Update: We’ve updated our entire list of recommended 13-inch laptops complete with a new addition at #6, the Acer Aspire S 13.
In many ways, a 13-inch laptop is the perfect size for a portable PC; they’re not as fiddly and squint-inducing as netbooks, but not as heavy and awkward as a full-on notebook.
And, there are plenty of PC and Mac options available, too.
For a broader view, look at our best laptops in the world today. But whatever you do, read on to find our favourite 13-inchers of the past few months in no particular order.
1. Dell XPS 13
A revolution in laptop design
CPU: dual-core Intel Core i3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
Gorgeous bezel-less display
No Ethernet port
Fortunately for us, the XPS 13 isn’t all beauty and no brains. This laptop features the horsepower to make work and play enjoyable, and it has just enough battery life to never leave you in a lurch. Regardless of whether you choose to upgrade to the touchscreen Quad HD+ version, or if you stand pat with the full HD model, the Dell XPS 13 will provide you with a delightful experience for years to come.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
2. 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
CPU: dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
Superb battery life
Force Touch underdeveloped
Though it may not have the 12-inch MacBook’s slick design, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina features Apple’s Force Touch track pad that uses different levels of sensitivity instead of mechanical buttons to make clicks. And now, the top-end models feature Apple’s new Touch Bar. Solid Apple build quality, a great display and decent levels of performance across the board make the new MacBook Pro with Retina one of the safest bets on a 13-inch laptop today.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display
3. Samsung Notebook 9
Great performance on the cheap
CPU: dual-core Intel Core i5-6200U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display | Storage: 256GB SSD
Thin, smart styling
Micro-sized video ports
Short battery life
Though it’s failed to make a dent in the laptop space with much more than its Tab Pro S convertible, Samsung’s follow-up to the 2012 Series 9 notebook boasts not only capable specs, but a competitive price as well. Marketed as an Ultrabook, it’s certainly disheartening to know the battery life lasts only five hours, but given its sleek and sexy design, it almost doesn’t matter. What’s more, with the Samsung Notebook 9, you won’t have to deal with bloatware made infamous by many of the other Microsoft OEMs.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9
4. Asus ZenBook UX305
A truly excellent ultrabook at a very agreeable price point
CPU: dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 – 5300 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) IPS | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Vibrant, glare-free screen
Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Weak sauce graphics
The ZenBook UX305 is a well-built, fully metal machine that’s thin, light and attractive. Now available with Intel’s full-fat Core i-series processors in addition to the usual Core M chips, the UX305’s astonishing value makes it hard to ignore. Updated with a gorgeous QHD+ display, it stands out as a shining example of a computer that offers power and portability in a small package that doesn’t break the bank.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX305
5. 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
Fantastic battery life
No Retina screen
Not easily upgradeable
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. If you don’t like the look of its lowly 1,440 x 900 pixel-resolution display, there’s always the 12-inch MacBook – and new MacBook Air models are expected to launch this summer.
Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air
6. Acer Aspire S 13
A budget-friendly, thin-and-light powerhouse
CPU: dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Exterior feels a little cheap
Disappointing battery life
That’s not a typo you just read on the specs sheet – the Acer Aspire S 13 truly is a beast. Replete with a Skylake Core series processors shoved inside a tiny, 13.3-inch body, the Aspire S 13 can handle practically anything you throw at it productivity-wise. Unfortunately, the catch is that with all this power comes a distinct shortage on battery life. It may be an Ultrabook, but the Aspire S 13 only managed 3 hours and 12 minutes in our PCMark 8 battery test. Luckily, the Acer Aspire S 13 also comes with the benefit of USB 3.1, all but a boon in this awkward early age of USB-C.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article