Here's my share of anecdotes
I personally still trust Seagate. I was lucky enough to avoid the 7200.11 catastrophe, and the 7200.12 in my dad's box is running flawless, knock on wood, as is my 80gb Seagate momentus 7200.1. Never used their external drives (I prefer to use my own enclosures.) To memory I don't think I've EVER had a recent model Seagate die on me, but then again I've only used 4-5 "recent" Seagates...
My luck with WD, recently, is the polar opposite: my 320gb passport was EXTREMELY picky about its USB ports and cables, and my WD5000BEVT is a laggy, hot, park-happy heartbreak. They didn't use to be this way though (I still fondly remember the loud rattle my AC2540's actuator had.)
Surprisingly, Maxtor treated me well. Offhand I can only think of 3 or 4 Maxtors out of dozens I've used, that gave me trouble.
I've had only one post-DK23 Hitachi go south on me, with the rest being perfect in every sense of the word. (The DK23s, OTOH, weren't so lucky.)
Never had a problem with Toshiba, save for an ancient MFM drive that was over the hill anyway. One Toshiba even survived being hooked in upside down on a 2.5" to 3.5" adaptor.
For Fujitsu, I've had pretty good luck with them too, save for this 320GB MJA2320BH-G2 that seems to have a nasty loud random CLICK! every so often. (At least it doesn't lag for 3-5 seconds frequently, like that WD5000BEVT of mine.)
As for my personal preferences: Conner, MiniScribe, Maxtor (yes), WD Caviars from the 90's, and Toshiba, provided none of these have bad/noisy spindle bearings. If those aren't available, I use Seagate (not the 7200.11 or its relatives though) or Hitachi.