It's been a long couple of months with my shiny, new Macbook Pro. While I'm still excited about it, a bad motherboard has taken away some of its lustre. I have to say, AppleCare support has been great. Of all the consumer-oriented technical support services I have used over the years, Apple really stood out both for the expertise of their technicians as well as their willingness to listen and to talk above a novice level.
I ended up taking my MBP to the local Apple Store for more in-depth troubleshooting. They quickly isolated the problem to a bad memory socket on the motherboard. The computer worked perfectly as long as the second memory socket was empty.
They wanted to send my MBP to a service center for repairs, but when I explained that I couldn't be without it for more than a day, they quickly offered to order a new motherboard, let me take the computer home while waiting for delivery, and bring it back for a same-day replacement in the store. All-in-all, I walked away from this first recent experience with Apple tech support with a positive impression.
One criticism: I found that my local in-store "Genius Bar" is pretty hostile to anyone who has something better to do than waiting in line for a *long* time. It seems that the only way to get reasonably prompt service or to schedule an appointment in advance is to buy a $100 annual Pro Care plan (in addition to Apple Care). Otherwise, you're stuck with same-day, first-come, first-serve scheduling. While in the store, I heard another customer say that he was expecting to wait 3 hours for his appointment with a Mac "Genius!"
For the cost of the Apple Care service plan and Pro Care subscription, I would have preferred Dell's next day, on-site service for a problem like this. If Apple wants to attract more professional users, I think they will need to offer this kind of plan.