Well I finally caved in and “replaced” my Dell XPS M1330 ( the machine with the faulty NVIDIA card) with a brand new Lenovo ThinkPad W500. The W500 is the 15 inch rebirth of the T61P series which was the powerhouse line for ThinkPad. Not a bad deal, end-of-year, got a nice set of rebates and discounts.
I grabbed the middle of the road option for the W500 and upgraded the monitor and added an extra slot drive to replace the CD with a second SATA drive. The W500 has dual video cards, a high end card to suck the battery life out of the laptop and a built-in Intel video card for those long trip on the train. As soon as I opened the box I pulled the drive ( small, slow 5400rpm SATA ) and replaced with a 320 7200rpm drive I had setting on the shelf. I also upgraded to a total of 4gb of memory. I can go to 8 but right now the DDR3 4gig chips are way too expensive. I did reload with Vista x64 and have no issues with drivers.
Since then I moved to the ThinkPad W500. I have had only one minor issue with virtual machines and power management. Once I got the power management under control my virtual machines, now running from my secondary hard drive are blazing fast with no need for the external hard drive.
I should note that before I purchased the ThinkPad I had purchased and returned a new 15 inch MacBook Pro. Running Vista on the new MacBook Pro was painful. To sum it up, the Vista drivers for the MCP were not ready for prime time. I had frequent random lockups, which was thought to be caused by the video driver and every two minutes the speakers would howl and screech as the wireless scanned for access points.