Soliciting a Linux Laptop Recommendation
(Disclaimer: I apologize ahead of time, because I know Linux laptop compatibility is widely documented, so this smacks a bit of "I didn't do my research". However, when searching for an answer to this question I've been overwhelmed. There's information overload when visiting sites like linux-laptop.net. I'm looking more for specific direction, based on people's personal experiences...e.g. "I bought this laptop and it worked great.")
I've been using Slackware for about 10 years, but as of about 6 years ago I switched to Mac OS as my primary laptop, with Slackware being relegated to server boxes and a media box connected to my TV.
I'm now curious to buy a new Laptop on which to run Slackware 14 (and beyond). I'd like to toy around with Linux development and get a sense for the state of the OS, as well as perhaps contribute to KDE or build some toy apps. I've toyed with VMWare and Parallels some, but the experience is just not the same as living on a dedicated Slackware machine. I'm also concerned about the security of both Mac OS and Windows and would like to own a system that I'm comfortable is reasonably unbreakable. Finally, my Mac laptop is company-provided, and I'd like to have a machine that's clearly my own, with my own data (strongly encrypted via peer-reviewed code, as opposed to something like FileVault).
I know there are a plethora of Ubuntu-preloaded vendors like System76. I've considered going that route if I need to, but it seems like there might be cheaper / cooler options if I buy something more generic.
Key things I'm looking for:
(1) Relatively low cost ($1000 at most). Compiling is likely to be the most intensive thing I'll do. I'm not interested in crazy graphics support. It'd be nice to be able to toy around with games, but that's not required.
(2) I'd like a system that will work "out of the box." I don't want to have to round up a bunch of 3rd party, potentially binary-only drivers, in order to get basic things like wireless networking working (the last time I tried to blindly put Linux on a machine that was designed for Windows, I was surprised by things like having to download binary drivers and ndiswrapper just to get something as simple as networking up and running). I want trackpad, keyboard, wireless / wired networking, 2D graphics, etc. all working out of the box.
(3) It would be nice to have build quality that's sturdy and aesthetically appealing.
(4) I need something relatively portable, with good battery life (e.g. a few hours without a charge). I don't want a machine that's basically a portable desktop that drains in 30 minutes.
Basically I am looking for the "Mac experience" in a Linux machine. I want to install Slackware and have basically everything driver-wise (except maybe 3D graphics) just work, right out of the box. Having said that, I know at the end of the day it's Slackware, and I am totally fine with customizations and tweaks to get things running optimally smooth.
So, do you guys have any specific recommendations / success stories? Are System76 / Zareason really the best routes to take if I want this kind of experience? Or are there other vendors that have good Linux support? I like companies like Asus, but I have been a bit burned in the past by their lack of out-of-the-box Linux compatibility.