I’ve spend a deal of time in a computer repair shop and currently work in IT. I’ve seen a LOT of laptops. IMO, and in no order, the best models I’ve seen are made by Sony, Dell, Fujitsu and Toshiba.
The worse are Compaq, HP and Gateway. I wouldn’t even consider these companies as players in the laptop field. They make low level problematic crap.
There are a few other laptop players like Averatec or generics like Enpower. I’ve not had hands on with these brands but I’d not buy one myself for the reason of getting replacement parts in the future. Try finding a battery for a 2 year old Enpower.
I have mixed feeling about the IBM notebooks. Half I’ve seen had some major problems, the other half seemed ok. I’ll let others with more time behind IBM’s speak to those.
I’ve owned various models of Sony, Fujitsu, Dell and Toshiba. My first Toshiba had a battery overheat problem and battery life went from a few hours to about 20 minutes (fully changed) in about 4 weeks. I was lucky I could return it. If I recall Toshiba owned up to this and replaced batteries for users (so I wouldn’t have been screwed if I held onto the machine)
In my office I support about 25+ Dell laptops of various models and have two different models which I use myself. My personal laptop is a Toshiba R15 tablet. Both the Dell laptops and my Toshiba have taken some amount of abuse and continue to run just fine.
While I like Toshiba, they do install a fair amount of software crap in their machines. Little bullshit utilites and services no one needs. If you go this route plan on doing yourself a favour and spend a few hours deleting stuff.
Panasonic makes The Toughbook which I’ve not spent a ton of time behind - but the time I have spent I was impressed.
I’m sorry I don’t know which video cards most of these use. It seems today most notebooks I run across use Intel and ATI chipsets. Dell’s new fancy line (the XPS) uses nvidia. We’ve a couple of those at work and they’re neat machines but they’ve both had problems (one had a dead hard drive and the other had a motherboard replaced).