I am sometimes accused of being a fanboy, and rightfully so. This will be one of those times, so if you’re turned off at all by rampant enthusiasm, change the channel now.
I am so totally in love with my little 1Ghz Dell Inspiron 8000 that I cannot praise it too much. This one was shipped in June 2001, and I’m only the second owner; the first owners were exceedingly careful with it. So cosmetically, it’s in near-perfect shape.
I put in a 1Ghz chip (it was practically free), 512Mb of PC133 (a little pricey, but worth it), a bay for a second hard drive ($19 and invaluable!), an 8x dual layer DVD+-RW, a 64Mb Nvidia Geforce4 440 Go (expensive, but also worth it!) a solid wireless card and replaced a screen with a minor flaw with another (with an even more minor flaw, actually. But it was free).
I couldn’t be happier if you had dropped a new dual-core in my lap. This machine runs Linux with almost no configuration required, can handle Beryl at 1600×1200 without effort and has never failed me (fingers crossed ;) ). I can play Savage and Astromenace at native resolution with frame rates at 21+, Wolfenstein ET and Regnum Online … and so forth. You get the idea.
My only disappointment comes in the USB 1.1 ports, which are a bit slow for my liking. I keep telling myself that USB 1.1 is better than USB 0.0, but if I ever find a way to swap those out for 2.0 ports, I’m doing it.
I have considered buying a MiniPCI wireless card; apparently this series can swap out the card in the base for an integrated wireless model, but I’m not sure I really want it. My PCMCIA card — a Linksys WPC11 — works fine, is fast enough and gives me no hassles, so I don’t see a need.
If you’re considering a secondhand laptop that is flexible, cheap and reliable, I would heartily recommend this series. If I, personally, were putting together a new one, I would look for an 8200, since the CPU in those machines is more flexible. The 8000s stopped at 1Ghz, but the 8200s can run up to 2.2Ghz or something like that. It’s worth the extra moola, really.