Well upgrading the Dell BIOS on my laptop from A04 to A05 gave me a good speed up on wireless transmission rates. Unfortunately it hasn't gotten ACPI power states working (yet). Doing echo mem > /sys/power/state puts the laptop to sleep nicely, but getting the laptop to wake up is another story. Pressing the power button seems to wake up the hardware (fans and disk powers up), but the LCD doesn't come back on and the system doesn't respond to anything. Trying to put the laptop into standby mode doesn't work with a message that the system doesn't support this power mode. I haven't even touched suspend to disk yet.
Battery life for light usage (e.g. offline email with wireless radio turned off) looks to be around 3:30 give or take. Not to bad considering the 17" monitor and 100GB 7200RPM disk. The processor throttles back to 800MHz on battery rising to 1.3GHz on demand (or I can manually override all the way up to the full 2.0GHz).
At some point I'll write up all of the stuff that was necessary to get this machine configured. So far the only thing that really needs attention is the ACPI sleep issue.