EarlierI mused a bit about when and why it makes sense to upgrade to a new laptop. One note I forgot to add is that I use a desktop at work in addition to the laptop (mainly for dev work) and another desktop at home for personal email/finance. So it's not like I'm a one machine guy, nor am I a real road warrior.
After some thought without any astonishing revelations, I purchased a Dell E6500. Dell because we like Dell and get a small discount for a sole source vendor, but also just because I'm used to them. It's a 15" display, 4G ram, 256MB video card with the XP downgrade. Battery life is reported at 4 hours, twice my old battery, but have not tested fully to see (using an ATT 3G aircard definitely burns a lot of extra power). It's got the webcam and 64G solid state drive, but also a bunch of little improvements that are nice. The power converter is lighter than the old one and has an LED at the plug end so you can visually see that it's actually plugged into a live outlet. There's an option to backlight the keyboard. Security is definitely prominent, with an option to password protect the drive at boot - and if you call Dell to reset it the drive is wiped (though I'm not clear on whether its a full wipe or only the directory info). It's a got a fingerprint scanner which I haven't mastered yet. You have to drag your finger across it and it's fussy about the speed, seems like a better design would to hold your finger still and have it scan. Still, I like the biometric option, you can use it configured as password OR biometric, or move to two factor login where it required password AND biometric. They also have a new dock design that's not that much different than the old one. I'm a fan of docks because I use two monitors and mainly work in the office, saves time plugging and unplugging.
So, nice features, but it's still a toaster. I won't be waxing it on weekends or wearing white gloves to handle it. If it breaks, I've got the two year warranty and I'm guessing in 2 years I'll probably upgrade again, perhaps to a new and mightier OS. Worth it? It was just over $2k with the SSD, so just under $100 a month for the expected 2 year life. That doesn't seem horrible given that I also pay $60 a month for wireless access. That said, I'm not opposed to seeing the price drop before I buy again!