whilst i find the practices of apple absolutely deplorable - forcing people to sign up for an ID in order to use hardware products that they have paid for, taking so much information that even *banks* won't work with them - bizarrely the amount of money that people pay them is sufficient for apple to spend considerable resources on high-quality components and design.
i have bought a stack of laptops in the past (and always installed Debian on them - see http://lkcl.net/reports/) and have found them to be okay, but always within 2 to 3 years they are showing their age or in some cases completely falling apart. the 2nd Acer TravelMate C112 i bought i actually wore a hole through the left shift key with my fingernail after 2 years of use. hard drives died, screen backlights failed, an HP laptop had such bad design on the power socket that it shorted out one day and almost caught fire. i had to scramble for a good few seconds to pull the battery out, smoke pouring out of the machine as the PMICs glowed.
about 6 years ago my partner had the opportunity to buy both an 18in and a 24in iMac at discounted prices. i immediately installed Debian on it: it took 4 days because grub2-efi was highly undocumented and experimental at the time. so i had a huge 1920x1200 24in screen (which over the next few years actually damaged my eyes because i was too close: my eyesight is now "prism" - i've documented this here on slashdot in the past), a lovely dual-core XEON, 2gb of RAM and it was *quiet*. there is a huge heatsink in the back, and the design uses passive cooling (vertical air convection).
awesome... except not very portable. and no spying or registration of confidential data with some arbitrary company that you *KNOW* is providing your details to the NSA, otherwise there's this conversation which begins "y'know it's *real* hard to get that export license for your products, if you know what i mean, mr CEO".
so, when i moved to holland i had to leave the 24in iMac behind - apart from anything, 2gb of RAM was just not enough. i leave firefox open for 4-7 days (basically until it crashes), opening over 150 sometimes even as many as 250 tabs in a single window. it gets to about 4gb of RAM and starts to become a problem: that's when i kill it. on the iMac, it was consuming most of the resident RAM. i compile programs: 2gb of RAM is barely enough for the linker phase of applications like webkit (which requires 1.6gb of RESIDENT memory in order to complete within a reasonable amount of time). i run VMs with OSes for study.
so i was used to the 1900x1200 screen now, where i could get *five* xterms across a single window. i run fvwm2 with a 6x4 virtual screen, and run over 30 xterms in different places, 3 different web browsers; as i am now developing hardware i run CAD programs in one fvwm2 virtual screen, PDFs in the ones next to it, i run Blender in one virtual screen, OpenSCAD in another, firefox in another, chromium in yet another, then i have to view and manage client machines so i use rdesktop to connect to those (move over to a free virtual window area to do it) - the list goes on and on.
so i figured, "hmmm laptop... but with good screen. must have lots of RAM too, minimum 8gb, must have decent processor". i then began investigating, and found the Lenovo Ideapad. great! let's buy it! .... except their web site crashed. so i then - reluctantly - began investigating iMac laptops. 2560x1600 LCD, 8gb of RAM, dual-core dual-threaded processor: $USD 1500 and *in the UK*, with a U.S. keyboard so nobody was buying it. researched it, saw the success reports of people installing debian on it, knew it could be done: sold, instantly.
so now i am extremely happy with this machine - not with apple themselves - but with the hardware that i have. it's light, it's fast, it's a sturdy aluminum case, the fan only comes on if i swish large OpenSCAD models around in 3D (or if firefox gets overbloated as usual).
the only downsides i've had are as follows:
* despite having an intel graphics chipset, it's so new that video playback is not supported. i had to set VLC to use "OpenGL" as the playback option, installing the accelerated opengl drivers (which worked)
* there is a problem with power in the EU - it's not properly earthed. this results in *massive* EM interference that spikes the SSD controller, causing hard resets once a second. those cause an entry to be written to /var/log/syslog, which then causes another failure, which results in another entry and so on. to solve this i had to follow the majority of the read-only rootfs instructions normally reserved for embedded systems: move *everything* out of /var/log into a tmpfs. i hacked it into /etc/rc.local which is not recommended but does the job
* the powerbutton by default causes a power-off, i often press it accidentally and haven't worked out how to disable it.
* the camera is a proprietary PCIe device from broadcom that has not yet been reverse-engineered
* EMI power spikes often cause the wireless to be a bit flakey as well (understandably). solved by putting in a high-power linksys router and backing it down to 802.11b.
the 2560x1600 screen however is absolutely fantastic. i can now get *TEN* 80x50 xterms on a single screen. i am currently running firefox at 1600x1300 in one window and have room for *FOUR* xterms to the left of it. i have all the multimedia-related applications (alsamixer, qjackctl, VoIP) on their own dedicated virtual screen, whereas before they had to be spread out across at least two.
and the funny thing is that even with the tiny font size, i am not straining to look at it. i got used to it within about 4 hours.
so, this is the machine i will stick with for at least the next 5 years. i simply won't need to buy another unless i start doing something radically different.