You'll get many different opinions. Some say that they have never had a problem with their HP laptop, while others will say that they had nothing but trouble. I fall into the latter group, as I went through 3 HP/Compaq laptops in a period of three years. If you do go for it though, get an extended warranty.
Reliability is really luck of the draw. There are as many people who love them as there are who hate them.
More importantly, i find their build quality terrible. Since i switched to Mac's, comparing the current unibody Macbook pro, the build on just about anything else seems 3rd rate.
Years ago i was just looking at specs. The bigger the better. These days its gotta be comfortable and easy to work on. There is little point having a core i9, 12Gb, 1Tb, and the latest gfx if i only get 3 hours battery life and its annoying as hell to use.
My current 13" mbp gives 8 hours actual wireless productivity, the trackpad is big and easy to use (i actually like it better than my mouse), the screen is bright and clear, and it doesn't creak and groan when i pick it up by a corner or accidentally sit on it. Most importantly for travelling... the charger is SMALL!!!!