You don't need to spend much, look in the 400-600 price range.
I do a LOT of work on laptops and I won't buy a HP/Compaq laptop ever again.... between the 5 people in my grad program who got them, 4 of theirs died (one twice actually) within 18 months... their customer service taught me never to buy from them again.
I've had personal good luck with Dell, Toshiba, and Sony...
My experience has been the opposite.
I have a Compaq that is still kicken and booten.
It has been the Dells that have been the problem.
It was the 2003-2006 that the Dells really seemed to have a problem.
That was my experience.