I know more-or-less exactly what I want, but what brands should I look at? (No Mac suggestions please!)
I've looked around at laptop ratings, but they're almost always different. The only ones I've seen consistently at the top are Toshiba and Alienware. I've had a Dell most of my life without complaint though. I have an ASUS now and am not too impressed by it.
What brands do you recommend (or recommend to avoid!)?