I am no expert on the latest /greatest notebook but would like to just suggest in general you pick out some notebooks with good hardware like dual processors,
lots of ram, Firewire port as well as a few USBs and consider that you can get a
huge hard drive to add at home via USB so you may not need the biggest drive
for all your needs in the notebook and thus save some money on the initial purchase.
Most important for me is what you are wisely doing now....getting advice. I get
the brand and model number of whatever notebook looks interesting and then
search sites like CNet and others who do pretty decent reviews. That will make
you much more comfortable when it comes time to shell out so many many coins !
good luck ( och helsa pa ! )
The VAIO CW is great, But going by your needs, the VAIO Z, or the VAIO SR are much better.
Would you care to explain why yu don't want a Mac? Believe me, I didn't like them either. But my friend convinced me to buy one. As a student, it was the best laptop decision of my life. And I own 5 modern laptops.
But if you feel the need to shun a laptop because you don't know it, I recommend the VAIO's Maziar and I mentioned. I like the VAIO CW as I won it and it is quite nice to have for the price. A little chubby, though.