I'm shopping for a laptop for college use (MS office, CATIA, other engineering programs), and my main concern is for the CPU and GPU. For cad use, I'm sticking to files smaller than 250 MB, so a workstation card most likely won't be necessary. I'll max out the ram of course, but I'm undecided whether I should get the 2nd gen i7 with discrete graphics or a 3rd gen i7 with integrated graphics. Unless there's a 3rd gen laptop with discrete graphics for under $750 or so, I can't buy it. I've seen others at the university run CATIA fairly well with 2nd gen i3's with int. graphics, so I know I don't need a $2000 workstation just to run CATIA.
My budget is set around $750, but higher priced models can be considered as long as there is a student discount to bring the price down.
maybe the 2nd gen i7 with dedicated nvidia. The main difference in 2nd gen and 3rd gen is about 15% in performance and 40% in GPU. But the idea to have a separate Graphic unit for processing is much better than overloading the system bus. I still remember when I was using GMAX4500HD, It was overloading the processor and then I bought GTS450. There was a lot of difference in performance of both O/s and GAMES. (My budget didn't allowed to purchase Quadro/FirePro). Anyway I will suggest 2nd Gen i7 with nVidia. if you planning to buy a Quadro or GPU later alongwith 3rd Gen i7 then it will be a nice deal.