There are several ways to go with this.
In terms of overall quality, reliability and support, an Apple Macbook Pro 15 with Retina display is the winner. But once you configure one with at least 512GB of internal storage and 3YR Applecare service and support, it will cost 2.5X your budget. The primary benefits are a the MacOS user interface and reliability, and a nationwide network of Apple Stores for walk-in support.
On the Windows side, the leaders in quality, reliability and support are Lenovo and Dell. You should stick with an Intel Core i5 or i7 CPU. I would avoid Acer, as all the models I've used from this manufacturer performed poorly (and I just recently set one up for my father). Also, I would avoid HP, except perhaps the Probook series, as they are flimsy. Although I have two 5-year old HP Probooks that we still use on occasion, I've had to replace keyboards, touchpads, HDDs and one LCD.
The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 series with i7 processor and 4YR phone support and in-home service is within your price range, and the touch-screen version (suggested for using Windows 8) is just slightly over. The Lenovo Y510p is with 24GB SSD cache and dedicated NVidia graphics processor/memory is also a good choice, though with 3YR service and support (depot service only) it will run you closer to $1,300.
There are also Core i5-based laptops from Lenovo and Dell that are a few hundred dollars less expensive. The i5 processor also consumes less power so the laptop will run longer on battery. And, from a practical standpoint, you will probably not notice much difference in performance between the i5 and i7 with the applications you use. What you are more likely to notice is the quality of the hardware wrapped around the processor, as i7 laptops are generally the premium line-up. This is the main reason why I normally go with i7 vs i5 CPU.
I have never had good experiences with AMD-based systems. Though I'm pretty sure that's not the CPU's fault, it seems the overall components wrapped around the CPU are cheap and unreliable to save cost, because price seems to be the motivation for choosing a non-Intel CPU.
Of all of these options, I would favor the Lenovo even though it exceeds your budget because of it's dedicated graphics processor and memory, the 24GB SSD, and my experience with them being well built and reliable. I feel this would give me the longest useful life. And, unless you are comfortable identifying and replacing failed hardware components on your own, certainly get the manufacturer's extra 3YR or 4YR service and support.