Dell just put out their latest on everything. They're currently trying to implement the whole new Intel line, and with AMD lagging, it looks like we're simply waiting on the mobile versions of the 45nm processors to be OEM-mobile ready at a big-profit margin for the OEM's like Dell to pick them up. What is holding that up is chipsets, though they work with the older one. Dell wants to hedge it's invesment, as usual, and is hoping that Intel can offer it someting better than the same chipsets in all their current lines. So it's plugging the Inspiron and new XPS lines and gambling on the Precision Pro's (m2400,m4400,m6400 -rocking machines) with the Quad-cores.
February might be the soonest you'd see a new Dell, and it will be a P&R priced thing so best skip it and get something anytime in the next 8 weeks. There is no crazy NEW technology, just the chipsets that either allow the new Intel quad and 45nm CPU's (lower voltage) or the older kind that don't support the latest 45nm CPU's. Graphics won't see anything new for over 6 months, unless ATI figures out how to get performance out of their totally-unsuitible for mobile PC's monster power hungry chunks of metal. And in that case, you'll see it for desktops months before it makes it to anything but THE HIGHEST and most expensive laptops. So again, Graphics won't give you anything new, especially in performance wise.
so it boils down to, IMHO...
1) Do you need a quad -45nm cpu for the work you do, and are you willing to pay the battery-life to have a quad (do you CAD work and video or3d pro rendering on your laptop?)...if you do, then paying the premium for this kind of gear and 16gb of ram is irrelevent, so upgrading the moment they make something isn't an issue (the software for this kind of work is about 10x the cost of the machines to run it)... So I'm guessing you don't need a Quad, but a core2duo will suffice, as it will for almost everyone... REMEMBER, right now NO ONE (that I know of, but I might be a bit behind!) is making anything in ~13" that can do a Quadcore, so CPU is almost irrelevent.
2) LCD's are hit and miss unless you can HOLD the machine BEFORE you buy, or are getting a premium line version, OR get a warranty that specifically allows you to return it if you're simply not happy with the quality of something like that. LCD might be THE THING for you to look at. After having handled a TON of notebooks in the last 12 years or so, I've found the BEST way for picky and particular gear-heads is simply to FIND SOME VERSIONS of the models you're interested in (try a wifi coffee house- most poeple will let you look at their machines for a minute or two if they know you're looking to buy one just like it- it worked for me)... See if you can see the LCD's in normal use and plugged in and as bright as they go and as dim, etc...for a refil or buying someone another latte, you get ALL the information you need on a system you're going to shelve a few grand out for...Totally worth it IMHO.
Mac's have in-person stores where you can litterally open up the machine, turn it on and look at the LCD and test it for an hour if necessary, before you buy. Depending on where you live, it might be a drive. Almost all the big cities have Mac stores now though.
Dell and HP you won't be so lucky. Not everyone has their line, let alone carries them in stock.
3) Solid State Srives. Blah. Too new. Too slow with small files (great for giant video files and wave files, etc). They're also too small still. I'm not a fan yet, but soon they will ROCK. Wait until the industry/technology has figured out how to solve the small-file access read/write times for SSD's...If it's dropping or HD crashes you're worried about, SSD's are no safer than a 12 month old HD with drive lock and a good warranty. Get a USB/Firewire/eSata backup (NAS?) and you can drop the machine all you want- Ghost your OS and keep your data on a 2nd partition and back up the 2nd partition.
If you're really savvy and want the SSD's for speed, simply do NOT use windows; install a free BSD/Linux OS (Ubuntu/Mandriva/LinuxMint, etc) and invest like $70 in something like Crossover Pro to play all the latest games and 3d Apps and have it run windows apps native- or use Virtual machines and install a windows OS in one of those. In a few more month's VMWare will probably have solved the 3d speed issues in their virtual machines and I think you can get their workstation for maybe under $200 USD... which means you could get a ROCKING Dell 1330 or precision m2400, load it up with memory and a decent CPU, get the screen you want, and a giant HD (remember again, 5400rpm vs 7200rpm is a big-file load-payoff/battery time and life degrade consequence, so only get the 7200 versions if you move huge files around, work with WAV's and VOB's and AVI's/etc, otherwise the 5400 is only a scond slower at most, unless you're a gamer- and then skip the 13" LCD and get 15" or bigger)...
the lower-powered video GPU's work faster with lower resolution screens. Meaning: try and drive a 1920x1200 with a Gf 8600 GT and you'll be in a WORLD of pain. The SAME video card though will rock a 12xxx800 13" LCD though. So you'll need a bit more research on that, as well as what you're going to USE the laptop for.
Off hand I'd say here's the difference between the two major choices
Dell: Cheaper, awesome warranty, proven LCD's, works with Linux and can run OSX stuff made for Macintel's (virtual machines). Easy to buy, great "certified as new" in their refurb sections- so a 1330 which will still rock for another 2 years, if you get the nice LCD and GPU, will really be a decent invesment.
Apple: Awesome plugs (magnetic cords/usb/firewire, etc) for periferals, not so hot gear inside unless you're running OSX or Linux- and apps for Apple are a FORTUNE. Cons- a lot. You CAN upgrade almost everything (memory, cpu, HD's) but you're stuck with a Mac. Mac is nice for n00bs and people who like OSX, and rock for Linux. For windows users, you're a bit stuffed unless you invest in something like Crossover Pro (better than bootcamp) or Virtualization for windows apps- which hasn't been perfected.
So to REALLY help us,
..WHAT DO YOU WANT TO USE IT FOR?
What apps and tasks do you intend the machine for?