I understand the Mac boosting, but for PC laptops you can't beat a Thinkpad. VERY rugged (never had one fail. At Dulles, one was pushed over the edge to the concrete floor at security-the only proble was a wire came lose from the screen.
I have a 1920x1200 at home, but it is heavy (7lbs) but just got a Z61 to travel-1400xsomething screen and 4lbs
for firewire, use the PCMCIA (whatever!!) slot with 6 pin adapter (usually 2-3 of them)
a little more expensive, but a LOT more reliable
I guess its Lenovo now, but still IBM quality
not sure if this is applicable to a phase one back but a pcmcia adapter won't power the back, you'll need to use another power adapter to run power to the firewire port on the pcmcia card
I run my aptus like that, on an Expresscard firewire800 card with the power plugged in.
the plus point of this is that the back doesn't suck battery life from the laptop that way and you need only about 1.5-2 amps to power the firewire card (I'm using a generic power adapter for the firewire card, it's 1.5 amps)