Help picking a multimedia laptop!

Hello there everyone! I'm a recent college grad, just got my first job and now I want to buy myself a new machine. I graduated with a degree in Math/CIT and I work in the IT field (training to be a database management consultant, currently working with Oracle UPK end-user training) so I'm far from computer illiterate.

I'm just a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices available and I'm unsure of what my needs really dictate in terms of hardware.
I'd like a decently fast processor, and a decent amount of HD storage space, but I'm unsure of how to balance what I need with what is available.

I'm hoping some of you kind folks can point me in the right direction.

I tried to organize my needs and wants to make it easier to read:
1. Budget?
a. My budget is anywhere from $500-$1000. Obviously spending less $ is always good but I'd rather spend it now than regret it later, so at long as it's <$1000 I'll be happy.

2. Size of the notebook?
a. 15.6" and up. I'm a 200lb weightlifter, so weight of the laptop has no bearing on my decision.

2. What screen resolution?
a. Don't particularly care.

3. Portable or desktop replacement?
a. I think my needs/uses call for something in the middle. I don't need a "portable" machine in the sense that I'll be bringing it to work or traveling with it. The laptop will likely never leave my house. I need portability in the sense that i can move around the house, bring it downstairs to the couch with me, sit on the porch with it, bring it into the garage to use as a mobile jukebox, etc. So the laptop being "ultra-portable" isn't a huge factor for me, as long as I can move about the house with it.

4. How much battery life?
a. The more, the merrier, but at least 4 hours. Like I said in my answer to #4, this laptop will be a home machine, so it's not an issue for me to have to put it on the charger while using it.

5. Games?
a. No. The only games I play are solitaire and minesweeper. I have 0 interest in gaming.

6. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
a. I do alot of photo editing, music downloading, and video downloading and watching. In addition, I do alot of work with Photoshop/GIMP and a ton of web browsing. I mostly just want something to download movies and tv shows, watch them, download music and listen to it (MediaMonkey FTW), work with photoshop/GIMP, manage my media library, and browse the web when I'm home from work.

7. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity)?
a. I'd like at least 500gb.

8. How long do you want the laptop to last, life-span wise?
a. I've historically held onto a laptop for 3-4 years (got my first laptop at age 12) so I think that's a reasonable lifespan for a home-use laptop.

9. What kind of Optical?
a. Definitely DVD read/write. I don't own a Blu-Ray player, so I can't see a need for a Blu-Ray reader or writer. If I need one in the future, I'll purchase a stand-alone.

10. Any particular brands?
a. As long as it's a windows laptop, I'm on board. I've had great success with HP years ago, and Compaq, and my POS Dell lasted me 4 years through college (living in the dorms is NOT kind to a laptop, and that sucker took it like a champ).
b. The only brand I will outright cross off the list is Apple. I'm not a hipster and I refuse to overpay for a machine because of marketing hype and brand recognition and I won't support a company that blatantly treats consumers as if they're mentally handicapped.

11. Any additional information?
a. I really like the idea of a backlit keyboard, such as the HP DV6 series. Also, an HDMI-out is essential as I play on using my plasma TV as a monitor from time to time.

So with all that being said, what brands and models should I be looking at?
What type of processor, and what type of HD? Is a HHDD my best choice, or a HD with acceleration cache, or a plain old HD?

Thanks for any and all help!

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If I were to search for such.

Today I'd hit the Amazon best sellers list noted in the sticky post at the top of this forum.

That being said the HDD I use is one of those HYBRID DRIVES but these are rarely in the stock models. This would be something you change to later.

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Well your price range

a low end i7 is possible but an i5 more probable. You probably would want a discrete graphics card the video editing. Remember the more powerfull the components the less the battery life. But Intel is doing better with that and an SSD drive also helps with battery life. Basically if you get a SSD drive get one with a HD drive also. I added a SSD and my boot times went from over a minute to 25 seconds max. I once purchased a HP dv7 and didn't care about resolution and I soon wished I had. The screen was 1600 x 900 and I wanted a 1920 x 1080 soon after. As far as backlit keyboards they usually come on gaming machines. I use both of my laptops HDMI out to my high definition TV.

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