Ha ha ha ! What a good joke :
it may be cheap, but the quality is lacking
Ha ha ha ! Hey man, I have a Dell Inspiron 6400. And you say what I will tell you ? It is perfect ! The quality is wonderful ! My father has a Dell Latitude D600 and I think the quality build is better than the Latitude !
Did you have a Dell laptop to be able to say what you said ?
Dell tech & customer service is very good. I forgot to put the re-installation CDs of Windows XP MCE in my order and I called the service. The staff member was very understanding and very cool.
Toshiba laptops are also a good choice. They are very well-built and I heard that the tech service is almost good...
Things to look :
About speed ... the Core Duo is the fastest mobile processor and some says that this is the most wonderful processor that Intel never created. So a 1.66 Ghz is fine. Don't forget that you can upgrade it for a MEROM in a year or two to have the 64 bits technoligy and up to 4 MB L2 cache because the Yonah ( Core Duo ) and the MEROM are pin-to-pin compatible and Intel affirmed in many press releases that the Core Duo will be upgradable. But ( there is always a ''But'' ), you'll need the BIOS upgrade. i think that most of the constructor will release it has they did with the Pentium 4 supporting the Hyper-Threading technology.
Memory : Start with 512 MB of Ram on 1 DIMM ( only 1 stick = 1x512 MB DDR2 SDRAM 533 MHz ). If you want to have more speed in a year to run Windows Vista smoothly, it's possible to add a 1x1024 MB DDR2 SDRAM 533 MHz ( be carefull : you must have the same RAM Timming to have the maximum performances with the Dual-Channel memory mode ! ).
Depndability : Dell is one of the laeder in this domain. My dad has a Dell latitude D600 old of 2 years and it works like he had it yesterday.
Graphics : ATi Mobility Radeon X1400 is a must have for photo editing tasks. 128 MB on-board VRAM is better than 64 MB on-board ( for the case of the ATi Mobility Radeon X1300 ).
Optical drives : A DVD burner is not a luxe of our days ! You must have it to make back-up.
Display : A TrueLife display will show you more contrast and more vivid colors for your photos.
Battery : If you plan to use your laptop for a long time without recharging it, buy the 9-cell lithium Ion battery which provides to you about 5:30 ( and more if you drop the bright level of the display ) of battery life.
Here is my configuration. I also want to do photo editing and use it as a desktop replacement.
Dell Inspiron 6400 :
Core Duo T2300
Windows XP Media Center
15.4'' WXGA With TrueLife 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM 533 MHz, 1 DIMM
ATi Mobility Radeon X1400 )
80 GB Hard-Drive @ 5400 RPM
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945
8X CD/DVD Burner
85 WHr 9-cell primary battery
Nylon Backpack carrying case
1-Year return to depot + 1-Year technicial support ( can be 2 years if you buy it with a GOLD credit Card )
Carbon Fiber QuickSnap Cover
WIndows XP Media Center Re-installation CD
About the service plan ... There will be always people who have problem with the customer service, for all computer brands. Even if you go with HP, ACER, Toshiba ... you will see people who loves their machine and some who doesn't like their product. Samething for the service : some persons like it, some have problem with it. No brands is better than another. BUT : Some are worse than other, exemple Alienware.
Things to avoid ( if you don't take a Dell ) is a single Core processor and a integrated graphics controller ( like the ATi RADEON XPRESS 200Mor X200 and the intel GMA 900-950 ). Single core processor will deliver good performances, sure, but they aren't optimized for the future multi-threaded applications. An integrated chip is the worse thing to buy because it steal you 128 MB of the system RAM and delivers very bad performances vis-a-vis a dedicated chip like the X1400. Yes the X1400 will steal you 128 MB, but it's always possible to rectify the amount of VRAM allowed to the HyperMemory and it's also possible to desactivate the Hypermemory, thing that you can't do on an integrated chip.
Things to look for : choose the laptop that has the highest number of ports. HP has one connection that Dell haven't : the Expension base Connector. Dell simply thought that it's better to have a USB dock station for a home user. It's good and do the same job than the other port on the HP.
Read reviews on models that Interest you. CNET has a pretty good library of reviews and take a look also to PC Magazine ( www.pcmag.com ).