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

Having one of the best laptops is almost essential in 2018, but there’s only one reason to get the best 13-inch laptop: 15-inch laptops are simply 2 big, while 12-inches or less will leave you squinting. The best 13-inch laptops are the new standard for notebook displays, and for good reason. It’s enough for streaming media, work and everything in between. And, because it’s the most popular laptop size on the market, the best 13-inch laptops come in every shape and size.

The Dell XPS 13 is one of the best laptops we’ve ever used by a long shot, winning TechRadar’s Best in Class award three years in a row. Still, we can also understand why someone would prefer the HP Spectre x360 or even the MacBook Air. While the XPS 13 is gorgeous and thin without losing performance, these other laptops aren’t hindered by baffling webcam placements. Plus, they all do different things.

And, with the Windows 10 April Update and Windows 10 S becoming a toggleable option, the best 13-inch laptops are more powerful and flexible than ever before.

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.  

1. Dell XPS 13

Best-in-class like you’ve never seen it before

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4K (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

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

2. Microsoft Surface Book 2 (13.5-inch)

Bigger isn’t always better: a memoir

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD 620 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 3,000 x 2,000 PixelSense display | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

While it may not be as powerful as its behemoth of a 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 creative or a professional, the Microsoft Surface Book 2, with its more compact form-factor rocks a style that’s just as beautiful as its predecessor. What’s more, the dynamic fulcrum hinge is stronger than you remember, which only complements its robust, quad-core CPU.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Book 2

3. Razer Blade Stealth

Fancy an Ultrabook for more than just gamers

CPU: Dual-core – quad-core Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) LED-backlit IGZO touchscreen | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

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

4. HP Spectre x360

Proving the pen is mightier than the sword

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4K (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

For those who prefer premium build quality over sheer affordability, the HP Spectre x360 contains everything you could ever ask for in a 2-in-1 without compromise. Weighing only 2.78 pounds (1.26kg) and measuring just over half an inch thick, it’s as thin as it is light. 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. We didn’t even mention the plentitude of ports. You’ll get two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connections on top of a USB 3.1 Type-A, a welcome variety to say the least.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

5. Samsung Notebook 9

Great performance on the cheap

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display | Storage: 256GB SSD

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 

6. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

Different, but not forgotten

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 256GB SSD

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 

7. Surface Laptop

Microsoft’s most direct shot at the MacBook yet

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

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

8. Lenovo Yoga 920

Versatile with a generous helping of elegance

CPU: Quad-core Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

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 

9. 13-inch MacBook Air

The best battery life in a 13-inch laptop

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, LED HD (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

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

10. 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The smallest MacBook Pro is a force of nature

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

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

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