The same as desktop: if you wan't to avoid trouble go for GeForce or Intel integrated. Intel has open source drivers and they are quite good (the drivers, not the chips). ATI has done some progress lately with their 8.42.3 drivers, but they have still long way to go before before the driver is completely stable and mature. I still prefer the open source radeon driver with my laptop, even though it has only 2d-support, since it is more stable. If you are doing any serious gaming, then GeForce is probably the only sensible choice.2) Which graphics chip? Nvidia or ATI? GeForce Go 7150? Something like that? I suspect the ATI chips in the cheaper notebooks are problematic. Is that accurate? I doubt whether I'd be able to buy a notebook with the HD2400/HD2600 chips. I already bought a 2nd desktop system (still building). The other possibility would be the integrated Intel graphics chip. How do these notebooks work under Linux?
Avoid Broadcom if possible. They have open source reverse engineered drivers now (bcm43xx), but they are not working very well (lots of regression lately!), so you have to go through the pain of ndiswrapper to get a usable system. Intel has again nice open source drivers for their chips, so go for them if possible.3) Any wireless chips to go after? 2200BG? 3945?
Thinkpad T40 is almost perfect for Linux use. Easy to get reburbished, many of my friends have those, and everything works with Ubuntu out-of-the-box.I was thinking of a cheap refurbished laptop, configuring a cheap Dell or going after a Thinkpad T40 series.
HP has some laptops with very good Linux suppport, but there are some with very annoying bios bugs. The build quality of the Acer line has failed to impress me, and their service is horrible.However, for $200 more I could consider a Toshiba, HP or Acer which may have more options and more power. But, I would like to assess the 3 options above and determine whether there are certain configurations to pursue (based on ease of use in Linux).
How old a laptop? Ubuntu or Xubuntu will be fine with everything >500 MHz and 256+ megs of ram.Lastly (4), I was wondering if a particular distro should be used with a (an older) laptop. I prefer it to be debian-based but it's not necessary.