You probably won't be able to use Beryl, Fusion and Compriz at full tilt, and as said, wireless CAN be a PITA. Ubuntu 7.10 has automated this process. It doesn't work as well as manually configuring it, but it works.
About bricking your laptop: You have nothing to worry about. I ran Ubuntu 6.06 and 6.10 on a Pentium 366MHz, 192MB RAM, 6.2GB HD, 1XCD-R with 16MB shared graphics memory and no network card for the better part of a year. There was only one thing I found it couldn't do as well as a P3 1.5GHz, 1.5GB RAM, 200GB HD, DVD-RW, 64MB dedicated graphics memory and network card-PC: Show Youtube-films without stutter.
No need to worry about bricking your laptop in other words. A word of caution though: Screen resolution isn't always automatic on widescreens. In Ubuntu 7.04/7.10, you have to install xserver-xorg-video-intel (7.04, 7.10 has it already) and 915resolution to get widescreen resolutions. Previous versions (Back to 6.06) won't start graphics on a widescreen without manual configuration of several files and installation of a few packages from the commandline.
Other distros have this down cold I know, but have other problems that, to me, are more serious than an easily-fixable resolution issue.