The Asus U46SV all-purpose laptop sets itself apart from the crowd through great performance and outstanding battery life, two attributes that rarely cohabitate.

The primary reason for the long 6-hour, 41-minute run time is an unusually large 74-watt-hour battery. The large battery is also responsible for the U46SV's hefty 2.2 kg static and 2.7 kg travel (with AC adapter) weights, but clever design makes the unit feel lighter than those numbers might lead you to believe.

The battery protrudes about a half-inch beneath the back of the otherwise one-inch thick unit. That gives you a firm, yet comfortable grip when toting it about (part of the reason it doesn't feel as heavy as it is) and also adds a slight forward rake that puts your hand at a better typing angle. All told, the heavier, larger, longer-lasting battery should please more users than it discourages them.

The U46SV sports a stylish aluminum lid and keyboard deck, though the effect is cheapened slightly by chrome touchpad buttons and a rather bright power button. Still, while the touchpad buttons are distractingly reflective, they also have just the right amount of resistance. The U46SV's breathable Chiclet-style keyboard feels exactly like those found on Lenovo's U series (a good thing); crisp, even though the keys travel only a short distance. The touchpad is nicely responsive as well.

Our test unit featured an Intel Core i5-2430M CPU, 8GB of DDR3 memory and a 750GB hard drive. It also had both Intel HD Graphics 3000 for everyday use and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 540M GPU that propelled the unit to playable gaming frame rates; in the 60s at low detail and high 30s at high detail at 1024x768 resolution. You can also buy the U46SV with a Core i3, less memory and less capacious hard drives if our configuration's price tag seems too steep.

Besides the stellar battery life, the U46SV scored a 123 on WorldBench 6, excellent for a Core i5. Video of all resolutions plays smoothly and is rendered to good effect on the U46SV's 14 inch, 1366x768 display. So good, in fact, that when I tested with a 1080p DVD of True Grit (the Coen Brothers version), I wound up watching nearly the entire movie. Of course, it's also a very good movie. That experience was best with headphones; the U46SV's speakers sound weak and thin despite the Sonic Focus audio enhancement software that tries to overcome that fact.

The U46SV's ports include VGA and HDMI, three USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), ethernet and an SD card slot. The laptop includes both headphone and microphone jacks, as well as a Kensington lock port on the back. You get a webcam, too, but for some reason Asus opted for a relatively low resolution 0.3 megapixel unit.

Though the U46SV turned in very nice performance numbers, it performs sluggishly for the first minute after booting with the stock software configuration. This is largely due to loading a whopping 32 non-standard startup items, the majority of which aren't particularly useful or necessary. Some time culling the dross with msconfig.exe and uninstalling unnecessary software is in order if you want the performance you paid for.

Not all the software is useless: Cyberlink's Power2Go supports the integrated DVD burner, and the starter version of Office 2010 is on hand for productivity chores.

OUR VERDICT

As hard as Asus tries to muck up a good hardware package with a bloated software installation, the U46SV remains an impressive combination of performance, ergonomics and long battery life. Remove the pre-installed applications you don't want, and you're good to go.