For the love of god, do not buy a mac - you're spending double for the same hardware. Not to mention they're uncool. Unless of course you're a girl, and can't be reasoned with.As for acers, they are inexpensive, but eh.http://shop.lenovo.com/us/landing_pages/sales/ecoupon - an R should do for the long haul.and notebookforums sucks - http://forum.notebookreview.com is where it's at
Never ask for advice about buying a computer on a forum this big. Eventually you will get one horror story about every brand of computer made.Set a budget, go to a store with lots of different types and brands, and look at all of them. And consider all the possible options like a convertible tablet or maybe a desktop for home and a netbook.
Definitely check out academic discounts, prowl online for coupons. Just google "dell coupons" or something. I got my new XPS M1330 with 4 year complete warranty and the top of the line everything for $1400 because I found a 25% coupon online. It was the same price offered by my school bookstore with the academic coupon except with better configuration. (Not to mention mine is a ProductRED, not the boring black on they carry.)