The entire Dell-vs-IBM-VS-HP/Compaq-VS-Whatever is nothing but a Ford-VS-Dodge-VS-etc... you get my point.
I have way too many years messing with laptops from Dell, HP, Compaq (before the HP merge), Toshiba, Sony, DeadCow (Gateway), etc. I can tell you great things about all of them, and I can tell you horror stories about all of them. All in all I can recommend a Dell or Toshiba laptop to anyone and feel very good about it. The StinkPads are nice, and have gotten much better, but not so much that they should get the premium price that IBM is asking for them, and I will say the quality and support have gone down since the Lenovo Merger took place last year.
Get what you like, the only thing I would promise is that someone will tell you it's a POS, but then again opinions are just like........
As far as the battery thing goes, at least they are stepping up to the plate and taking care of this for you. Not to mention that if your system is over a year old, a new battery is only a good thing!