Avoid the Celeron Pentium M or Celeron Pentium 4 chips unless the cost is an extreme hardship.

The full power Pentium M Centrino notebooks are still the best notebook value but since they are 32 bit some power users are buying an AMD 64 (best full power chip discounting battery life or heat) or an AMD Turion 64 (compromise between Pentium M and AMD 64 with less battery life and more heat versus Pentium M but still 64 bit like AMD 64).

Techies or programmers using 64 bit now (and some gamers) will migrate to the AMD 64.

For you I would recommend a Pentium M (Centrino) model likely for your needs. Check out what the Dell 6000 offers. Also, check out the HPDV4000 which lacks dedicated video memory the Dell has but it does have some interesting features like instant on DVD/CD controls and a built in remote control. Also, HP/Compaq is one of the few larger companies offering the AMD Turion and AMD 64 notebooks to compare on price and features.

At any rate, don't spend over $1500 and you should be able to get a very credible notebook with a DVD burner and CD burner now for $1300 or less.

But again, I would avoid the Celeron chips on the extreme slow end (under $1,000) and also avoid the Pentium 4M or 4 chips in a notebook environment as the AMD 64 is a much better solution in that situation.

If you are going to college HPshopping.com offers a 6% APP student discount on their custom orders online and also has a myriad of other discounts during back to school time right now (including a printer bundle, etc).

Dell has similar offers. Myself I would lean towards the Dell 6000 (15.4" widescreen Pentium M) now even though I currently have a Compaq X1000/HPZT3000 (no longer made but a Pentium M notebook) as the HPDV4000 only has integrated video memory wheras the Dell 6000 has the excellent 128mb dedicated video memory option. But if you don't think you will need that consider the HPDV4000 for its consumer features I mentioned above that the Dell 6000 does not have (HP also has lightscribe DVD burners where you can etch titles on CD's or DVD's but that requires special media to do that but that is one more new consumer feature to consider).

Also consider the HP/Compaq Turion 64 notebooks which will give you 64 bit for the future and they are a bit cheaper than full Pentium M Centrino notebooks but also have less battery life, somewhat more heat and likely weigh a bit more for the same size LCD.