For your stated budget (1200 USD) I think that only the lower models of MacBook Air would be affordable, well, new ones anyway. That same money will buy a very nice Windows based laptop.
I can't give you much insight into those Windows based laptops, but I can try to give you a reasonably objective view of a MacBook Pro.
I've been using this 2010 model MacBook Pro 15" for over 1 year now and have come to grips (I think) with the highs and lows.
Trackpad - Best in the market, bar none. Multi-touch and gestures work flawlessly.
Display - Overall very good. Higher resolution (1440x900) at the time of purchase for the size than most other laptops. Viewing angles are very good, as well.
Unibody construction - Feels like a quality product, doesn't creak and pop when being opened or moved about.
OS X - Seems very stable, never had a kernel panic (Mac equivalent of BSOD).
Battery runtime - Very good, I get about 5.5 to 6+ hours of casual usage without resorting to extreme screen dimming and turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.
Bootcamp - Run Windows on the Mac (dual boot).
Customer service - Seems to be very good according to what I've read in various forums.
Magsafe connector - A great idea. If the adapter cord gets pulled, it simply pops loose without damaging anything or pulling the computer off the table.
Expensive - A notebook with equivalent hardware (aside from the display) from any other manufacturer can be had for one-half to one-third the price.
OS X - Less software available, may not find a Mac replacement for that important Windows application.
Unibody construction - Could be bent or dented if treated roughly. Some of the plastic bodied notebooks may be able to "bounce back" into shape if they don't actually break.
Bootcamp - Windows drivers
for Mac hardware are not optimized. Battery runtime drops to match any other Windows notebook. No (or limited) multi-touch or gestures with the trackpad.
Gaming - Fewer games available. Of those, they generally don't run as well because of the lack of DirectX. Mac-specific games seem to be aimed at (or developed by?) 12-year-olds.
Magsafe connector - Proprietary to Apple. Cheap alternatives are not available so if your adapter gets damaged or quits working you must buy a genuine adapter. Well, somewhat less expensive knock-offs are available but from what I've read they are junk so not really an alternative.
Now, having said that, would I buy this MacBook Pro again? Really hard to say, I never saw (in person) a notebook with such a good display (although I know they exist), and the trackpad is so just so much better than any other that I've seen...
Don't know if any of this helps you in any way, if you have any specific questions, just ask.