Well I just purchased a Samsung 172X and I love it. It's great for gaming and you might want to check the boards because there have a few personal reviews and some site links to give you a better idea on how it performs. And as far as text size goes at that resolution mine was fine, I did however change the DPI setting in windows which makes all the text bigger and it was very easy to read. However as far as games I wouldn't think it would be a big problem but the only game i've played on it so far is UT2004.
I find that with my iiyama AS4612 in a non native res is a little blury. At its normal 1280*1024 its is fine. As for the font size, thats just prefrence. I have no problems with it at this size but if your eyesight is not as good or you sit further from the screen than I do (which is about 75-85cm) then you could have difficulty.
As for screen size always go for the biggest you can realisticly afford. If you can get the 19 go for it. Dont forget you will be looking at this for 2 or more years.
On a side note you could have a duel screen setup with the old Nokia before it dies. (this is im my view the BEST performance upgrade you can get for a pc as you dont switch windows nearly as much and so, I find at least, you can work faster.)
Thanks for all of the advice. I'm glad to hear that 17" @ 1280x1024 doesn't make things uncomfortably tiny. I have good eyesight and sit at a normal distance so I shouldn't have much of a problem.
Definitely going to go for the 17" though. Since the resolution doesn't seem to shrink everything to much, I just can't justify the extra $245. Money doesn't grow on trees in my backyard unfortunately.
And I like the multiple display idea, but have limited desktop space and I already have a 4-port monitor switch.