Finding a good 13-inch laptop for gaming isn’t easy. This is because a 13-inch chassis is just too small to support higher-end GPUs without overheating. Which makes it very difficult to find a decent gaming laptop of that form factor. However, there are a select few 13-inch laptops that do support lower-end dedicated graphics cards that will allow you to play lighter games such as Fortnite, Overwatch, and more. It is important to note that these are not necessarily advertised as gaming laptops, but they are far better equipped to play games with their lower-end dedicated GPUs. In this article, we have reviewed the 5 best 13-inch “gaming” laptops with dedicated GPUs.
What you’ll want to consider when buying a 13-inch gaming laptop
Portable (small form factor and lightweight):
The first thing to know is that 13-inch laptops are perfect if you’re on the go. Lugging along a 17-inch or even a 15-inch machine isn’t really practical. But if you want an extremely portable, lightweight laptop, 13-inch laptops are great. They will also fit in just about any backpack, along with things such as a mouse and a headset, with room to spare.
Now, considering these laptops are made to be small and lightweight, you’ll find that powerful GPUs such as the RTX2080 can’t really work well there, as it would cause overheating. However, you have options such as the Blade Stealth or the Surface Book 2 which include GPUs such as the GTX 1050, or the 25W variant of the MX150 4GB. These are pretty good for gaming at 720p to 1080p at medium to lower settings depending on the game. Others include the 10W variant of the MX150 2GB, which isn’t as powerful but can still run games such as Overwatch, Fortnite, Rainbow Six Siege, and others with similar requirements.
while we’re talking performance, we should mention that some of the laptops below come with a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. With the throughput of the port, you have the option of connecting a GPU enclosure and running an external desktop GPU such as an RTX 2080 Ti. A great example is Razer’s Core X, which paired with a powerful GPU will basically turns a decent 13-inch gaming laptop into a very powerful gaming desktop computer. This is definitely something to consider, and you can also use an external monitor with the enclosure, which frees up some bandwidth and increases performance.
Best 13-Inch Gaming Laptops
Razer Blade Stealth
When it comes to gaming, Razer has been around for a while. Initially only making peripherals (and good ones at that), they now have a host of excellent gaming laptops. The Blade Stealth is the most portable of them, with a 13” display and a lightweight body. It’s CNC machined from aluminum, which makes for a very industrial design, that quite frankly, looks stunning. Add to that the small bezels on the display and the Blade Stealth is a looker, whether it’s closed or open.
When it comes to specs, the Blade Stealth 13 is plenty powerful. It’s powered by a quad-core, 8th generation Intel Core i7-8565U processor. Even though the U series by Intel are meant to save a bit of power, this one is actually pretty powerful and you can easily use it for gaming. Aside from that, there’s the Nvidia MX150 graphics card that we mentioned earlier. It comes in the more powerful, 4GB 25W variant. This combination makes the Blade Stealth 13 one of the best 13-inch gaming laptops because it can easily run most modern titles. The build is rounded out by 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
If specs aren’t enough for you, the Blade also has a few interesting features. The 1080p display has 100% sRGB coverage, which makes it great for creative work. You’ll be getting Razer’s Chroma RGB lighting, which gives you a single zone RGB backlight. Oh, and there’s also a Thunderbolt 3 port, so you can hook up an external GPU if you want to.
Last but not least, the cooling on the Blade Stealth 13 is great. There have been reports of thin and light gaming laptops throttling due to lack of good cooling, but that’s not the case with the Blade.
Microsoft Surface Book 2
Microsoft’s original Surface Book was very well received, and its second iteration comes with even better specs. In terms of the design, you actually have a two-in-one here, because the screen detaches and you can use it as a tablet. You could also use it in tent mode – completely up to you. The hinge is interesting because the laptop doesn’t fold flat. Instead, there’s a small gap when you close it.
Let’s discuss specs for a minute. Inside the Surface Book 2 is an 8th generation Intel Core i7-8650U. This is a quad-core CPU that can turbo boost up to 4.2GHz when necessary, which means it can run most modern titles fairly easy. To help with that is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card, which comes with its own 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This is a great graphics card, especially for games such as Fortnite or Overwatch, where you can easily expect high framerates. The rest of the 13” Surface Book is a fast, 256GB solid state drive, as well as 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM running at 1866Mhz.
When it comes to features, the highlight is the removable display. This makes the Surface Book 2 one of the best 13-inch gaming laptops for creatives, especially if you buy the Surface Pen. The resolution of the display is 3000×2000.
Cooling is sorted out by the fan in the keyboard base, which is sufficient to cool the GTX 1050 graphics card. There are no throttling issues, and the laptop performs very well even under heavy load. This may very well be the best 13-inch laptop for gaming if you want something that’s great for creative work and media consumption as well. It’s a really versatile machine.
HP’s Envy line is usually more oriented on the business side of things, but the Envy 13 is a strong contender for the title of best 13-inch laptop for gaming. The design isn’t your typical gamer aesthetic. Instead, you’ve got a premium looking, and feeling, design. It’s completely made of metal, and there’s a beautiful geometric pattern speaker grill. The keyboard is backlit as well, which could come in handy. An interesting addition is the hinge – when you open the laptop, a small part of the display goes under the body, thus lifting the keyboard in a more ergonomic position.
When it comes to specs, the Envy is a slim, ultraportable powerhouse. It has an Intel Core i7-8565U, which is a quad-core CPU that can turbo boost up to 4.6GHz. And no, it won’t throttle in this small chassis. The GPU is Nvidia’s new MX250 graphics card, and you’ll also get 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB SSD. The display is also excellent, it’s a 13.3” 4K IPS panel, and you have a touchscreen with Gorilla Glass on top. The battery is impressive too, with a promised battery life of up to 12 hours and 45 minutes.
The highlight feature of the Envy 13 is its security. It’s made to keep your privacy only yours, with things such as an integrated fingerprint reader and a webcam kill switch. This may not be much in terms of gaming, but for everyday use, it’s a great thing to have.
Given that this is an all-metal case, it actually dissipates heat very well. The U series CPUs by Intel are made to not emit too much heat, and the Envy does a great job of keeping it, and the GPU, pretty cool. All things considered, definitely one of the best 13-inch gaming laptops.
ASUS ZenBook S13
ASUS’s ZenBook lineup is pretty expansive – it has models with various display sizes, and various innovative features. The ZenBook S13 is one of the more “boring” models, with no things such as a touchpad that doubles as a display. However, it’s one of the best 13-inch gaming laptops, with a great build, powerful CPU and a very capable GPU. It looks stunning, from the silver body to the extremely slim bezels. The hinge elevates the keyboard, so you get a slightly more comfortable typing experience as well.
Inside is Intel’s quad-core, 8th generation Intel Core i7-8565U, which can turbo boost up to 4.6GHz when its under load. This is quite powerful for modern titles, especially less demanding ones. There’s also Nvidia’s GeForce MX150, which should help a bit with the gaming as well. Note that the ZenBook is an ultra-thin laptop, and anything more powerful than this would very likely result in thermal issues. The rest of the system is a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD, as well as 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM. You’ll also get an 802.11ac wireless card with Wi-Fi 5, for a bit of futureproofing. And while the display is technically a 13.9” panel with a 1080p resolution, with bezels so slim, it certainly qualifies as one of the best 13-inch gaming laptops.
When it comes to features, the ZenBook S13 doesn’t have too many. It’s worth mentioning that at around half an inch thick, and only 2.4 lbs., this is one of the most portable 13-inch gaming laptops we’ve seen. The CNC milled chassis is stiff and sturdy and adds to the durability of the laptop quite a bit.
Oh, and cooling is pretty great too. There is no throttling, and the laptop manages to keep both the CPU and the GPU running fairly cool.
ASUS ZenBook 13
If you’d like to save a bit of money, the ZenBook 13 is not only one of the best 13-inch gaming laptops, but it’s also the best 13-inch gaming laptop under $1000. It manages to push a great choice of components in a slim and good looking chassis, and keep them performing well. The all-black design is stealthy and looks and feels premium. There’s a fingerprint scanner below the keyboard for biometric security, and you’ve got a backlit keyboard with plenty of travel.
In terms of performance, you have an 8th generation Intel Core i5-8265U processor. It may not be as powerful as an i7, but it can still run modern games pretty well. It is a quad-core CPU that can turbo boost up to 3.9GHz. To help it, there’s Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 graphics card, but in the 2GB variant. This is an extremely slim laptop, so more power would definitely result in thermal issues. The storage is very fast, with a 256GB m.2 SSD, and you’ll get 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM as well. To round things out, you have a 13.3” NanoEdge touchscreen with extremely slim bezels. All things considered, this is a pretty impressive build.
When it comes to features, the ZenBook 13 is a bit boring, but it’s still the best 13-inch laptop for gaming if you’re on a tight budget. The standout things are the fingerprint scanner and the stealthy design, as well as the Type C port and the 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Cooling is, unsurprisingly, excellent. A single fan pushes air from behind, inside the hinge, and it moves enough to keep things cool. You won’t have to worry about throttling with the ZenBook 13, that’s for sure.