Any laptop would do.
As for the maker: we have some ardent HP haters on these forums, and some people complaining about bad service by Dell (but also about bad service from other makers).
Personally I don't think Dell comes with spyware, so that shouldn't be a reason for me to not buy a Dell. In fact, I did so for my own netbook and my daughter notebook, and at work we use Dell exclusively.
And Windows 7 surely is much preferable to Windows Vista.
I'm not a computer newbie, but I'm still confused! My husband wants a laptop that is fast, used for email, financial and reading sports/news. He doesn't need a lot of storage space and doesn't do anything with media.
We've had Dells, but my son says they come with spyware and prefers HP. He also says Windows 7 is better than Vista. Other than that he can't really help us. We'd like something in the $500-600 range.
Any help would sure be appreciated.