I recommend 'Brother' I have a 'Brother super ace 3', and it's S***t hot, but I do do a LOT of sewing, (See signature). At a college course I went to they all had the basic Brother model, and they went through some hard times with those students yet never failed. They are very robust. You can pick up a 'Brother' from $135 - well a lot for the top of the range.
The basic one's come with a good amount of stitches on them and I think for a beginner you couldn't ask for a stronger more forgiving machine.
Make sure when you get it, you get a couple of lessons. The shop I got mine from gave out a free hour's lesson. I know a few shops do that but I don't know about the US (which where I assume you are?)
So what kind of things are you planning to sew? I love sewing it's my first love, I taught myself from scratch on an antique 'Singer'! If you ever get stuck let me know, I'd be happy to help.