I got a laptop the other day. I looked around a lot and decided just to get a Dell in the end, because I didn't know where else to turn. You can't really build your own laptop, sadly, so you have to go with someone. I have a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that Dell sucks, and a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting they don't. I didn't have a real preference to I went with Dell because the price was OK. Dell also got this thing to me two days early, so maybe their service isn't universally as bad as I often hear. The fact that they support Linux to some degree also gives me a tiny nudge to support the company.
I got a Vostro 1500, Core 2 Duo with 2GB of RAM and a 120GB HD. The nice thing is the screen, which is 15.4 inches but still somehow 1680x1050. It's so tiny I can barely read any of the text it displays, which is great. It's extremely bright as well, though it does have some light leaking in at the bottom and at one point on the right. But it's very nice. Sadly, to my eternal grief, I had to get Vista Business edition and not Linux because I need some things in Vista for work, and this laptop is primarily for work. So this is the first time I've had to use Vista. It's not as bad as I thought it would be. It does look better than XP, for some value of "better". Things like control panel settings are all moved around and hidden in stupid places for no reason. The performance is fairly sluggish, and some of the fancy window effects stutter a bit in spite of what I thought should've been a fairly decent nvidia card, but such is life. The hard drive is only 5400 RPM but the machine still performs pretty well so far other than that. I also hit a bug where it wouldn't let me delete some crap out of the start menu in spite of being an admin, which is so incredibly frustrating I want to punch someone in the face. But only for a minute or two.
The Vostro is a "small business" laptop as opposed to a "home and home office" laptop. Small business is the way to go when you're getting a Dell, it seems. For one thing, it comes with no crap-ware installed. I even got to opt out of the free trial of Norton Anti-Virus, which I most definitely didn't want anywhere near me. There were no stupid AOL free trials or MSN subscription links or anything. You could even opt out of many of the Dell built-in software. Some Dell stuff did end up getting installed without asking me about it, like some webcam program and some multimedia mode. But by and large compared to most commercial computers, I actually didn't have to spend 2 hours uninstalling crap when I first turned the machine on. (On the subject of that media program, it apparently takes up its own partition on your HD, and runs some form of Linux, so that you can use the laptop as a media player without booting Windows. Not sure how that works and I may remove it.)
The look of the laptop is also nice. It's matte black with silver trim and blue LEDs, and it's very minimalistic, as you may expect from a "business" computer. It does have multimedia buttons, but they're not located with the keyboard, they're on the front-facing edge, which is nice so that I can ignore them. Beyond that there are very few frills, which I like.
One downside of this thing is the weight; it weighs an absolute ton. Probably 2-3 times as much as my sister's year-old Gateway. But I'm not so feeble that I care. I'm also worried about the battery life, but I got the upgraded 85 WHr battery and the gauge says it lasts 6 hours, so we'll see. It only has four USB ports, but maybe that's standard for laptops? This is my first, so I don't know.
In any case, so far so good, but the real test will be how long this thing lasts and how much I like it a few months from now.