Replacement for my crippled Asus Z96J

Hi everyone,

I'm looking to replace my Asus Z96J, which I bought three years ago and has been slowly falling apart ever since. At this point, there are weird horizontal lines that run up and down the screen, the left-click button doesn't work, the battery is dead, the CD/DVD drive is dead, it runs so hot under load that I sometimes seriously fear it will catch on fire, and - worst of all - the tab key is gone. If it wasn't for that, it'd be great, so I'd like to get something similar, but whereas this cost $1600 three years ago, I'm limited at this point by whether or not the place I buy from offers interest-free financing. Pretty much, I'm living paycheck to paycheck, but I work from home so I need to get something before the Asus conks out completely.

I used to be pretty knowledgeable about computer hardware but in the past few years I haven't kept up with developments at all. So, I really have no idea where to start and am a little overwhelmed. So, here are the details - and thank you so, so much ahead of time for reading all of this and for any help y'all can offer.

From the FAQ:

1. Budget: About $1000, but realistically, I can't get anything at all if I can't buy something that offers financing.

2. Screen size: Right now I have a 15.5" screen and that's about what I'd like to get again.

3. Screen resolution: Currently I have 1680x1050, and that'd be nice to keep, but I don't think with my budget that that's likely. So, not terribly worse, I suppose, but this is flexible.

4. Portable or desktop replacement: In between. I've been carrying around this 7 pound thing for three years and it's been fine, so I'm thinking 5-6 pounds would still be fine.

5. Battery life: Doesn't matter.

6. Games: I do, but this is also flexible, because it's very much an aspirational thing - I haven't played games for a couple of years since I started working, so I don't even know much about what's out there. Just something I'd like to get back into.

7. Other tasks: Mostly, I want to use this for watching movies, since it'll be my DVD player replacement. Also need to be able to burn DVDs, use it for mid-level Photoshop work (from photo editing to tablet drawing, etc), and a lot of web work.

8. Storage amount: Not really important.

9. Right now I'm most strongly considering the Sony Vaio VPCEB190X customized with ATI HD 5470 and an i5-520M 2.40GHz. It would be $1000 including tax and, most importantly, offers financing for $30 a month - I'm not sure what other places offer financing like that, which is why it's my #1 at the moment. But I certainly have no loyalties to Sony.

10. How long do I want it to last: I got a sorry three years out of this thing, so it'd be nice to have at least that.

11. Optical drive: CD/DVD burner.

12. I have no brand preference, but I want to stay away from Asus (this thing just fell right apart), Apple (cannot stand these things), and Dell (I'm sure their reputation hasn't improved since the last time I checked).

13. Country: USA.

14. Additional info: The one other thing I want is to make sure it has a VGA output, which I mention because I'm not sure if that's such an old concept that some laptops might not even have it anymore.

Thank you!

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