i also am a fan of the dell laptop! my 'personal' laptop is a huge dell with a great screen and i LOVE IT! my work laptop is an IBM ThinkPad - it's good too, but i love my dell
also, software for a Microsoft OS is usually cheaper than MAC software (unless you are talking crazy adobe illustrator or something!) and you can even use products like OpenOffice
instead of paying for full Microsoft office
these days you will most likely be able to order vista - go for Ultimate AND extra memory and the higher end video. not so much because you need them today, but because you probably don't want to buy another laptop in 2 years and if you buy a little higher end now you can avoid that (swapping out parts like video cards on a laptop is cost prohibitive if possible at all)...
but then I am a little bit of a computer geek