Best 13-inch laptop Windows Central 2021
There are plenty of 13-inch notebooks out there to choose from, but which ones make the list of best Windows laptop options you can buy for the money? Luckily for you, it's a great time to be shopping for a Windows laptop. We've rounded up some of the best 13-inch notebooks available to make your purchasing decision easier.
- Best overall: Dell XPS 13 (9310)
- Runner-up: HP Spectre x360 13
- Best convertible: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9310)
- Best premium: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 13.5
- Best value: ASUS ZenBook 13
- Best gaming: Razer Blade Stealth 13
- Best business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
Best overall: Dell XPS 13 (9310)
There haven't been any huge revisions to the Dell XPS 13 (9310) in 2021, but Dell did offer up more configuration options for enhanced choice. As well as rocking newer Intel 11th Gen mobile processors, the company added the option for a new 3.5K (3456x2160) Samsung OLED display.
While the display is absolutely gorgeous should you choose the almost-4K OLED option when buying the XPS 13, you will suffer in the battery department. Still, this is about as good a laptop as you can buy in this segment, sporting outstanding display options, an improved keyboard, and notably superior performance; there is nothing wrong with it.
Whether you're just planning to check emails and visit some websites while on a trip or fire up some creative software, the internals will easily handle even the more demanding tasks, thanks to the choice of up to an Intel Core i7-1165G7. Throw in a few ports, NVMe SSD storage, and up to 16GB of speedy RAM for good measure.
The design is striking. It's gorgeous, so too are the keyboard and touchpad. We reviewed the latest XPS 13 and gave it a full five stars with our highest recommendation and we believe you'd love it just as much.
- Significantly better performance and battery
- Intel Evo certified, Thunderbolt 4
- New 3.5K OLED display is gorgeous
- Magnificent look and design
- Excellent keyboard and audio
- Poor webcam
- OLED takes a big hit on battery
Runner-up: HP Spectre x360 13
The 13-inch HP Spectre x360 has been a favorite of ours for years and has been so close to perfection. HP did what any good manufacturer should do and acted on feedback to make the Spectre x360 even better. Changes like the new Precision-powered touchpad and thinner bezels make it far more appealing to both use and gaze at.
There are a variety of screen choices available that cover both 1080p and 4K. HP still hasn't departed from using a 16:9 aspect ratio, which could be argued as looking a little dated in modern laptops. Still, performance is right up there with 11th Gen Intel CPUs, 16GB of RAM, and 2TB M.2 PCIe. There's Wi-Fi 6 available for a better wireless experience.
If you want the best non-convertible laptop, the Dell XPS 13 (9310) would be your best bet. The Spectre x360 13 offers fantastic value with more modes and optional LTE. It's a reliable all-around Windows laptop and tops more than one of our roundups, including the best Windows 10 LTE laptops.
- 11th Gen Intel CPUs
- Wi-Fi 6 and LTE connectivity
- Precision touchpad
- 4K AMOLED touch display with a thin bezel
- Big 60Wh battery
- Speakers moved to the bottom of chassis
- Still using 16:9 aspect ratio
Best convertible: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9310)
If you didn't find the original Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 appealing, we don't blame you. The Intel processors weren't great, but don't let that leave a sour taste when considering the new 7390 model. It has the latest 10th Gen Intel processors that offer plenty of performance while allowing for a full workday of battery life.
That may not sound like magic when compared to other laptops in its class, but this convertible notebook houses a 13.4-inch panel that can be configured as 1920x1200 or 3840x2400, depending on your preference. Both display options have an aspect ratio of 16:10. Much like the XPS 13, the design is exquisite, but the 2-in-1 has a few party ticks like various modes.
There's also active pen support and plenty of ports for you to connect all your favorite accessories. You'll find Thunderbolt 3, microSD card reader, and more. If you're more about the typing experience, the maglev keyboard here is simply awesome to use. The large Precision touchpad is also excellent.
- Dazzling HDR anti-glare touch display
- Robust audio
- Eight-hour battery life
- Clean, minimalist design
- 10th Gen Intel hardware
- Ports limited but powerful
- Hardware not upgradeable
Best premium: Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 13.5
We appreciated what Microsoft did with the Surface Laptop 3, but the notable changes made for the Surface Laptop 4 (we reviewed the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 15) are fantastic. It's now available with 11th Gen Intel or AMD Ryzen 4000-series CPUs and can be configured with up to 32GB of LPDDR4x RAM.
You get the same speedy SSDs with a capacity of up to 1TB. There's also a USB-C port to let you connect all your modern accessories to the Laptop 4. Finally, the touchpad remains massive compared to the previous generation of Surface Laptop, and Microsoft is still using its fantastic Precision drivers for a brilliant experience.
The design of the Surface Laptop 4 13.5 is a joy to look at. It's not only available with Alcantara either. Should you not enjoy the feel of the fabric finish, it's possible to kit out the Surface Laptop 4 with an all-aluminum finish throughout. An IR camera can be used for Windows Hello, and the display is nothing short of sublime with a 3:2 aspect ratio and 2256x1504 resolution.
There are a few drawbacks, however. These include the lack of Thunderbolt 4, no LTE options, limited color choice for AMD, performance degradation of Ryzen processors on battery mode, and anti-glare for the displays. Even including all these negative points, this is still among the most premium Windows laptops around.
- Gorgeous design and craftsmanship
- Intel Core or AMD Ryzen
- Superb keyboard and touchpad
- Extremely quiet fan
- Some parts can be upgraded
- AMD performance drops on battery
- Limited AMD color options
- No Thunderbolt 4, few ports
- Display is still glossy, with no HDR or WCG
- No option for 4G LTE or 5G
Best value: ASUS ZenBook 13
The ASUS family of ZenBook laptops have always been head turners due to their striking design, weight, and how thin the chassis is. The ZenBook 13 with 11th Gen Intel or AMD Ryzen 5000 processors takes everything to a whole new level. This laptop may be more affordable than other laptops in this collection, but don't put it down as not being able to keep up with the rest.
Processor choice includes 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1, Core i7-1065G7, or an AMD Ryzen 7 5700U. RAM is up there too at 8GB of LPDDR4X. Storage is solid, with a 512GB PCIe SSD pre-installed. There's even a number pad integrated into the touchpad. And because this is 11th Gen Intel, there's the option for Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6.
Because this is more of a budget-friendly laptop, you won't find anywhere to select a 4K display. If you want something a little more fancy in the specification department, you'll need to look elsewhere. For those on a tighter budget, this is a beautiful notebook with plenty going for it.
- Large ScreenPad/touchpad
- Great performance for the price
- AMD Ryzen 5000 or 11th Gen Intel CPUs
- Wi-Fi 6
- No 4K option
Best gaming: Razer Blade Stealth
So you like gaming, do you? There's only one option in the 13-inch laptop segment, and that's the Razer Blade Stealth. This is the Ultrabook for gamers. Razer has had the Stealth available for some time, but this latest version is something else.
The latest generation of Blade Stealth laptops can be kitted out with a 120Hz 1080p display, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti (Max-Q Design) GPU, Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU, and 16GB LPDDR4X RAM at 3733MHz. There's a full-sized shift key, and the keyboard as a whole is a joy to use.
It's the gaming performance that sets this laptop apart from other offerings, however. The GTX 1650 Ti isn't the most capable GPU from NVIDIA, but it's more than capable of handling modern PC games. The best part is the battery, allowing you to enjoy some interactive media for longer than five minutes, as was the norm with more bulky gaming laptops.
Just don't go expecting this machine to set work records in benchmarks.
- 11th Gen Intel CPUs
- Dedicated NVIDIA GPU
- Amazing gaming performance
- Compact Ultrabook design
- Solid battery life
- Can struggle with demanding games
- Quite expensive
Best business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano
Lenovo made headlines when it launched the ThinkPad X1 Nano. It weighs just 2 pounds (or 962g)! Where this 13-inch laptop really shines though is in the performance available in such a compact package. Even though this is an ultra-light notebook (the lightest Lenovo has made to date) it still comes rocking Windows 10 Pro.
We're talking an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, Intel Xe graphics, and plenty of "smart" tech crammed inside. There's even a 16:10 aspect ratio display for a little more height. The base configuration likely has more kit than you'll need, but you can configure the X1 Nano to have 16GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD.
Screen-wise, this notebook comes with a 13-inch, 2K Dolby Vision display, available in touch or non-touch. Finally, to keep you connected when on the go, you'll find Wi-Fi 6, Thunderbolt 4, and 5G abilities, making it quite literally a do-it-all laptop. It'll also remain online for a good 10 hours on a single charge. The only real downside to this laptop is the limited port selection, with only two Thunderbolt 4 ports.
- 11th Gen Intel CPU
- 2K 16:10 display
- Wi-Fi 6 and 5G
- Ultra-light notebook
- Solid battery life
- Limited port selection
There are so many 13-inch laptops out there to choose from. Like all notebook choices, you can't go wrong so long as it ticks all your boxes. For us, the Razer Book 13 is simply too good to pass up on. Sure, it's the company's first non-gaming notebook, but it has 11th Gen Intel CPUs, a gorgeous keyboard and touchpad, and can be configured with an excellent 4K display.
Should you desire something a little, well ... more, Microsoft has your back with the Surface Laptop 3. This is one beautiful machine to gaze at, but it also packs a punch on the insides with 10th Gen Intel processors, plenty of RAM, and all the storage you'll ever need.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Rich Edmonds is a staff reviewer at Windows Central, which means he tests out more software and hardware than he cares to remember. Joining Mobile Nations in 2010, you can usually find him inside a PC case tinkering around when not at a screen fighting with Grammarly to use British words. Hit him up on Twitter: @RichEdmonds.
Daniel Rubino is the executive editor of Windows Central. He has been covering Microsoft since 2009 back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Surface, HoloLens, Xbox, and future computing visions. Follow him on Twitter: @daniel_rubino.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.