The Best 13-Inch Laptops for 2021

If you’re looking for a balance between capability and bulkiness, a 13-inch laptop is an ideal option. That said, not all 13-inch laptops are created equal. From our view, the Dell XPS 13 is the best 13-inch laptop available today, but there are plenty of other options depending on the features you want and the price you’re willing to pay. 

Most of the top 13-inch laptops are focused on balancing power and portability, but you can find everything from budget notebooks to high-end gaming rigs with a 13-inch display. Here are the laptops you should be looking at.

The best 13-inch laptops at a glance:

The best 13-inch laptop: Dell XPS 13

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

What we thought of the Dell XPS 13:

It’s hard not to sound like complete sycophants when talking about how much we love the XPS 13. It’s been our favorite laptop for the past five years, and the latest version is better than ever. Dell had already accomplished what we’ve been begging it to do for years and moved the webcam back up to the top of the screen where it belongs, and there’s so little else to complain about that it’s hard not to gush.

As with the XPS 13s that came before, this version is lightweight (under 3 pounds), portable, and exceedingly attractive. Base specs start with an 11th-generation Intel Core i3-1115G4 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of PCIe NVMe solid-state drive storage. Ports include two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C (including DisplayPort and power delivery compatibility), and the laptop comes with a USB-C to USB-A adapter to help manage some of your older accessories. More expensive options have a touchscreen and improve the processor, but otherwise, specs stay relatively the same.

Don’t expect to play the latest and greatest games at high frame rates — that’s not really what this laptop is for. No laptop is perfect, but the Dell XPS 13 is as close as we’ve seen yet, suitable for a wide variety of tasks and highly capable of handling them all.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 review

The best 13-inch laptop for students: Apple MacBook Air M1

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

What we thought of the Apple MacBook Air M1:

The MacBook Air M1 is the perfect laptop for students. It’s lightweight, super powerful, and stacked with the quality-of-life features that Macs are known for. From exceptional battery life to a large touchpad and one of the best laptop keyboards, the MacBook Air comes with everything students need to succeed. It’s cheap, too, at least by Apple standards. It’s also completely silent.

The latest MacBook Air features Apple’s new M1 chip that brings together CPU and GPU cores with system RAM. Over the Intel processors that proceeded it, M1 is built on a more power-efficient architecture. It’s so power-efficient, in fact, that the MacBook Air doesn’t even need a fan. It stays cool simply by passing heat through the aluminum body, so you can keep working without distracting anyone.

For portability, the MacBook Air M1 is 0.63 inches thick at its thickest point, and it only weighs 2.8 pounds. The port selection isn’t great with just two Thunderbolt ports, but you can easily expand the selection with a Thunderbolt 3 dock.

The MacBook Air M1 is a seriously impressive laptop, not just for students, but for anyone looking for a highly portable, very powerful machine. In some ways, it’s even better than the MacBook Pro.

Read our Apple MacBook Air M1 review

The best 13-inch gaming laptop: Razer Blade Stealth (2020)

What we thought of the Razer Blade Stealth (2020):

The latest version of the Stealth means business and is ready to combine the portability of a 13-inch machine with the internal capability to handle demanding games without blowing up in your face. It’s excellent to see this model include both an Intel quad-core 10th-gen Core i7-1065G7 processor and an Nvidia GeForce GRX 1650 Ti Max GPU alongside 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Razer also offers a model with a newer Core i7-1165G7 but identical specs otherwise. The RGB keyboard is just icing on the cake for gamers.

Connections include USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, and USB-A. Note that this model can max out with a 4K 60Hz touchscreen, but that’s not really necessary unless you plan on doing a lot of content creation. If you want to play competitively, there is a build option for 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate that may be more your style.

The Razer Blade Stealth is a beautiful laptop, and it has enough grunt to play all modern games at reasonable frame rates, as long as you keep the graphical detail under control. L