Well, we found that DELL notebooks are some of the better ones when it comes to reliability and service at the moment. Especially the Precision range. The XPS 13 is a very well built machine (and is one of the 2 reliable ultrabooks that we have found, the other is the Samsung series 9).
I have the Precision M4700, and for a 15.6" "workstation" it is pretty impressive how well this thing is designed & built.
I got a "cheap" Inspiron 15se for a friend, whom needed an affordable laptop that can game, etc... even though it is built using mostly plastic, it feels solid, and doesn't have any operating issues. Actually, I'm very impressed with it.
Dells Precision, New Alienwares, new XPS'es and Inspiron ranges (yes, the more expensive ones) are actually pretty decent.
I would rather see 16:10 (1920x1200) rather than 16:9 (1920x1080).
Else the specs looks kind of nice.
But how is the build quality?
From the picture, it looks kind of plastic and tacky.
I treat mine pretty crappy, tossing it in a full backpack for class, throwing said backpack down on the desks, tossing it on my bed or slamming the lid closed and running out the door at a moments notice and I've had very few problems.
The screen is gorilla glass so it can take a beating. Things that would've DESTROYED my old laptop's screen only created small whitespots on here right where the impact was. (They're annoying to look at, but they dont affect usability at all). The edges of the aluminium top have a few scratches or chips right at the very edge, probably where I shoved it in my backpack and when I threw my backpack down it struck THAT corner specifically.
THe trackpad...could be better. I hate the trackpad quite honestly, I've got it running Arch Linux with 3.8rc6 with the Sputnik kernel's diffs (courtesty of the AUR) and palm rejection is basically non-existant. Touchpad is Cypress instead of Synaptic so linux support is..meh
Thermal venting could be a lot better under Linux... The only vents are on the bottom and right at the monitor hinge. So if you have this on your lap and you're doing something htat makes the CPU/GPU kick up to where the fans can be heard and your lap is blocking or partially blocking the vents, you may get the BIOS killing all power to save the CPU from burning up. (Its happened a few times until I figured out why)
Keyboard is great, all ports and hardware devices work just fine under Linux. Battery life could be a bit better though quite honestly... I can pull 3-4hrs on Linux (general use), under Win7 I was pulling 5hrs or so I think.
If you don't want to be fucking around with patching and compiling your own kernels though you HAVE TO run Ubuntu or Arch. (I dont think even Gentoo has a kernel package...) Ubuntu has the default Sputnik kernel in the LTS releases. Arch has an AUR package which is latest rc of development kernel + the appropriate patch diff's from the Sputnik kernel release. No other distros has a package available for this laptop and you DO have to have them because atleast in the original model they fucked up the CPU/GPU hookup to where the backlight is really screwed up.
The backlight on the laptop doesn't hook into the right parameters of the i915 module, and if you adjust it by hand (with the default kernel) you get strobe-lighting from 0 brightness to 50% brightness, and pulsesating brightness from 50% to 90%. 90% brightness to 100% brightness works fine.
Unfortunately the changes to FIX the backlight issues break all other intel cards so until they come up with a proper fix you're either using a kernel that supports THIS laptop, or a kernel that supports OTHER laptops.
Or they wouldn't be selling their cheapest line of h/w for > $1500. Normally inspirons start under $400. Lately, they must be under increasing pressure to bring in the chips for their overlord (intel).
This is expensive relative to larger non-ultrabook laptops, but this price is in line with competing ultrabooks from ASUS, Apple, and the rest.
For an Ubuntu laptop, this is what I would buy if I was buying today. The quesiton is: when will Haswell models start shipping?
Also the trackpad on the MacBooks are said to be superior to the trackpads on other laptops.
On the downside you get a ugly Apple logo that lights up and a device that looks exactly like every other laptop around you. :p