Dear readers, I seek your collective wisdom, as I suspect that many of you know quite a bit about this topic:
I am getting a laptop. I need your advice.
Parameters of usage:
This will be my primary machine away from my desk at UT. My existing desktop is having heat and stability issues.
I will probably dock it during extended home use and use my existing display, keyboard, etc.
I have at this point given up most computer gaming. Unless something truly amazing is due to come out in the non-console world within the next 6-12 months, this does not need to be a gaming rig.
Minimize physical harm. Eyestrain, wrist and arm strain, back problems, etc. Excessive weight might be an issue for carrying, but I really don't know what's reasonable. As this is my first laptop, I have no idea what the typical laptop usage experience is like.
Minimize psychological harm. I am looking for high reliability and extremely good technical support. I want unconditional no-extra-cost maintenance for a minimum of 3 years, and am willing to pay a significant premium for it. This is probably where I need the most data; I'm sure many of you have had bad laptop experiences (indeed, you've even posted a few on livejournal), so I'm looking for a good picture of what to avoid.
Minimize financial harm. I have a good amount of money to work with (wrapped a new small loan into an ongoing student loan consolidation to cover this), but I would prefer not to exceed $2000 without a compelling reason.
Maximize compatibility. If it isn't a Mac, I'll dual boot Vista/Ubuntu. If it is a Mac, I need some reassurance that I'll still be able to run my stuff.
Maximize performance. I can do long-running, compute-intensive tasks on the UT machines, so raw runtime is not my primary concern. The more important issue is whether low performance will impact my ability to work. "Will Eclipse
run smoothly with Firefox open and an MP3 player running?" is probably a good acid test.
Other needs: Internal wireless with good reception. Substantial battery life (again, I have no idea what's reasonable here). DVD write capability would be nice.
And thank you! This is new and mildly intimidating territory for me, so I appreciate your guidance.
Update: Looks like I'm going to get a Macbook Pro, 15" model, 2.16GHz core 2 duo, upgrade to 2GB ram, with 3 years AppleCare. After tax, even with student discount, it's still $2375, which is a serious kick in the $$$. But it seems to be worth the price. Now I just have to wait for my loan check to deposit, which will ideally happen by tomorrow. I'm also waiting to see if they have any Black Friday sales; apple.com claims that Something Good will happen, but they're awfully quiet about the specifics.