There's not a laptop available today (that I can find) that isn't widescreen (16:10 or 16:9), so 1600x900 would probably be good, if 1920x1080 is too costly.
Here's a nice 15.6" screen for $1,034.99 from MicroCenter (there are a few in Cali).http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0355921
ASUS ROG G53Sw-XR1 Laptop Computer Black
2nd generation Intel® Core™ i7-2630QM
640GB 5,400RPM Hard Drive
15.6" Full HD LED-backlit Display
SuperMulti DVD Drive
8-in-1 Media Card Reader
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 460M 1.5GB dedicated
I've played with the display model in the store, and it's a fast machine that looks good, and from all the reviews I've read, keeps cool even while gaming (notice the huge vents in the back). It has the HD screen at 1920x1080.
They have a 17.3" version also, but that's over your $1200 limit. http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0366053
That one has a 3GB dedicated video memory and as most 17", room for two HD's. But that one would last you quite a while also, they actually both would.