Acer Aspire V7
Some may find its design a tad bland, but the Acer Aspire V7 has some high-end touches that elevate it above the usual workhorse laptop. For one, it is svelte for a 14-inch mainstream model and has a gorgeous full high-definition touch-capable display.
The Nvidia graphics chip on the V7 is almost gaming-grade. As it has an Intel Core i7 chip, it can run most games at the appropriate settings.
Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series
Dell’s latest mainstream laptop looks classy with its bevelled edges and aluminium body. Running Windows 8, this laptop has a touchscreen that is bright and clear with good viewing angles. The screen’s 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution is standard for its 15.6-inch size. The Inspiron 15 includes some of the latest hardware, from an Intel Core i7 chip to a Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics chip. Battery life was impressive at about 71/2 hours.
HP Envy 14 TouchSmart
The 3,200 x 1,800-pixel screen on the HP Envy 14 TouchSmart boasts a higher pixel density than the Retina display on the Apple MacBook Pro.
Such a high-resolution display in Windows’ desktop mode forces users to adapt to reading tiny fonts.
But if you do not fancy squinting constantly, you can lower the screen resolution to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
The Envy 14 has a premium design that is heavy on aluminium, creating a strong body that does not flex easily.
Lenovo Flex 14
Lenovo takes its concept of devices with multi-use modes to the masses with the reasonably priced Flex 14.
This Windows 8 ultrabook can be used like a regular notebook or with its screen flipped in a kiosk-like mode.
But unlike Lenovo’s Yoga ultrabook, the Flex 14 cannot transform into a tablet.
As the Flex is priced at $1,199, it does not have a high-resolution screen. But you will still get an Intel Haswell processor and Nvidia discrete graphics card.
Samsung Series 7 Chronos
This is a good choice if you are after a well-rounded mainstream laptop.
Samsung’s Series 7 Chronos has a full high-definition screen, a quad-core Intel processor and 8GB of RAM. There is no in-built optical drive, but Samsung bundles an external drive with the Series 7 Chronos. The only drawback is that this has not had an upgrade to the latest Intel Haswell processor.
The graphics card, though, is a current-generation AMD Radeon HD 8870M chip, which is good enough to run most games.
Best of all, the Chronos’ battery lasted almost nine hours, despite its 15.6-inch screen and discrete graphics card.