for a general purpose productivity laptop.
The battery life of 11.5 hours is some of the best in its class, and that's accentuated by the fast charging which can bring it from dead to fully powered in just about an hour. The hardware here might not astound, but it falls solidly in the middle of the pack from what you could expect from a laptop at this price, and that's not even taking into account the touchscreen which is bright, expressive, and very responsive to your touch.
5. HP Spectre x360-13t Laptop
The HP Spectre x360 has always been a great machine for everything from office work to gaming, but the latest takes the fundamentals and improves on them in some meaningful ways. This is one of the smallest two in ones around, but it's well built in addition to sporting a compact frame, and that extends to everything from the Gorilla Glass covering to the quality of the hinges themselves.
And in a smart turn from many of the laptops on this list, it manages to pack in an eighth generation Intel Core i7. Even the most resource heavy software and games should run pretty smoothly with this processor in place, but the outsides are as impressive as the internals here. The keyboard and touchpad are both incredibly responsive - a relatively rarity for laptops at any price range. And while the screen may be small, it's also very bright and vivid.
6. Razer Blade Stealth 13 Laptop
7. Lenovo Thinkpad L390 13.3″
Lenovo has been making their ThinkPad models for years, and they've become one of the standards for business professionals in search of productivity machines. The latest edition is no different, but it makes some important, if iterative, changes to the formula. While it's not the most lightweight or sleek laptop on the market, it is highly resistant to shock damage and temperatures, and that makes it a great choice for business travelers who need a decently specced machine that can withstand just about anything.
Practically any major modern port you could expect to find is packed in here, and there's even a DVD player, so it's backwards compatible with older sources as well. Unlike the Yoga, this version of the ThinkPad isn't a two in one, but it's one of the most solid and durable laptops for enterprise employees in need of quality performance.
8. Huawei Matebook 13 Laptop
The Huawei Matebook is a laptop that offers perhaps the best laptops value you'll find on the market today. This model offers great performing specs for the price. The Intel Core i5 processor draws from the eighth generation, and you can pick up a model that includes a discrete rather than integrated processor if you're willing to pay a little more for your laptop.
This probably isn't the laptop you want if you're looking for a device that can run Linux software at the highest quality settings, but it's more than enough for the average user. The keystrokes feel great, and the trackpad performs well above average for the price. And as is becoming increasingly common, there's even full touchscreen support. There's even a solid sound system and pair of speakers. Altogether, it's one of the most solid all around laptops we've found in 2020.
9. LG gram 13.3″ Laptop
The idea of a lightweight 13" laptop isn't exactly a revelation, and while this is one of the lightest and most compact around, it brings a lot more than just that to the table. Because while this is a laptop that will comfortably in your carry on luggage, it's also built to last on even the longest trips. The battery life of over 20 hours is practically unheard of for any laptop.
And LG hasn't cut any corners for the sake of the Gram's power usage. The 8th gen i7 processor and the bright Full HD display easily go above and beyond for the expectations of the $1200 price range, and there are a whole host of inputs that include a Thunderbolt 3 port as well as USB-A and USB-C options. And if you find yourself regularly taking red eye flights, the backlit display gives you the visibility you need.
10. Google Pixelbook Go M3 Laptop
If you're just looking for a reliable everyday laptop, there's a lot to be said about the Chrome OS, and Google knows a thing or two about Chrome. Their signature Chromebook model offers good internals for a pretty solid asking price, and the Pixelbook is one of the best choices for users on the go. It can comfortably run for half a day on a single charge, and it stands ground with the LG Gram in terms of both size and weight.
The security is especially strong on this laptop as well. Chromebooks are naturally less prone to security incursions than other operating systems, but this laptop includes a Titan C security chip and complimentary antivirus software to further strengthen your protection from cyber intruders. It's also a laptop that's conscientious of the people around you thanks to the ultra quiet keyboard and a fully backlit display.
|+ Dell XPS||13.3-inch 4K 3840 x 2160||Intel Core i7-10710U||Intel UHD||16 GB||512 GB SSD|
|+ Apple ″ MacBook||Retina 2880 x 1800||Intel Core i5||Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655||8 GB||256 GB SSD|
|+ Acer .5″ Chromebook||13.5-inch 2K 2256 x 1504||Intel Core i5-8250U||Intel UHD Graphics 620||4 GB||128 GB eMMC|
|+ Microsoft Surface .5″||13.5-inch 2K 2256 x 1504||Intel Core i5||Intel Iris Plus||8 GB||128 GB SSD|
|+ HP Spectre x360-t||13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080||Intel Core i7-8550U||Intel UHD Graphics 620||16 GB||512 GB SSD|
|+ Razer Blade Stealth||13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080||Intel Core i7-8565U||NVIDIA GeForce MX150||16 GB||256 GB SSD|
|+ Lenovo Thinkpad L390||13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080||Intel Core i5-8265U||Intel UHD||8 GB||128 GB SSD|
|+ Huawei Matebook||13-inch 2160 x 1440||Intel Core i5-8265U||Intel Graphics 620||8 GB||256 GB SSD|
|+ LG gram .3″||13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080||Intel Core i7-8565U||Intel HD Graphics 620||16 GB||256 GB SSD|
|+ Google Pixelbook Go||13.3-inch FHD 1920 x 1080||Intel Core i5-8200Y||Intel HD Graphics 615||8 GB||64 GB SSD|
13-Inch Laptop Buyer’s Guide
So what’s the advantage of a 13-inch laptop? There’s too really. The best 13-inch laptops offer decent specs while offering a more portable computer that’s also more cost effective. The bang for your buck in a 13-inch model is practically unparalleled, and all you have to do is sacrifice a little bit of visual real estate for the privilege.
For the most part, the key specs and features on a 13 inches laptop are going to be the same for any other laptop, but we’ll cover them in some detail below, so you can identify which is the best laptop for your own unique situation. Whether you’re a gamer or a business person, you can use the guide below to find the best 13-inch laptops.
How fast does your laptop need to run? Whatever you choose, the CPU can provide you with an answer. Generally, an i3 is considered an entry level processor, while an i7 represents the top demands of consumers for gaming and productivity. An Intel Core i5 will fall somewhere in the middle.
But you need to pay just as much attention to the generation of the processor. Intel is now on the 10th generation with their Core processors, and we generally recommend only investing in two generations back or less. That’s especially true given that the eighth generation constituted a major jump forward in terms of performance.
The graphical processor, or GPU, is used to render graphics in games or in software like AutoCAD or video editing or design programs. For most users, graphical processing power won’t be that big of a deal, but it’s pretty essential for gamers.
For the latter group, you should be fine with a model that includes an integrated graphics card. That means a graphics card design that shares memory with the central processor. Since most apps don’t need serious graphical processing, that won’t be a big deal. But if you’re looking for a gaming laptop, you’ll want a discrete graphics card like the NVIDIA GeForce. That allows both your CPU and your GPU to perform better even when running the latest games at the highest settings.
Whenever your computer needs to access something regularly, it tries to store it in memory, short for random access memory (RAM). More RAM means more short term memory that can be stored, and more memory means fast loading times and better all around performance. Get a laptop with higher memory if you can, but keep in mind that RAM is one of the easier things to upgrade, so you can get a RAM card on the cheap and quickly improve get more powerful performance.
Solid state drive or hard drive? For most users, we recommend the former. And when looking for laptops, best models almost always include an SSD. That’s because an SSD is less likely to take damage from being jostled. around. They also have the advantage of faster running speeds. But you don’t need to get set back just because your design has a storage capacity that doesn’t really suit you. Storage is even easier to replace than memory, and connecting a dedicated hard drive is usually as simple as plugging it into a USB port.
If you get an Apple Macbook Pro or Macbook Air, you only have one operating system to choose from: macOS. Apple may offer great design sensibilities, but they’re also highly protective of their software and hardware. Any other laptop is going to be a bit more flexible. Most laptops are going to come with Windows 10 pre-installed, but if you aren’t a big fan of Windows 10, you can easily install Linux on it for a more open ended option.
An alternative to macOS or Windows 10 is the Chrome OS. Google does things a bit differently. It’s an operating system that closely resembles the Chrome browser, and it’s a more limited, cloud-based platform. While that means more design limitations naturally built in, it also means faster performance and a higher level of security. And if you decide that Chrome OS isn’t to your tastes, later versions of the OS allow you to dual boot with Linux.
How many hours of battery life do you need? That generally depends on how often you’re working on the go. For most users, a laptop with a battery life of just a few hours won’t be that big of a deal, but you should look for a model that supports at least a full work day if you find yourself traveling regularly.
Also keep in mind that the battery life promised by the manufacturer isn’t going to stay the same under all circumstances. If you regularly find yourself playing games or streaming high resolution videos, you can expect your battery life to be cut in half.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best 13-inch Laptop to Buy?
Any of the ten models on our list are a good choice, but if you want the best of the best, we’d turn your attention to the Razer Blade Stealth. It’s not the cheapest laptop around, but if you want top shelf performance across the board, it easily tops the list of the best 13-inch laptops.
Is a 13- or 15-inch Laptop Better?
Neither is definitively better than the other, but a screen size of 13 inches has its advantages. Not only can it be picked up for a cheaper price, but 13″ laptops tend to sport more compact design sensibilities and are easier to take with you on the go.
Which Brand of Laptop is the Best?
Apple doesn’t make the best 13-inch laptops for everyone, but they do offer some of the most solid performance on the market today. If you want the best 13″ laptop around, and you aren’t concerned about the cost, they combine great specs with some of the most polished interfaces around.
What is the Best 12-inch Laptop?
There are a ton of great 12″ laptops available, but the smaller size mean that there are a couple of categories to look for. You can check out our buying guides to the best tablets and the best two in ones if you want to find the best 12″ devices on the market in 2020.
If you’re looking for the best 13-inch laptops, we’re pretty confident you’l find something you need on our review list. Our notebook reviews are a quick glance at the best products available in 2020, but the guide provides potentially even better knowledge. Understanding the important specs and features in the best 13-inch laptops can help you shop smarter in 2020.