My brother bought a laptop without asking me first, and asked me to put Linux on it. I did, and you can learn what's involved in getting Ubuntu GNU/Linux on on a Toshiba Satellite M45 laptop working well.
I mostly use laptops myself nowadays. Lately it's a Compaq Armada E500, with a 547MHz P3, 60G disk, and 512M of RAM, running Debian "unstable". Most everything works in it. (I haven't tried the Lucent softmodem.) I have it using ACPI and suspending to RAM, although Xv loses most of its color after it resumes; I have to use xvattr to fix it up again. (I get xvattr and other Xv packages from ftp.nerim.net, w32codecs and ffmpeg too.) There's a DRI driver for its Mach64 video, but not in mainline, apparently because of security concerns that don't concern me anyway. (Not that I have any use for DRI or GL.) Funny, the USB port is all messed up and it's easy to see why -- they put it right next to the power socket, and the power plug fits in there, and shreds the contacts. It's easy to miss when you're reaching around behind, and the previous owner (rest her soul) did. I use a USB2.0 PC-Card instead.
The old one, that Katherine mostly uses now, is an ASUS 7400 w/333MHz PII. It works pretty well, except the clock has never kept good time and the sound chip was unsupported for a *long* time. Most laptops are that way. The keyboard finally gave up the ghost (it lost its "A") so I use the SIIG keyboard and a rollerwheel mouse with it now. It's been through four disk drives. The Hitachi has held up well.
The laptop before that, now retired, was a Chembook 3300T with add-ons. It's the same machine as Umax 330T, Umax 533T, ALR RS-xxx, or half a dozen others, really manufactured by Mitac, a Taiwan industrial manufacturer. Maybe they use the high volume to lower the cost of parts for their industrial products, and thus are less dependent on profits from their laptop line and can undercut everybody. Maybe not.
I added a 300MHz AMD K6-2 CPU, RAM to 64M, 4G disk, Li-ion battery, and 13.3in TFT display, for total $1700. (Got a discount for erasing MS Windows!) A pretty good value for its time. Of course it runs Debian just fine, though (like most laptops) X and APM "suspend" don't play as well together as they might. After suspending to disk and "reviving" it, I have to cycle through X modes (with NumLock-Fn-Ctrl-Alt-+) to restore the display. Otherwise it has been flawless: CD, floppy, sound (ESS), X, IDE, IrDA, parallel, serial all work. Don't know yet about USB. Here is the XF86Config file I use, generated by Scitex(sp?) Display Doctor "demo" version. Note that you must not put more than 64M in a 3300T, because the TX chipset won't cache anything beyond that.
I used to use a desktop box with a NexGen PF110 motherboard (really a 90MHz emulation of a 386 about as fast as a 100MHz P1) running Debian GNU/Linux with an Adaptec 2940 SCSI adapter, Diamond Stealth 64 (Trio64) display driver, MAG Innovision MXP17F monitor Motorola Lifestyle 28.8 external modem, Exabyte 8505 tape drive, SMC Elite Ultra ethernet adapter, SIIG MiniTouch keyboard, and Logitech three-button Bus mouse.
(My old AST "Advantage! Explorer" laptop 486DX4/100 has given up the ghost, a victim of too many bumps that loosened connectors. I'm protecting the new one better with supplementary padding in the carrying case, made from cut-up keyboard/wrist pads. It actually ran X and LyX in 8M without thrashing, and would even run Netscape and Acroread tolerably, back in the day. I carried it to Indonesia and back, in 1994.
The quality of keyboards shipped with discount systems is abysmal, and if you spend any time with your machine it can be a real source of fatigue. I tried out a lot of keyboards before I bought the SIIG MiniTouch. It also has the advantage of being very small, so I don't have to move my hand very far to get to the mouse. (It has no separate numeric pad or other clusters; it's arranged like on a laptop.) Late news: the "." key has worn out, after three years. Time to replace it. Later news: it healed. It's still in use. Lexmark makes a mini keyboard I really like, too.