I think debian is the best distribution, but it might not be for the weak.
The new installation system is really good, but you may need to seek help if you need to get your whizz-bang hardware working. It has loads of software to install and the greatest package manager in existence so far.
I would suggest Mandrake as a fine installation candidate as it is one of those that claims to detect hardware well, and it uses a graphical interface for the installation. Some find it is more trouble than it is worth, and if you have old hardware, you might want something simpler.
I quite like slackware, but it does not have a large amount of software ready to use. It is a bit simpler than debian and mandrake, so if you're editing configuration files you will find it really nice.
I might also suggest something like Knoppix, which is the most excellent linux system in the known universe, and if you like it, you can easily install it on your hard drive, but it is pretty huge.
For a newbie, debian is the best, but for a windows-convert, mandrake is probably most suitable.
Try what you like! One day soon you will be tailoring a distribution of your own. That's how great Linux is.