Athlon cpus are very decent and when 64 bit operating systems appear (some updates in Windows service pack 2 this month) they will run somewhat faster.
However, the Pentium M Centrino notebooks give you the best combination of performance, battery life (especially when using wi-fi), weight, and notebook thickness (much thinner do to lower heat requirements for Pentium M Centrino cpus).
You will also notice that the ZT3000 and X1000 have reviews on Cnet -- both 8.0 -- the HPZT3000 also has a 90% positive user rating (see user reviews) and the X1000 has a 80% positive user rating (X1000 came out first -- model has been issued in various iterations since mid 2003).
At any rate, I highly recommend you get a notebook with dedicated video and get 64mb if possible as it is not upgradable.
You will notice that Athlons compare themselves to the similar Pentium 4 (or notebook 4M) cpu they are equivalent to in performance. By the same token, a Pentium M will perform between 1.5 and 2x as well as Pentium 4M. So a 1.7 Pentium M Dothan cpu would be equivalent to a 2.55 to 3.4 Pentium 4M (likely somewhere in the middle so say 3.0 ghz.
I see you are already looking at the 15.4 widescreen or 15" square screen and also HP/Compaq so I don't have to explain this issue to you.
I have the Compaq X1000 which is the same as the HPZT3000 series (example of retail is HPZT3380 at Circuit City). It has the 15.4" widescreen which is better for some widescreen DVD viewing at school, has a wider viewing angle (from the sides), allows more of a spreadsheet to be viewed (horizontal rows) and the notebook weighs 6.5 pounds (your Athlons above are thicker and somewhat heavier -- probably about 8 pounds).
If you daughter is going to college you need to order custom online -- you have already chosen good specs (get 64mb video dedicated for only $50 more than 32mb - you CANNOT upgrade video memory later).
Ordering online from HPshopping (either HP or Compaq models) you get the following:
1)APP student discount (college)
2)$100 HP/Compaq rebate for any custom order notebook through 9/12/04
3)you should order 256mb (1 slot) and then you can add 512mb yourself (Crucial/Kingston) for about $100 and end up with 768mb -- or you can add a 2nd 256mb yourself for much less money (you said 120 --probably pay about half that).
Also, you can order a faster 5400 rpm hard drive if desired and get the CPU you want -- the best bang for the buck is the 725 1.6 Dothan Pentium M with the new doubled 2mb system cache -- this will save you $125 over the 1.7 Pentium M that is sold a lot at retail (as on the HP3380US at Circuit City).
Go to X1000forums.com to see how to get all the discounts and how to order the best specification for students (there are many there ordering) for the lowest cost. You should come out between $1000 and $1500 easily and closer to $1000 especially if you get the lower memory 256mb now.
As an alternative, the Toshiba M35S456 is outstanding and has nearly identical specifications and weighs only 6.2 pounds. It can also be ordered custom (model above at Circuit City is 1999 retail as it has DVD burner (200 dollars more than CD-RW/DVD ROM) -- but it does have the Trubrite screen technology.
For the benefits of the X1000forums.com alone (10,000 users of just the X1000/ZT3000/nx7000 -- they are all the same except for the case appearance) you will like this notebook especially since you are already looking at HP.
You can sign up and view or post questions there if you like the models above or you can also send me a message there (same screen name).
Note, ordering the 5400 rpm hard drive option gives you a 50% faster hard drive than the standard 4200 rpm's. Most desktops have 5400 or 7200 hard drives if she is used to a faster desktop hard drive this is a worthwhile desktop upgrade as well.
Also ordering custom allows you to select a higher resolution than the standard XGA for $50 more (SXGA) or $100 more (UXGA). I didn't do this but some people like the more extreme resolutions (but LCD's have only one NATIVE resolution unlike multisync CRT monitors so be careful).