Some laptops do better than others. No shootout article so far but it does matter what router is in use. I've seen a great connecting laptop falter and the other laptop win in distance when I change routers. But here's my secret bag. I carry in my laptop bad these items for the time I can't quite get there.
An USB Wifi dongle with the replaceable antenna. Examples:
Maybe you will watch and see if they start adding some distance testing to laptop reviews but frankly there are too many factors that would interfere with the results. Even changing the RF channel on the router could help or hurt.
I have access to a SONY VAIO PCG-7K1L w/built-in wireless (wlan) w/MS XPsp2, I recently purchased an HP PAVILLION dv2500 also w/built-in wireless w/VISTA sp1. The SONY's default wlan settings pick up a much better and stronger signal for the wireless than the newer HP. Anyone know why? Seems like SONY has a far superior built-in wireless technology... and if it is a settings issue on th HP, I'd love to change them. Alternatively, how do you add a booster antenna to a built in wireless technology?