Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1984-2005 MB's
Location: Rocklin, CA
Mentioned: 5 Post(s)
Quoted: 500 Post(s)
The Vostro A860's are cheap to get into ($399) and feature a baby Core 2 Duo, 2GB, DVD-RW.... 15.6" real estate and Vista Home Basic, which keeps the "fat" out. Bought one for my parents and they love it. Upgrade the battery if you can. There's also the Vostro 1520 model, and Inspiron 15, and Lenovo ThinkPad to look at your price range.
I'm using a Latitude E6400 and love it for the lightness, portability, battery usage, integrated webcam. Only issue is sometimes text jumps around on the screen but this has subsided over age (breaking in the keybaord/mousepad?)
I'd stay away from HP/Compaq laptops. Working in IT, I see a bunch of these turn up as paperweights a LOT sooner than most of the others.
Netbooks are great and cheap, but they're SMALL, and the keyboards too. Moreso for when you're on the road or at the local coffee joint, but not really geared for the daily grind.