I'm partial to Lenovo Thinkpads for their build quality and that they can accommodate basic upgrades. You have an ample budget, perhaps look at the T-series, or the X-series if portability is really important.
I have a Thinkpad T520 which is still going strong after 5+ years. I opted for the best processor and screen resolution that I could afford then, as time went on, I maxed out the RAM, swapped the HD for an SSD, added a micro-SSD to split the OS boot and data drives, and lastly picked up a docking station.
I'm still pretty happy with my Thinkpad T430, so I can only second that.
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