Best mainstream laptop

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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