This is where the story gets better. I'm sure that every Linux user has had difficulty with hardware drivers. Either the company doesn't make them (eg: some Dell Printers), the drivers are buggy (and being closed source you can't fix it - or google for someone that has), and you just end up pulling out your hair.
Canonical as part of the efforts to reach out to the business world have been certifying hardware configurations. They've been in cahoots with Lenovo to certify laptop models, and low and behold the model I was interested in is 100% Ubuntu compliant.
So I picked up a ThinkPad Edge E520 1143AJ1. Nice i5 processor, integrated graphics (for the occasional game of StarCraft that she likes to play), anti-glare screen (which I had to pay extra for on my MacBook Pro cause Apple are jerks).
It's perhaps not the most stylish of machines, but we can live with that. I was surprised by the weight. It feels lighter than it's actual stated weight, but that's a win I think. The first thing I noticed when booting it up was how SLOW it was!!! This machine is meant to be snappy Lenovo, but you weighted it down with a tonne of bricks. It didn't come with recovery disks, but a recovery partition. Not wanting to lose the 15GB, I burned that to a series of DVDs, then booted up Ubuntu 12.04.
I'm not sure how you can make an installer better over time (I was impressed with earlier versions), but the one thing I noticed especially was the installation of packages onto the system while I was filling out configuration dialogs. Multitasking to the max. The partioning dialog has received some polish since I last did a Ubuntu install so I was able to carve up the HD properly. As a note the Ubuntu documentation has also been improved, so I was able to quickly find the recommended partition sizes and adjust accordingly to need.
Out popped a new computer! Booted it up and everything worked (not surprising really). Configuring system settings was a breeze, and I've noticed some UI similarities to OSX which I don't mind but I wonder how the lawyers feel about that. The boot time was so quick (even for a non SSD) that I don't think I ever want to see Windows 7 again.