Asus-U41JF-A1The key to any successful mainstream laptop is to compliment blazingly fast parts with a battery large enough to handle them. There are a few that can strike this tough balance, including the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch ($1,199 direct, 4 stars) and Samsung QX410-J01 ($829.99 street, 4 stars). The Asus U45Jc-A1 ($867 street, 4.5 stars) mainstream laptop knocks it out of the ballpark in terms of performance and battery life, with over 10 hours of battery, and a good CPU and GPU combo. Now meet its successor, the Asus U41JF-A1 ($857 street). The U41JF-A1 has the biggest battery in the mainstream category, only this time it’s paired with the highest-clocked Core i3 processor available and an Nvidia’s GeForce 425M graphics chip. While its 8 hours of battery life wasn’t as impressive as the U45Jc-A1, it still beats the socks off of any of its rivals. Thus, the U41Jc-A1 takes over as the new Editors’ Choice and has made it on our list of best laptops.

Design
Design is something that can’t be taken lightly in the mainstream category, as the competition is fierce. Like its predecessor, the Asus U41JF-A1 uses nothing but the best materials, fitting the lid and palm rest area with aluminum. The U41JF-A1 looks boxier than the Asus U45Jc-A1, thickened, no doubt, to accommodate the more powerful and space-consuming components. At 4.7 pounds, it’s still lighter than the Samsung QX410 (5 lbs), HP Envy 14-1110NR ($1,050 list, 4 stars) (5.5 lbs), and Gateway ID49C13u ($849.99 street, 4 stars) (4.9 lbs).

The 14-inch widescreen is spacious and easy on the eyes, yet small enough for an airline tray-table. It is one size bigger than that of the MacBook Pro 13-inch, and roomy enough to tile two app windows side by side. Its 1,366-by-768 resolution is common in a 14-inch consumer laptop, with the Envy 14 ($1,286 direct, 4 stars) being the only exception (it has the option for a 1,600-by-900 resolution screen). My only quibble about the U41JF-A1 is that the keyboard flexes, although it isn’t severe enough to make me hate the typing experience. It’s a full size keyboard, laid out in a chiclet format that many other 14-inch laptop seems to be using now. I was pleased with the navigating experience: The mouse buttons weren’t overly resistant, and the touchpad was responsive and roomy. More importantly, Asus didn’t complicate the experience by trying to emulate Apple’s clickpad, which is more than I can say about the HP Envy 14-1110NR, Gateway ID49C13u, and Samsung QX410-J01.

Pros
Huge 83WH battery. Over 8 hours on a single charge. NVidia’s 400 series graphics is a gamer’s delight. Good horsepower from the Core i3 processor. Lovely aluminum design. Lightweight. Reasonably priced.

Cons
Keyboard flexing can be detected.

Bottom Line
The Asus U41JF-A1 is the most well-balanced mainstream laptop, combining excellent power with all-day battery life.

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