just to chime in:
I've had nothing but HP laptops for about the past ten years. Yes, the one i bought 4 years ago was very different from the one i bought last year. Brand loyalty is a disease, but I've been very satisfied with HP, and will continue to buy them, until proven otherwise.
Every major PC manufacturer has awful tech support to some degree or another. My definition of 'awful' is pretty open-ended, but i haven't had good computer tech support since the IBM i bought in 1996. And so does everything else - my cell phone company, my power company, cable/ISP people, everything that has sales on par with HP has reasonably bad tech support, and the majority of them only stand behind their product to a certain point once its paid for. This is true because people aren't raising nearly enough hell about it.
I've had so many HPs because i ABUSE my laptops - i carry them everywhere, to stupid places where laptops have no business. I'm i pilot - i travel a lot and i need ("need") to be able to connect and compute. I dirty them, drop them, punch them, get them rained on, they get bounced around in turbulence and the occasional terrible landing (incidentally, i'm not an airline pilot)and so on and so forth. and they take it, in stride.. for the most part. all the lappy's i've had, i've killed (except the one that got stolen, which is what this will be replacing....bastards) and i'll freely admit i overdid it.
For what its worth. I like HP lappys. I've bought many of them, and have recommended them to many people, most of whom took me up on it. I may be off on this part but - the HP laptop i bought in '01 had media buttons (play and so forth) on the chassis, none of the others around then did. now the all do. HPs had remotes in the PCI slot before anyone else that i noticed, HP has those nifty little touchy buttons now (that don't do anythign but look cool... but they look damn cool) and now more manufacturers have them.
Just putting it out there for folks that don't know any better. Just like anything else, there are bashers and promoters. The thread needed a recent post from the latter.