If you ask me, Macs tend to be built a bit better than their PC counterparts... BUT... You pay a premium for that build quality.
The Mac part of the system might last you several years, but if you load Windows onto it, it might be cut short a couple additional years. At least as far as its useful life goes running Windows apps. I don't mean to imply that the act of installing Windows will in some way degrade the hardware.
For $1700ish USD, you could probably get a pretty decent mid-range MacBook Pro with a 15" screen... You could also probably get a 17" Dell Studio laptop with loads of extras for the same price, if you're willing to sacrifice a little quality. Dell systems aren't as bad as some (HP, Compaq, and Acer come to mind) but pretty much every single line Dell has ever made has had some kind of issue. A few years ago they had a rash of bad capacitors getting into systems causing all kinds of problems. The Latitude D510 laptops are infamous for failing motherboards (I've personally gone through about 5 replacement boards on a SINGLE system at work) and plenty of other systems where I work all seem to fail in exactly the same way at almost exactly the same time. I'm the one who gets tasked with repairing them, so I can easily spot the trends. One week it might be 5-6 Latitude laptops of the same generation are in my office for repairs, and the next it might be Optiplex 620s that are failing all over.
I've had a Dell laptop or two of my own in the past though, and so long as they're treated with some care, they will generally hold up pretty well. The software requirements will likely pass the system by long before you graduate, so plan to squirrel away a little money for an eventual replacement around year 3.
Of course as someone not too far out of school myself. I wouldn't recommend a laptop for school. Using them in class makes it far too tempting to chat with your friends on IM or browse the web when you should be listening to the lecture. Sure, you can take notes, but in my experience it just didn't really work that well. And better to transcribe your handwritten notes later, just to go over the material that one additional time.
Just get a desktop and leave it in your dorm/frat room, apartment, or wherever you'll be living. It helps keep a clear division between school and home. School is where you go to learn, study, etc, and home is where you play games, watch movies, etc. If you associate the campus with studying and that sort of thing, it will really pay off when you need to study for a test, because as soon as you sit down in the library or some quiet corner of a building, your mind will instantly and effortlessly shift into "study mode".
One other thing I'd suggest... Go out and buy a 4-8GB USB flash drive. Don't be too sheepish about the price, because the idea is to keep it your entire college career. Keep copies of all your papers, notes, and other homework on this flash drive. And at the end of every year, dump all the old stuff into a folder with the year. You never know when your notes from an old class might come in handy down the road.
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