Best 13 inch windows laptop?

My trusty Lenovo 13″ laptop has finally taken one knock too many and the screen is very unhealthy. As it has served more than two years for about $600 I won’t complain. I think it is time for an SSD-based machine with at least 320 Gb of disk, 8 GB of RAM, and ideally an SD card reader for grabbing digital photos. Anyone have a favorite machine for travel? I suppose it should run windows 8 but I am not sure about the idea of convertible tablet. I am still recovering from the Tablet PC that I bought 10 years ago. I want it to be cheap enough that I won’t cry if it is dropped.

27 thoughts on “Best 13 inch windows laptop?

  1. The X1 Carbon Thinkpad is popular, but not cheap at all, and the biggest SSD they’ll sell you is 256G. Asus Zenbook are similar but cheaper, speaking both price and quality. Same SSD restriction.

    What’s missing for you with a Chromebook?

  2. 8GB RAM and anything more than 256 GB SSD are pretty high requirements for a 13″. By comparison, the Chromebook has 2GB RAM and 16 GB SSD.

    It’s been a few months since I looked myself, but I think it’s only the Sony Viao series that supports those relatively extreme specs in a small form factor–and you’d have to spend about $2500. Myself, I went for a Dell XPS 13. It maxes out at 4/256GB for $1450, but I use it for Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, software development, and virtual machines (albeit one at a time) and it gets the job done.

    Send me an email if you want to discuss Windows 8 (I wrote the MS Press book).

  3. The cheapest option by far is the Retina Macbook Pro 13″ running Win 8 enabled by Boot Camp. You can sell it for just a few $100 less than you paid for it in a year’s time. A PC laptop will loose $1,000 or more in value over the same time.

  4. I recommend you look for a refurbished HP Elitebook 2560p on ebay. It is extremely well built and a bargain for its price. The Thinkpad x220/x230 is also worth looking into.

    Good luck with your purchase!

  5. A Macbook Air 13″. I’ve dropped mine and didn’t cry since it didn’t break. If you must run Windows there’s Fusion.

  6. Folks: thanks for advice so far. One reason I want ssd is that I have been spoiled by my HP laptop w 32gb ssd cache. But I also want it to have a lot of disk so that I can sync my 85 gb and growing dropbox without making per folder decisions. Probably what I really want is a laptop w hybrid drive but they did not seem to catch on.

    Why not a chrome book? I want to have my Dropbox available offline to read PDFs and word docs. I might want to edit video and post to a WordPress blog. Not sure if picasa on Chromebook can do that. Probably the biggest is that I do expert witness work and sometimes need to edit Word files. I truly dislike Word and it’s constantly changing UI but lawyers love it.

    [i am typing this on an iPad from Los Angeles and iit is truly painful. WordPress’s authoring interface is almost unusable either in safari or Chrome. Typing is slow and error prone.]

  7. MacBook Pro with Bootcamp and Win7.

    Incredibly high resale, durable, well supported, and boot to native BSD Unix when you need it.

  8. Actually the more I think about it the better a 13″ convertible windows 8 machine sounds. If it can run the Kindle app in tablet mode and a few games such as scrabble it would replace the iPad. Lenovo makes one w 256 SSD. I might be able to live with that. On the other hand they don’t seem to have a bigger than 128 gb version for sale right now. 128 gb is barely enough disk for windows and a few applications!

  9. Hi Philip,

    Check out the Lenovo Yoga 13 — I have one and it is a great example of the new touch convertible breed of ultrabooks. Ram easily expands to 8gb and the ssd is msata form factor, also ugradeable.

  10. Folks who resell apple stuff: isn’t it a lot of work? Or is the process of transferring all data and apps so easy that setting up new machine and cleaning old takes less than one hour? And don’t you have to wipe old hard drive 10x and then reinstall before selling? You don’t want new buyer recovering your personal files, right?

    I wipe and then donate my old laptops to http://www.kidsoncomputers.org/

  11. The migration assistant is one of OS X’s greatest and most unheralded features. Boot the new machine, plug in the old machine (used to allow for firewire, wifi or ethernet; i think it now works over thunderbolt), wait for everything to copy, and bingo: the new machine behaves like the old one (there are a few exceptions, like developer tools and unixy things that you might have to do manually).

    Then run Disk Utility on the old one, select secure erase (which has several levels of security), and leave it overnight.

    As an aside, the MacBook Air is IMO the greatest computing device ever made. Light, durable, great build quality, and once you’ve used a Mac trackpad you’ll probably have difficulty going back to anything else.

  12. Get the Lenovo you want with a HDD. Get exactly the SSD you want and install it yourself. Intel and Samsung are reliable choices. Also, you can save quite a bit by buying the exact same RAM separately from Lenovo and installing it yourself, though the RAM install may be a little more involved than swapping the disk.

    – 10 minutes to create the system restore disk/ USB thumbdrive
    – 10 minutes to swap in the SSD of your choice
    – 20 minutes to re-install windows onto the SSD

  13. …then, when you’re ready to donate your Lenovo, simply swap out the SSD with your data on it for the original HDD. The HDD has a clean install of windows ready to go and you don’t have to worry about erasing your data.

  14. Mac has whole hard drive encrypted.
    All Apple does is erase the private key. no need to
    erase the entire hard drive.
    iCloud can sync most of your contacts, bookmarks, calendar,
    documents up to 5G is free.
    Obviously all that is moot if you want for run Win7
    as the primary OS. however, Battery length is lower with Windows
    than Mac OS X.

    Only Samsung SSD 830 is reliable and fast. Apple uses it.
    but Apple changes $500 for 256 GB for SSD.
    512 is $800. retina screen is just $100 more.

    You can also remote erase your hard drive just like iphone.

    However I would suggest you go with Win 8 Touch devices
    just so you can have another blog post bitching about it.
    Good luck.

  15. I haven’t had to do it myself yet, but I’m pretty sure the current MacBooks include a recovery partition from which you can easily reinstall OS X.

  16. If you use a Mac laptop, you can run its full HDD encryption without performance consequence. It also removes the need to wipe 10x. Just reinstall the OS (via the built-in recovery partition) if you want to give away the laptop. Or resell via Gazelle.

  17. Consider a custom Toshiba Portege Z930. 13″, i7, 8 Gb, 256 Gb for ~$2k. Seems most versions only have win 7 at present. I currently use the Z830.

  18. I have the Lenovo x230 tablet running Windows 8. It’s powerful enough to easily take care of all the photo editing tasks, but costs two of your $600 machines. The much-discussed Windows 8 interface works well, if you’re willing to learn something new, and Lenovo’s keyboard is simply a joy to type with (after years of using Dell’s not-shabby keyboards).

    The surprise benefit that makes the x230 great is the stylus. Gaining pressure sensitivity and accuracy iPad users can only dream of make Photoshop a whole bunch of fun, and as a OneNote user being able to sketch ideas and doodle with fine-tipped accuracy are great.

    Battery life is decent, in the 5-hour range, long enough not to have to worry about dragging a power adapter everywhere, but not long enough to last all day for sure. It’s a lot heavier than a dedicated tablet, for sure. It works best for a laptop user who wants a little tablet functionality, not the other way around.

  19. Just bought thinkpad x230.. upgraded ram and ssd. Window Ubuntu dual boot..great except I dislike windows 8 for desktops. Roughly 800$ after upgrade of ram to 12gd and the ssd.

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