I hear Gateway is one of the worst for premature breakdown. And in the COmputer shop I work at we get HP and Compaqs constantly. I got a Dell one that serves me well. Also one guy I know is always telling me the IBM Thinkpad is the only way to go.
They all seems shorter the more times you go through them, but first times they can feel like they take forever (except The Seacrh for Cetus, 6 hours, at like age 12)... (MI2, 8 years, varying ages....)