Personally I have issues with HP as a brand for sheer dullness.
Gateway is owned by Acer, I think, and Acer is getting a lot of stick for poor quality at the moment.
Sony are expensive and slick looking but have had quality and support issues.
Samsung seem to be on a roll right across their product range.
Asus, not to be confused with Acer, seem okay.
Toshiba, would probably be a safe choice.
Lenovo have inherited IBM's laptop range which were outstandingly well built.
Dell seem pretty good.
Although you will have people giving you firm views on what good and what's not, the truth is all these brands offer a range of laptops -- your best bet is to decide on a target price, read reviews on performance then look at the products in a showroom, check the keyboard feel, screen quality/size, general construction. And obviously, weigh these against price.