Meadows is no-go for two reasons: One is that you'll get killed/raped/mugged/etc, the other is that it's bloody miles from uni. (Honestly, in two years, I don't think I've ever been near them.)
The four main places that people live are Lenton, Dunkirk, Beeston and Wollaton.
Lenton's definitely the social place - it's walking distance to both town and campus, there's a few decent pubs, and chances are most of your friends are gonna be living there. But because of that, the rents are also extortionately high compared to the other areas.
Dunkirk's close to campus (south entrance), with decent bus access to town. Walking's possible, but can be a little bit dangerous down by the canal late at night. Rent is better value - the houses can still be a little bit tatty, but you pay about £10 p/w less than an equivalent house in Lenton.
Beeston is the best value accomodation. There are quite a lot of very nice houses, for £15-20 p/w less than what you'd pay in Lenton for a house of similar size but worse condition. That said, the reason for this is simple: It's a fair trek to town, and most people live on the other side of campus (Beeston is west entrance, 70% of all the academic buildings are on the east side of campus.) Still, you do have the joy of Beeston, which is a useful little town with a big Sainsburys, Bedrock and Becks (two bargain stores which you *must* explore).
Wollaton's the "posh" area. It's still mainly residential, but the student houses that are there are usually very good condition, and very good value for money. It's close to the QMC and campus north entrance, there's a good sized supermarket nearby (apparently, I've never been), but it is a fair distance to town, so taxis and buses are the rule rather than the exception, and the social scene ain't all that great.
All the areas have something to recommend them, and these are generalisations. You might think Beeston has the best night life in the world, for example. Of course, you'd be clinically insane, but whatever...
FWIW, I live in Lenton, and love it here. But that has very little to do with the reasons I listed above. (Just to confuse the issue.)
Hope that helped,