This week's book giveaway is in the OCAJP 8 forum. We're giving away four copies of OCA Java SE 8 Programmer I Study Guide and have Edward Finegan & Robert Liguori on-line! See this thread for details.
I've owned a Dell, HP (compaq) and a Toshib and have been happy with each. I would not have gone near a Dell but several people at work had one and they have good bang for your buck and aren't as flakey as I believe they once were. A friend believes them to be flimsy but I have never had any problems carrying mine around with me.
* Make sure the harddrive is 7200rpm, not 5400 or 4200 * Make sure the memory is 1x 1Gb stick, not 2x 512 * Make sure the wireless is integrated * Ask about gigabit networking * Make sure you get plenty of ports (4xUSB, Firewire, SD card reader) * Get the fastest processor you can afford.