I looked hard at Alienware and Sager along with Hypersonic and got a CX7 about 2 months ago, and I am happy with my decision.
My config is about the same as what you have listed. Mine came just b4 the core 2 duos, so my processor is the core duo T2500. My graphics card is the 7900 GTX, not 7950 GTX.
I got the lower-res screen (1680 X 1050, wsxga) because I use a secondary monitor and the wuxga monitors are very hard to find and too expensive. By matching the resolution, it is much easier to extend my desktop without re-sizing anything. I prefer to do multi-tasking with many windows open, and between the 17-inch display and my 21-inch monitor, I can cut/paste and work in a lot of things at the same time. The quality of the wsxga display is superb, even though the usxga is better. You may want to consider doing the same with the kind of things you will be doing.
I got them to throw in the Koskin case for free, you might ask them if they can do that. I just got a second AC adapter to keep in my case and I highly recommend it - when I go to class, I just unplug and drop the CX7 in my case, no fooling with the cords and stuff.
I got 2 bluetooth mice, so I can keep one on my desk and one in the case for the same reason. Don't get a wireless mouse that needs a USB adapter, use bluetooth.
This notebook is huge and obviously heavier than smaller ones, but well worth the extra screen size and horsepower. I look at lugging it around campus as my exercise plan.
(if you're a wimp, get a smaller notebook
Most of the notebooks in class are either HP or Dell (80-90%), so I like having something different. Without using any power mizer settings (brightness, etc.), I get through a 1 1/2 hour class on battery power with 2-3 programs running, wireless internet, and bluetooth. Acceptable for a high-powered notebook with super graphics and everything running at full power. All my classrooms have enough places to plug in if needed and everyone shares outlets nicely. (if you want to last for hours, start compromising performance
It took about 3 weeks from ordering to UPS (ground) knocking on my door. I lost a few days because they sent it back for adjustments or something after testing.
I do not expect the sound to be on the same level as my surround-sound full stereo system. However, sound quality is great, level is plenty loud enough, and the Realtek Audio Manager has plenty of adjustments and good surround-ish effects. It sounds better than any other Notebook sound I've heard. It has digital audio out to hook up with your stereo system, and I got a set of Bluetooth headphones that also pair with my PDA phone. The built-in DJ controls are nice for playing music and stuff too.
Build quality is excellent, I have not found anything wrong and it has a solid feel.
As a parent of 2 college students besides being in graduate school myself, I say you go above and beyond in thanking your grandparents and parents for helping you out with this. Make them proud by doing good in school
. You're fortunate that they understand that a rinky-dink $800 notebook won't cut it.
I say hurry up and order it!