Sony Vaio FW
The model is a customization of their FW series, which is the 16.4". Apparently they don't have a 17" anymore -- the AW series is a giant 18.4", and 8.2 lb. I think they have to distinguish one line from another so they don't compete against themselves. I'm very happy with it for now -- this is my "mini-review" on the Sony forum:http://www.notebookforums.com/thread227118.html
It seems fast to me, even though I haven't disabled the Vista annoyances yet. The 4 GB RAM and 7200 rpm HD must help there. I'm sure there are others here who could make a better assessment, but I would go with at least 3 GB RAM. I can't really say if the 2.4 GHZ vs 2.0 GHZ processors differ that much for your needs. I found this model at a Best Buy before I bought on-line, so I got to actually see what the screen was like (excellent), and keyboard (I like the separated keys), and touchpad (not quite so much but OK). All 3 USB ports are on the right, towards the front, so that they can interfere with right-handed mouse work. It's also noticeably lighter than my old HP 17". But because the entire unit is almost a full inch wider, side to side, it only barely fits into the bag that I used for my HP. Feel free to inbox me if you have other questions.
One thing that turned me away from Toshiba was the lack of a higher resolution screen than WXGA in this price range. One thing I didn't like about the HP dv5tse and dv6z was the shiny keyboard and touchpad (I had also seen the dv5tse at Best Buy).
As I side note, I was impressed with the staff at Best Buy -- even though I told them I was certainly buying direct from Sony or HP, they still answered my questions and were polite, even grabbing a DVD to test out the video capability. This is in contrast to the Sony Style store that I visited, where I couldn't get attention from the sales staff even though the store wasn't very busy, and when I did, the guy acted like I was distracting him from his cell call. The best help I got from Sony was the on-line chat sessions that you can have with their staff.