See my philosophies.
Gentoo. Yes, I'm "that guy". In practically every way, Gentoo is the single best distribution. With a properly configured + minimal kernel, USE flags, -mtune and -march, and OpenRC, Gentoo can and will be extremely fast. There's almost no reason not to use it. If your computer takes ages to compile stuff, just set up distcc on a more powerful computer. The time it takes to compile pays off in the insane amount of customizability and speed. No matter what, you should be using Gentoo. Even if you're new; the Gentoo Wiki is extremely good and explains things very well. Unfortunately, it doesnt' have the world's greatest software support, but ebuilds are very easy to write, even more so than PKGBUILDs.
Alternatively, Artix works great too, though it won't be nearly as fast. It will have significantly better software support though, and anything that isn't in the repos or AUR you can just write a PKGBUILD for in a few minutes.
kitty. It's quite a good terminal emulator. It's very, very highly configurable, supports true color and even viewing images in the terminal, and has native Wayland support.
sway. I used to hate both Wayland and tiling window managers. This was because neither ever worked for me; I only tried Wayland with Plasma's broken Wayland support and i3 simply never worked. Eventually however, I finally got a working i3 install. And it was great. Eventually, I was recommended to try sway after I had some terrible screen tearing on i3. And, well, I liked it even more. Waybar's great, sway's great, life's great.
Alternatively, when I don't necessarily need a GUI, I use tmux. Technically, I can run some of my applications, like Qt stuff, directly in the framebuffer, however it doesn't work all too well with tmux, and functionality is limited (i.e. I can't switch ttys). However, when I can deal with using Lynx, everything's all good. You can even run mpv in the DRM, which is nice.
qutebrowser. Used to use Brave, but recently switched to qutebrowser because it's much faster, more configurable, lighter, has vim keybindings, etc. So far, it's great.
When I don't need to use stuff I'm logged in to, or when I'm only going on to websites that actually work on Lynx, then I just use Lynx.
netifrc, wpa_supplicant, and dhcpcd. Don't bother with other network managers like Connman and NetworkManager.
Pipewire. PA but better.
vim. Self-explanatory. Technically, I use neovim now, but nothing's really changed.
mpv. Yet again, self-explanatory. Pretty fast and cool.
viu, as it's much better and WAY quicker than GUI image viewers. However, I do use imv; but only when I open image URLs or an application
xdg-opens an image file.
grim + slurp. Used to use Spectacle but it doesn't work on Wayland.
htop, not much to say.
Don't use file managers any more, the coreutils are more than enough.
transmission-cli because it's command line and that's cool. Seems like they did at some point make actual security possible, so that's nice
For pretty much everything, I use ffmpeg. I rarely edit my videos at all and when I do it's just cutting stuff out. For extremely large and complex tasks I use kdenlive (so yes, I never use Kdenlive), but a lot of seemingly complex things I can easily do with ffmpeg.
ffmpeg. Also self-explanatory.
wf-recorder. It's a pretty cool wayland screen recorder. Fast and lightweight, too.
Taskwarrior. It's tiny, fundamentally great, and easy to use.
vim lol, but for very large Qt projects, I use Qt Creator.
LaTeX. Quite self-explanatory, incredibly good especially for large documents with repetitive sections, and even better for my English essays because of bibliography management. I use it for presentations, too.
I don't want to use Matrix, but unfortunately, all of the people I know do not want to switch to XMPP. Probably should've picked some better people to hang out with, but either way, I use a self hosted homeserver (literally this subdomain), with a self-hosted Jitsi Meet instance for voice/video chat, and I use the gomuks client.
The best chat protocol, I use the profanity client. Basically irssi with the irssi-xmpp extension but actually good.
I have never used IRC and I never will. XMPP is superior in every way. If you do use IRC though, remember to use Libera Chat and not Freenode.
Take all of this with a grain of salt, I'm not super particular with this kind of stuff.
For school and a lot of general personal usage, I use a ThinkPad X220. Pretty simple stuff. I also use it with a 9-cell battery which literally lasts like 8 hours. Always get those.
For more intensive tasks, I have a more powerful laptop purely for home usage.
ThinkPad: 256GB SSD, and a 256GB mSATA SSD. Main SSD contains /, /var, and swap, with the rest being used for a data partition (containing configs, school stuff, videos...). mSATA SSD is /home.
Other laptop: 512GB NVMe and 1TB SATA SSD. NVMe contains /, /var, /home, and swap, SATA is just a data partition (school, configs, videos, backups...)
Always use SSDs if possible. They are so much faster. Put one where you normally had an HDD and you will immediately notice a difference. It's an upgrade that can revitalize any old machine. Nowadays, they barely cost more than HDDs too!
If you can, prefer NVMe. It's extremely fast. And not too much more expensive than SATA SSDs. Try and find laptops that have the option to include NVMe if possible.
A few months ago I helped out this Canadian dude with setting up a Matrix server, and he just straight up gave me $80 in Monero and built me an entire custom keyboard, complete with Jade switches to be as loud as possible. He also added gold plating and a bunch of other stuff to make it as loud as possible. And to make it vibrate a lot. I've annoyed my entire family with this thing. Anyways the Logitech G613 is pretty cool
The mouse is a Logitech G604. Do not use wired mice.
Monitor: A pretty basic Samsung one I found for $150. It has: FreeSync, 1080p (I only need 720p though), good size, little to no intrusion, good refresh rates (50, 60, 75), HDMI (home laptop), and DisplayPort (for ThinkPad). Very nice. Also has like 20 USB ports.
Microphone: A basic podcasting microphone, with a background noise and pop filter, and a sufficient stand works perfectly. I sniped a high-quality one for $30.
External Storage: Use large HDDs for this. I got an external dual-drive bay for like $15, and put 2 4TB HDDs with RAID0. No, I don't care about data loss, the important stuff is backed up on my SSD and everything else is available via torrent.
Headphones: Sony WH-C700N. Bluetooth and wired options, great sound quality (and even better bass... Blues Brothers hits different with these), wide range of volume, good battery life (>24 hours), and good charging speed. Forget how much it costs, but it's good for the price. They're like 6 years old so they're probably thrown around on eBay for low prices.