opensuse 12.1/x86_64 + fglrx 12.8 + AMD Radeon HD 7650M = success
Thought I'd share some good news.
Just bought a new Sony VAIO E17 17.3" laptop (http://www.sony.co.uk/product/vn-e-series/sve1711x1e). Ivy Bridge quad core i7 cpu, 8 Gb RAM, AMD Radeon HD 7650M video card, backlit keyboard. The new laptop is replacing my old Dell Studio 1747 that went to my parents (along with Windows 7 on a new Samsung SSD).
It was with some trepidation that I got the hdd from the old Dell Studio 1747 with openSUSE 12.1/x86_64 and inserted it into the Vaio. Booted into runlevel 3, did a full update via zypper (including the latest 12.8 catalyst driver from http://linux.ioda.net/mirror/ati/openSUSE_12.1/), rebooted and switched to runlevel 5. To my great relief, KDE 4.8 started without a single glitch. Everything works, including keyboard backlight and function keys such as volume control, etc. There was no need to edit any config files, or reconfigure anything via Yast, or re-run aticonfig. It seems that Sony simply disabled switchable graphics in this model, and thus the catalyst driver has no problems detecting and using the discrete video card. The fans are barely audible, and in fact seem quieter than on the old Dell Studio laptop.
The only minor glitch I have discovered so far is the well known issue with the r8169 kernel driver for the Realtek RTL8111/8168B gigabit adapter described here SDB:Realtek 8169 driver problem - openSUSE along with 3 workarounds. This issue seems to reappear on many other laptops using this network adapter across all linux distros. If you choose to use wifi instead of wired ethernet, then this is not an issue.
So if anyone's still looking for a modern desktop replacement laptop to run openSUSE on, I highly recommend the Sony Vaio E series 17.