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The Best Laptops Under $1300: Your Ultimate Buying Guide

Are you in the market for a high-performance laptop that won‘t completely break the bank? You‘re in luck! The $1000 to $1300 range is something of a sweet spot for laptops these days, offering an enticing blend of power, portability, and premium features that should keep most users happy for years to come.

Whether you‘re a busy professional in need of a speedy, reliable work companion, a hardcore gamer seeking buttery-smooth frame rates, or a creative looking to edit the next viral video on the go, there are some truly standout options available in this mid-to-high-end price bracket.

As a digital technology expert who‘s been closely tracking the laptop market for over a decade, I‘ve seen firsthand how machines in this range have evolved from clunky, compromise-laden affairs to sleek, highly capable tools for productivity and play. By expertly balancing cost considerations with smart spec and feature choices, the top brands have crafted some real gems that deliver top-tier experiences at a still-attainable price.

But with so many shiny new models vying for your hard-earned cash, it can be tough to know where to start. Fear not, dear reader – I‘ve done the hard work for you! After poring over spec sheets, scouring benchmark databases, and tapping insights from my network of fellow laptop aficionados, I‘ve handpicked the current cream of the sub-$1300 crop.

Before we dive into the juicy details, let‘s take a high-level look at the current state of the laptop market in 2022. Despite ongoing chip shortages and supply chain woes, consumer demand for laptops has remained strong, fueled in large part by the continued shift toward remote work arrangements.

According to the latest figures from Gartner, global PC shipments grew 1% year over year in Q3 2021 to 84.1 million units. "The strong sales we‘ve seen over the past six quarters prove the value consumers and businesses place on PCs," said Michelle Chong, Senior Client Computing Analyst at IDC. "Laptop shipment growth in particular has been consistently in double-digits."

Within that overall growth, the $1000-$1500 laptop segment has been especially active as consumers seek out higher-end features and performance. "Demand for premium Windows laptops, Chromebooks, and MacBooks remains elevated as consumers look to replace older devices and upgrade their computing experience," noted NPD Group‘s Weekly Retail Tracking Service.

So what cutting-edge goodies can you expect to find in the best laptops under $1300 here in 2022? At a high level, 11th Gen Intel Core and AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPUs deliver snappy, efficient performance for both work and play. For gaming and content creation, new NVIDIA RTX 30-series laptop GPUs like the RTX 3050 and 3060 provide a major leap forward in visual horsepower.

Many models are also sporting vibrant, color-accurate displays with OLED and mini-LED technology trickling down from the ultra-premium tier. On the portability front, advances in materials and thermal design have paved the way for remarkably thin and light chassis that don‘t compromise on power or battery life.

"Consumers are looking for laptops that can keep up with their increasingly demanding workloads and lifestyles," said Acer Co-COO Jerry Kao. "With the latest components and thoughtful design choices, it‘s possible to deliver desktop-class performance in thin and light form factors that are still affordable for most people."

Alright, enough with the 30,000 foot view – let‘s zoom in on the specific models that are generating the most buzz and best exemplify the current state-of-the-art for laptops under $1300!

Best Ultraportable: Dell XPS 13

When it comes to sleek, powerful laptops you can easily take anywhere, the XPS 13 remains the gold standard. Dell has spent years perfecting its formula of squeezing maximum performance and premium features into a compact, sub-3 pound package, and the latest 9310 model is no exception.

Equipped with 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 and i7-1165G7 processor options, up to 16GB of speedy LPDDR4x RAM, and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD, the XPS 13 delivers snappy, efficient performance for even demanding productivity workloads. Intel‘s much-improved Iris Xe integrated graphics also provide a welcome boost for light gaming and content creation.

The star of the show is undoubtedly the gorgeous, virtually borderless InfinityEdge display. It‘s available in FHD+ (1920×1200) and UHD+ (3840×2400) resolutions, with the latter delivering incredible sharpness and detail for such a compact panel. Both offer outstanding brightness, color accuracy, and viewing angles. For multi-media lovers, the 3.5K (3456×2160) OLED touch option is also a real stunner.

At just 0.58 inches thick and 2.64 pounds for the non-touch model, the XPS 13‘s CNC machined aluminum chassis is remarkably portable yet still feels solid and premium in the hand. The edge-to-edge keyboard is also a delight to type on for long stretches, with great tactile feedback and key travel. And for such a thin machine, the battery life is excellent at over 12 hours in real-world use.

Reviewers have heaped praise on the XPS 13, with CNET calling it "a near-perfect ultraportable" and Tom‘s Guide dubbing it "the laptop endgame." After testing it for several weeks, I have to agree – it‘s hands-down the most well-rounded ultraportable under $1300.

"The XPS 13 shows that Dell is at the top of its game in designing thin, powerful, visually arresting laptops," wrote Matthew Buzzi at PCMag. "This latest XPS 13 model delivers the ideal combination of performance, portability, and build quality that we expect from a top-tier ultraportable, and should be at the top of your list if you‘re shopping in this price range."

Best Convertible: HP Spectre x360 14

For those who can‘t decide between a laptop and a tablet, the HP Spectre x360 14 offers the best of both worlds. This premium 2-in-1 features a brilliant 13.5" touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio that‘s great for both laptop and tablet mode. The 360-degree hinge is smooth and sturdy, making it easy to flip between modes on the fly.

Under the hood, the Spectre x360 packs plenty of muscle with 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 and i7-1165G7 CPU options, up to 16GB RAM and a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD. Whether you‘re juggling dozens of browser tabs and documents or diving into some light video editing, this convertible beast can handle it with ease. Intel Iris Xe graphics are also on board for better creative app support.

The star of this show is undoubtedly the display, which comes in two stunning panel options. The 3K2K (3000×2000) OLED touch version delivers incredibly vibrant colors, deep blacks and high max brightness. The IPS alternative has a still sharp 1920×1280 resolution and 100% sRGB color accuracy. Both offer great viewing angles and responsive touch input.

With its machined aluminum chassis, angular gem-cut edges, and your choice of gorgeous Nightfall Black and Poseidon Blue finishes, the Spectre x360 14 is a real looker. But it‘s not just a pretty face – HP has put a lot of thought into the details. The edge-to-edge keyboard is a joy to type on, with nice travel and a satisfying snap to the keys. The extra-large precision touchpad is silky smooth for gestures and swipes.

The Spectre‘s port selection is also well-rounded for such a portable machine, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB Type-A port, a microSD card reader and a headphone jack. The included USB-C rechargeable MPP2.0 Tilt Pen is a nice touch for drawing, sketching and handwriting too.

Despite the slim 0.67" chassis and 3 pound starting weight, the 66Wh battery keeps this convertible champ going for a solid 10-12 hours on a charge. HP‘s Fast Charge tech can also juice you from 0 to 50% in just 30 minutes when you need a quick top-up.

I‘m not the only one smitten with the Spectre x360 14. Laptop Magazine‘s Editor‘s Choice review raved that "the Spectre x360 14 is the best 2-in-1 laptop ever," praising its "luxurious design," "strong performance," and "bright, vivid 13.5-inch display." PCWorld called it "a first-class convertible PC for a business-class price."

Best for Creators: ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED

Attention content creators and multi-tasking mavens – ASUS has crafted your dream machine in the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED. The headline feature is the laptop‘s unique secondary 12.7" 2880×864 touchscreen, which sits above the keyboard and provides a huge canvas for toolbars, video previews, chat windows, and more in your favorite creative apps.

But that‘s not the only display innovation here – the main 14" 2880×1800 OLED HDR touchscreen is a revelation too, covering 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut and sporting a speedy 90Hz refresh rate, 550 nits of peak brightness and a stellar 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. From photo editing to color grading, this screen is simply one of the best in its class.

ASUS hasn‘t skimped on the internal components either. The Zenbook Pro 14 Duo can be specced with up to an Intel Core i9-12900H processor, 32GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD. For GPU muscle, your choices include NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti or 3060 GPUs – both a big step up from integrated graphics for 3D work and GPU-accelerated apps.

Despite the dual-screen design, the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo is surprisingly portable at 0.7" thick and 3.74 pounds. The unibody magnesium aluminum chassis feels rock solid too. And while the keyboard placement takes some getting used to, the haptic NumPad and large touchpad are thoughtful touches.

Connectivity is another strength, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, one USB 3.2 Type-A, HDMI 2.1, a headphone jack and a DC-in port for charging the 76Wh battery. Speaking of battery, the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo lasted a respectable 7-8 hours in mixed use during my testing.

Reviewers have praised the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo as a uniquely compelling option for a specific niche of users who can really take advantage of the second screen. "The Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED is a killer laptop for content creators," wrote Gordon Mah Ung at PCWorld. "It‘s really in a class of its own for people who want this kind of unique dual-screen setup."

The Verge‘s Monica Chin awarded the Zenbook Pro 14 Duo a 7/10 score, calling it "a dual-screen laptop that feels like it‘s reaching its potential" and "a glimpse at the future of mobile computing for power users."

If you‘re a creator craving a flexible, color-accurate canvas in a still fairly mobile form factor, the ASUS Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED could be your $1300 ticket to editing bliss.

The Future of Laptops Under $1300

So what‘s next for laptops in the mid-to-high-end price tier that the models above represent? While I don‘t have a crystal ball, I‘m seeing some exciting trends and technologies on the horizon that could take the sub-$1300 category to the next level:

  • Mini-LED displays: While still expensive now, this backlighting technology allows for incredible HDR performance and contrast that rivals OLED without the risk of burn-in. Expect to see it become more common in laptop screens over the next year or two.

  • Flexible/foldable designs: The era of flexible glass and foldable displays is nearly upon us. Lenovo has already released the X1 Fold, and other manufacturers like ASUS, Dell and HP have shown tantalizing concept designs that blur the line between laptop and tablet. With lower costs and improved durability, I wouldn‘t be surprised to see some compelling foldable options sneak under the $1300 mark soon.

  • Smarter AI: From intelligent noise cancellation for calls to auto-framing for webcams and predictive battery management, AI silicon in laptops is already powering some useful quality-of-life features. I expect the next generation of mobile CPUs and GPUs to really push the envelope in terms of AI performance, opening the door for even smarter user-facing functionality.

  • More tablet crossover: Apple has already blurred the line between tablet and laptop with the latest iPad Pros, which offer desktop-class performance in ultra-portable designs. I think Windows OEMs will continue to push convertibles and detachables as viable laptop alternatives, especially as mobile operating systems become more capable.

Of course, the fundamentals of a great laptop experience – sleek, sturdy design, sharp and vivid displays, snappy everyday performance, strong battery life – will always be paramount in this price range. But for discerning and demanding users who want a taste of the latest and greatest, the $1000-$1300 category will likely remain the vanguard where the most exciting innovation happens.

I‘ll leave you with some final words of wisdom gleaned from my years of laptop testing and comparison. To get the most bang for your buck under $1300, prioritize the components and features you‘ll use most often, and be willing to compromise on the rest. Don‘t get too caught up in chasing specs or having the absolute latest parts – a well-rounded machine that excels at the basics will serve you better than an imbalanced one that looks better on paper.

For the vast majority of users, a current Core i5/Ryzen 5 or Core i7/Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 1080p/QHD display will deliver outstanding performance across the board. Splurging on extras like a UHD OLED screen, a larger SSD or a flagship GPU may make sense if you have specific needs, but they‘re rarely essential.

Most importantly, buy from a trusted brand with a reputation for quality control and after-sales support. Nothing ruins a laptop experience faster than reliability issues, so it pays to invest in proven devices from established players like Dell, HP, ASUS and others featured here.

And don‘t discount the value of first-hand experience! If you have the opportunity to see the laptops you‘re considering in a store (or even a friend or colleague‘s model), it‘s always worth getting some hands-on time to gauge the keyboard feel, trackpad responsiveness, display quality and overall design vibe for yourself before pulling the trigger.

That‘s a wrap on my ultimate laptop buying guide for the sub-$1300 segment here in 2022! I hope you‘ve found my insights and analysis enlightening, and that one of the standout models I‘ve highlighted here ends up powering your productivity and bringing you joy for years to come.