Here's my 3 1/2 cents on the topic (foolishly, some people here'll tell you to listen to me):
The best laptops out right now are Apple, Alienware, IBM, and Dell.
- Apple's stuff is incredibly good, warranties are exceptional (don't be mean to the support people if you call them, they keep records of that stuff). Warranty as in send something out and get it fixed, updates, and back w/in a week...even on holidays. You'll pay more for the hardware, but it's worth it.
- IBM's higher end laptops are good b/c those're geared towards the business types. In other words, they expect them to be shit on. They've got some G-force sensors on the hard drives to lift the head incase of the machine being dropped, etc. In terms of warranties, they're one of the few companies who after your 3 year warranty expires you can purchase another 3 years. That's a pretty damn incredible deal. The other plus is that when you get winbloze on it, it doesn't come with 40 million poorly written drivers.
The only problem w/IBM right now is that they recently (I think it went through) sold their entire PC division to a Chinese company. It's not as bad as you'd think though b/c they're the company that manufactures the machines anyway. It'll be interesting to see if they still stay geared towards business types and make a quality machine or not in the near future.
- Alienware is high quality stuff...but you pay the price for it. It's worth it if you're planning on going ape shit on the thing, taking it everywhere, etc.
- Dell sucks my ass. STAY AWAY FROM THE INSPIRON AND LATITUDE LINE! Dell's been trying to push their prices down and to keep the good specs, they've been making the casings out of exceptionally weak plastic and cheaper components. It's the ENTIRE inspiron and latitude line.
Dell makes what they label as their engineering laptop (I forget what exactly it's called) and to the best of my knowledge (and short searching time), they don't sell it or even list it on their website. You need to call and talk to them. It's made with a much higher quality casing and some additional features that shoudl be on all laptops. I mean, it's a laptop...if you don't put extra safety precautions on the thing b/c you know damn well you're going to travel w/it you should just expect it to break.
Stay away from:
Toshiba. Their hardware is good and they're one of the few places who'll put AMD chips in their machines (big names anyway). Their software, unfortunately, is horrible. They use Norton Ghost to clone their drives (like most places), except their stuff comes w/so many Toshiba written drivers that you might as well just give up. The drivers are poorly written. I've worked on about 15 Toshiba laptops in the last year or so and I think only one of them's not degraded in stability and speed over time. Not to mention, if one of those drivers/custom Toshiba software f's up, it's a real pain to get it to work again (I've had to completely redo a few machines b/c of this).
Dell Inspiron and Latitude (see above).
HP and Compaq. Same as the Inspiron/Latitudes...the cases are shit. I don't think HP or Compaq have ever put out a machine that I have any respect for. Everything they make (except for their servers) is relatively cheap and just comes w/a bunch of pretty, blue leds (man, those're cool to stare at).
I have some experience w/sony vaios. They're not bad and they're very well made. A friend of mine's had one for I don't know how many years and it's still kickin' strong.
Panasonic makes a very durable laptop, also. Toughbooks are cool and I've used them in some pretty hectic situations (think hanging under the ben franklin bridge, 100 feet in the air, 10 degrees, 40-60 mph wind gusts. See here...I was right on the other side of that first stone pillar. You definitely pay the extra price though. I don't know how they are over long periods of time. I think the ones that were mounted to the bridge were out there for for a little over a year through this winter and are still kicking strong.
2 billion dollars...sir, I'd handle my grandpa's balls for 2 billion dollars.