Today my laptop died.
It was a Dell Inspiron 5150. I was going along, all nice and happy, when I suddenly noticed the computer was running off of battery power while plugged in. I fiddled with the plug; nothing. I suddenly realised that, with the charge left on the battery, I had 45 minutes left to use my laptop, ever. Luckily, I have a desktop computer handy, to which I quickly copied all of the various files I cared about on the laptop. Then I spent my last half-hour with my laptop researching the problem.
The Inspiron 5150, new, was $1500. I bought it 19 months ago, with a 1-year warranty. Some quick Google searches revealed this model tends to fail after 12-18 months. It seems the motherboard is simply poorly designed, and quite a lot of people have had theirs fail, a number in exactly the same way as mine.
I am now the proud owner of a useless piece of plastic. It seems that Dell will fix it for $700 ($500 for the part, $200 for labor and shipping). This is easily the price of a new laptop. (At the time I got it, it was to be my primary gaming computer. It can run WoW, C&C: Generals, and the like. I have since upgraded to a more powerful and cheap gaming desktop. My needs for a laptop are now largely just portable websurfing, document editing, and video watching, with the occasional low-end 2D gaming.) All in all, I am left unsatisfied with Dell. I do plan on writing them a scathing letter (a strategy that once got me a free repair on a broken-ass Sony Discman), but I am not exactly optimistic on that front. (A $700 repair is more than a stupid $30 CD player.)
So, once I have the $500 or so to blow on a new low-end laptop, I am looking at other brands. The current brands that I am thinking of are IBM, Toshiba, and (interestingly) Apple. The last of these, I believe, does not offer a laptop in the $500 range, but it is still an option I am looking at. (I have never owned a Mac in my life, but I like the BSD thing.)