Count the number of people who've posted about their problems about their Dell. What did you come up with...15, 20, maybe 25? Considering that Dell sells thousands of noteooks every week, that ain't exactly a track record of miserable failure. I'm also quite confident that the overwhelming majority of satisfied Dell notebook owners would rather spend their time working/playing on their notebooks than posting messages on internet boards.
When you get right down to it, you can only speak from your own experience. My 8600 has been near perfect for me in the few weeks I've owned it. That's not the result of rose-colored glasses...it's from spending days testing my 8600's gaming, application, graphics, multimedia capabilities. I'm the one working and playing on my 8600. I'm not captive to the opinions of others when it comes to deciding on which computer to buy. I had no trouble with my screen, besides the bottom illumination, and only got the replacement because the Samsung is a better screen. The Samsung that Dell sent didn't cut it, so I'm sending it back and awaiting another...all on Dell's shipping tab. If my 8600 were nothing but a useless pile of circuits and plastic, I'd have returned it within the first few days, period.
You expressed perfect bliss with your ABS notebook, save for its battery life. Here's an idea...buy a couple of extra batteries and spare yourself the hell of dealing with Dell. Another suggestion...you could actually go through with your purchase, see how the notebook performs for you, and take 30-days to decide whether to keep or return it. Or, you can continue to wring your hands in fear and despair over whether a Dell notebook is going to plague your life from the moment UPS drops it on your doorstep.