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Best 13-inch laptops in 2021 – Tom's Guide

The best 13-inch laptops give you enough power to handle all your daily tasks in a slim, lightweight package that’s small enough to slip into a small backpack or large purse. They also have enough staying power to carry all day without worrying about charging up, and ideally they have a great screen or great speakers to help you enjoy yourself once the work is done.

Finding the right one for you can be tricky, because there’s a ton of options to choose from. The market for 13-inch laptops has swelled in recent years thanks to declining component sizes and costs (thanks, smartphones and tablets), making ultraportable laptops the norm rather than a luxury. This is great news for you when you’re shopping, but it does make it hard to separate the really quality stuff from the junk. 

That’s why we’ve assembled this list of the best 13-inch laptops you can buy. very single one is rated 4 stars or above, with excellent battery life and quality components. Most are under $2,000, and some can be had for around $500 or less. So whether you prefer Windows, macOS, or Chrome OS, read on for guidance on the best 13-inch laptops you can buy.

What are the best 13-inch laptops right now?

Right now our recommendation for the best 13-inch laptop you can buy is the Dell XPS 13 (also our pick for the best laptop overall) because it’s a well-rounded and affordable machine that packs speedy performance and a gorgeous bezel-less display into a remarkably slim, lightweight design. Plus, it’s got great battery life. If you can afford to pay a few hundred bucks more for the Dell XPS 13 OLED, it’s well worth the expense — the OLED screen is gorgeous, plus it’s also a touchscreen. In fact, it’s so good that it won the awards for best laptop display and best laptop overall in the Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

If you prefer Apple hardware, the new MacBook Air with M1 is our recommendation for the best 13-inch MacBook. It offer fantastic performance and long battery life, plus it’s incredibly svelte and light. Again, if you’re willing to pay a few hundred bucks more, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 is a great investment that gives you a bit more battery life and processing power than the Air. The M1 chip also gives both laptops the power to run iOS apps natively, which can be fun if you’re already invested in that ecosystem. 

If you’re on a budget, some of the best Chromebooks are on this list, and they’re more affordable than the rest without sacrificing much in terms of power — at least, as long as you’re able to keep them connected to the Internet. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is our recommendation for the best 13-inch Chromebook overall, because it has a beautiful display and enough power to handle all your daily tasks. If you’d like to spend a few hundred bucks less, look around for a deal on the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 — it’s not quite as good but it’s still more than capable of getting you through a day at the office or in the classroom, and you can often find entry-level models on sale for $450 or less.

Best 13-inch laptops: Dell XPS 13 OLED

(Image credit: Future)

1. Dell XPS 13

Best all-around 13-inch laptop

Specifications

Display: 13.4 inches; 1920×1080, 3840×2160, or 3.5K OLED

CPU: 11th-Generation Intel Core i3-i7

GPU: Intel UHD to Intel Iris Xe

RAM: 8GB-16GB

Storage: 256GB-2TBGB SSD

Weight: 2.64 pounds

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Reasons to buy

+Gorgeous, immersive display — especially if you spring for the 3.5K OLED option+Comfortable keyboard+Great overall performance+Slim, attractive chassis

Reasons to avoid

Battery life could be betterSlim port selectionGrainy 720p webcam

If you’re looking for a great all-around 13-inch Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 13 is probably your best choice. It’s one of our favorite laptops on the market right now thanks to its excellent performance, beautiful display, and svelte design. While the battery life isn’t as good as some other laptops of similar price, it’s usually more than enough to get you through a day of work without scrambling for a charger.

Plus, in 2021 Dell began offering the XPS 13 with a 3.5K OLED touchscreen option. If you can afford it (it’s usually a couple hundred bucks extra, around the same price as the non-OLED 4K screen configuration) it’s well worth the investment, as the OLED’s deep, inky blacks, vibrant colors, and high contrast ratios really shine when mounted in the XPS 13’s thin-bezelled InfinityEdge design. It’s so good that it won the awards for best laptop display and best laptop overall in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 OLED review.

Not interested in OLED? Don’t miss our Dell XPS 13 (2020, 11th Gen) review.

Best 13-inch laptops: macbook air with m1

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2. Apple MacBook Air with M1

Best 13-inch MacBook

Specifications

Display: 13.3 inches; 2560×1600

CPU: Apple M1

GPU: Integrated 8-core GPU

RAM: 8GB-16GB

Storage: 256GB-2TB SSD

Weight: 2.8 pounds

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Reasons to buy

+Remarkably fast performance+Strong legacy app support+Amazingly long battery life

Reasons to avoid

Still has thick bezelsLight on ports

Apple has revolutionized its laptops by swapping out the Intel CPUs they’ve long relied on for its new M1 chip. The M1 is the inaugural product of Apple’s new initiative to develop its own silicon, and its debut in the 2020 MacBook Air made that Air the fastest we’ve ever seen, with incredible battery life. It lasted 14 hours and 41 minutes on the Tom’s Guide battery test, making the 2020 MacBook Air a great choice if you need a svelte, long-lived MacBook. 

Plus, the M1 chip gives it the ability to run iOS and iPadOS apps on your Mac. The webcam is clearer and more color-accurate than ever, thanks to signal processing, On top of that, you get stronger sound than you’d expect from a laptop this small, and Dolby Atmos support helps you enjoy better-sounding movies and TV. Not only is this the best laptop for many if not most Apple users, it’s a laptop that should have the PC world looking over its shoulders. It’s so good it won recommendations for best laptop and longest-lasting laptop in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021, and at a starting price of $999, it’s remarkably affordable.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air M1 (late 2020) review

Best 13-inch laptops: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

(Image credit: Future)

3. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Best 13-inch laptop for Windows fans

Specifications

Display: 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 touchscreen

CPU: 11-Gen Intel Core i5/i7 | Ryzen 5/7 4000-series

GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Xe or Radeon graphics

RAM: 8GB to 32GB

Storage: 256GB to 1TB SSD

Weight: 2.79 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Light, slim design+Very comfy keyboard+Great speakers+Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

Needs more portsThick bezels are an eyesoreNeeds a better webcam

Best 13-inch laptops: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

4. Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2

Best 13-inch Chromebook

Specifications

CPU: Intel Celeron | Core i3 processors

RAM: 4GB, 8GB

Storage: 64GB, 128GB

Display: 13.3-inch QLED (1080p)

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 0.6 inches

Weight: 2.7 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Beautiful design+Gorgeous QLED display+Improved battery life

Reasons to avoid

Key travel could be betterTouchscreen input can be inconsistent

If you’re willing to spend upwards of $500 for a great 13-inch Chromebook, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 is our top recommendation. Ditching the 4K display that graced the original Samsung Galaxy Chromebook was probably the best thing Samsung could have done while designing the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Now it’s way more affordable, but still sports a great QLED display and longer battery life — 7:50 vs the previous gen’s 5:55. It’s also going to sound great, plus its Core i3 configuration provides a ton of speed for Chrome OS.

We weren’t as happy with the vertical travel in its keyboard, which is a bit shallow. This creates a slight learning curve you’ll adapt to over time. But to get a Chromebook that looks this good — wow that Fiesta Red color option stands out in a sea of silver Chromebooks and PCs. Plus, at $549 (Celeron) or $699 (Core i3), the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is a pretty good value. We like it so much that we awarded it best Chromebook in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 review.

Best 13-inch laptops: MacBook Pro with M1

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5. 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1

Best 13-inch laptop for photo editing

Specifications

Display: 13 inches; 2560×1600

CPU: Apple M1 (8-core)

GPU: 8-core integrated

RAM: 8GB to 16GB

Storage: 256GB to 2TB SSD

Weight: 3 pounds

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Reasons to buy

+Superb performance+Crazy long battery life+Bright and colorful display

Reasons to avoid

Dated designJust two Thunderbolt ports

It’s a few hundred bucks more than the above-mentioned MacBook Air with M1, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 Apple silicon is a fantastic upgrade for anyone who wants more speed and endurance. Not only does it beat the Air on battery life by almost 2 hours, but it’s got a fan inside so its octo-core M1 chip can be pushed even further without heat issues. Oh, and you still get the fantastic Magic Keyboard, which enables comfortable and responsive typing.

Plus, its Retina display is both bright and colorful, so any photos or video you edit on the MacBook Pro will look excellent (as will the next Netflix show you binge). We just wish Apple would update its design or give you more Thunderbolt ports (the 4 USB-C port config is currently limited to Intel-based MacBook Pros). Still, it’s amazing to see how Apple’s own processors have obliterated the performance seen in its old Intel-based MacBooks. It all adds up to why the 13-inch MacBook Pro is one of the best 13-inch laptops you can buy, especially if you hate carrying a charger around. In fact, it won the award for longest-lasting laptop in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full MacBook Pro with M1 review.

Best 13-inch laptop: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

6. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Best 13-inch laptop when portability is key

Specifications

Display: 13 inches; 2K

CPU: Intel Core i5-1130G7 | Intel Core i7-1160G7

GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics

RAM: 8GB – 16GB

Storage: 256 – 1TB SSD

Weight: 2 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Great battery life+Lightweight+2K, anti-glare display

Reasons to avoid

Limited portsDull sound

One of the key reasons to shop for a 13-inch laptop is portability, but when we hear a laptop is incredibly thin and light, we tend to worry about how long it will last on a single charge. That’s not the case here, as the 2-pound Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano lasted 12 hours on our battery test, which puts it up there against some of the very best laptops on the market today. 

That’s quite impressive when you remember that the 2.9-pound XPS 13 that tops this list is almost a whole pound heavier. Lenovo didn’t sacrifice on performance or usability either. The Nano’s Intel 11th Gen Tiger Lake processors deliver the speed you need for tons of productivity — and its keyboard provides a snappy and comfortable typing experience that lives up to the ThinkPad brand. You just might need to pack a USB-C hub, though, as it’s a little light on ports.

Read our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano review.

Best 13-inch laptops: HP Elite Dragonfly

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7. HP Elite Dragonfly

Best 13-inch business laptop

Specifications

Display: 13.3 inches; 1920×1200 or 3840×2160

CPU: 8th-Gen Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7

GPU: Intel HD Graphics 620

RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 32GB

Storage: 128GB / 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD

Weight: 2.5 pounds

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Reasons to buy

+Beautiful, eye-catching design+Great battery life (with optional upgrade)+Bright and colorful screen+Comfortable keyboard

Reasons to avoid

Expensive

The HP Elite Dragonfly is an excellent 13-inch laptop for business-minded users because it’s light, long-lasting, and looks great on a desk. This 2-in-1’s design is one of the most stunning we’ve ever seen on a laptop, with remarkably thin edges that measure just 0.6 inches in thickness and a deep blue coat of paint that looks refreshing, mesmerizing and classy all at once. And while the Dragonfly is wonderfully light at 2.5 pounds, it also feels impressively sturdy, has an oleophobic coating to prevent fingerprints and uses recycled ocean-bound plastics to help the environment.

Performance and features-wise, this beauty is a beast. Its stunning 13.3-inch display looks gorgeous for movies and TV shows and crushed our color and brightness tests. Its 8th-gen Intel CPU is a bit behind the times these days, but it can still handle everyday workloads without issues, and its keyboard is one of the most pleasant we’ve ever typed on. Plus, the battery should last you at least 12 hours on a single charge. The Dragonfly is a bit on the expensive side with a starting price of $1,629, but those who are willing to pay the premium will be rewarded with one of the best 13-inch laptops around.

Read our full HP Elite Dragonfly review.

Best 13-inch laptops: Asus ZenBook Duo 14

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8. Asus ZenBook Duo 14

Best 13-inch laptop for standing out in a crowd

Specifications

Display: 13.4‑inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels

CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5, i7

Memory: 8GB to 32GB

Storage: 512GB to 1TB

Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches

Weight: 3.5 pounds

Reasons to buy

+Useful ScreenPad Plus display+Snappy overall performance +Solid battery life+Accurate main display

Reasons to avoid

Ergonomically difficultDisplay could be brighter

Don’t let the name fool you: the Asus ZenBook Duo 14 is technically a 13-inch laptop (based on screen size) and it’s an intriguing choice for anyone who wants a second screen but doesn’t want an external display. It’s also a great choice if you want to turn heads at the coffee shop, because it sports a 12-inch touch screen above the keyboard. This screen is great for your secondary windows, such as Spotify, Slack, Discord and more. It can also be used by creative apps from the likes of Adobe, who put touch controls there. It’s so cool it won a recommendation for best laptop breakthrough in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

On top of that, its performance is speedy and competitive with the XPS 13, which it trades rounds with in head-to-head comparison. Plus, its battery life is long — especially when you realize it’s got two screens to light up. The big downside, though, is that it has no wrist rest since the keyboard is bumped down to make room for the second screen, making the ZenBook Duo 14 a bit ergonomically unfriendly. But if you’ve got an external wrist rest, you should be good.

Read our full Asus ZenBook Duo 14 review.

Best 13-inch laptops: Google Pixelbook Go

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9. Google Pixelbook Go

Best 13-inch laptop for Google fans

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i5-8200Y

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128GB

Display: 13.3-inch, 3840 x 2160-pixel

Dimensions: 12.2 x 8.1 x 0.5 inches

Weight: 2.3 pounds

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Reasons to buy

+Light chassis+Sleek, minimalist design+Bright, colorful panel

Reasons to avoid

No USB-A portsLimiting clamshell design

After Google hit a home run with the super premium Pixelbook, the company returned with one of the best Chromebooks ever, the Pixelbook Go. More affordably priced (but still on the high-end of this list) this Chromebook is a case-study in why it can be worth it to spend more and invest in your next laptop. 

Not only is this Chromebook elegant, with a slim chassis and grippy ribbed underside, but it’s got a great screen that’s brighter (368 nits) and more colorful (108% sRGB rating) than most screens. Plus, the Pixelbook Go has a great, clicky keyboard that enables comfortable typing. On top of that, it lasted nearly 11.5 hours on a single charge. The only real knocks against the Pixelbook Go are its lack of a USB-A port and how it’s not a convertible. That being said, those who can afford the Pixelbook Go will love it. 

Read our full Google Pixelbook Go review.

Best 13-inch laptops: Acer Chromebook Spin 713

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

5. Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Best 13-inch laptop for those on a budget

Specifications

Display: 13.5-inch, 2256×1504

CPU: Intel Core i5-10210U

GPU: Intel UHD

RAM: 8GB

Storage: 128GB SSD

Size: 11.8 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches

Weight: 3.0 pounds

TODAY’S BEST DEALS

Reasons to buy

+Affordable+Great battery life+Bright and colorful display+Amazing performance

Reasons to avoid

Mediocre speakersSmall-sized keyboard

If you’re looking for a great 13-inch laptop for under $500, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a great choice. That’s due in part to its Intel Core i5-10210U CPU, which provides a ton of speed for Chrome OS (anything more would be overkill), and 8GB of RAM for managing all the Chrome tabs you can throw at it. 

Plus, its sharp 2256 x 1504-pixel screen provides bright and vibrant picture output. On top of that, it lasted 11 hours and 54 minutes on our web-browsing based battery test. While it’s possible to spend over $500 on this laptop if you trick it out, it’s pretty easy to find entry-level models for $450 or less. If you can find it on sale, so much the better! We like it so much we gave it a recommendation for best Chromebook in our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021.

Read our full Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.

How we test to determine the best 13-inch laptops

Our path to finding the best 13-inch laptops for you is littered with test results. To help us better compare and recommend the best machines for you, we run every laptop we review through a rigorous suite of benchmarks and real-world tests to gauge how it will perform during everyday use. 

We measure the average brightness and color quality of each laptop’s display using our in-house light meter and colorimeter. For general performance, we run our machines through tests that include Geekbench 5 (CPU performance), as well as various 3DMark tests to measure graphics capabilities. We also run a file transfer test to measure how fast a machine’s hard drive is, plus a video editing test to see how good it is at crunching video and a custom battery test that has the machine browse the internet over Wi-Fi until it runs out of juice.

We know many people also love to play games on their laptops, so we test the gaming horsepower of every laptop we review by putting it through the Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm graphical benchmark. This is an ideal test for us to use on 13-inch laptops because almost none of them have discrete graphics cards, which means they have a hard time running more modern or graphically-demanding games. Civilization VI is also one of the few relatively modern games with a graphical benchmark that runs on both Windows and MacOS, meaning we can easily compare the performance of MacBooks against that of Windows machines.


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