I'm writing this on a Dell Inspiron 8200
that I bought about 4 months ago and I'm pretty happy with it so far. (I'm not entirely happy with Windows XP, but that's another thread.) I have the CDRW/DVD feature but to be honest, I've haven't used it much yet. I basically bought this not so much to tote it around with me, because it's definitely not the smallest or lightest laptop on the market-- but as a convenient, portable space-efficient substitute for a desktop computer, which I simply don't have room for. So I went for most of the bells and whistles.
If you like Dell products but really wanted a laptop to carry back and forth to work, I'd go for the Latitude model--they're lighter and a bit more streamlined, designed more for business.
Another thing--Dell offers 10 - 15% discounts to many different organizations. My brother the cop, my brother the commercial airline pilot, and my friend the 2nd-grade teacher all get discounts through their employers. I bought mine through the pilot brother. So it's worth asking family and friends. Makes it a bit more affordable. Plus they're always offering free upgrade deals.
(I swear I don't work for Dell. I just researched this a lot before I finally bought it, and asked a lot of people whose opinions I trusted.)