My Mom's Inspiron 2500 laptop died, more accurately the hard drive did. I'm not happy that a 4 year old lightly used HD crapped out so I'm looking for something hopefully more reliable. I'll be replacing the HD but want to get her a completely new Laptop. I know very little about laptop specs so I'm looking for some advice. This will be used for email and photo editing mostly. Requirements are under 1200 bucks, CD burner, uncluttered with software, good reliability, preferably with an AMD, and preferably not a Dell.
Depends on her eyes, but a 15.4" widescreen or even a 17" Desktop Replacement notebook should do the trick. Such notebooks are relatively quiet and powerful, with full-sized keyboards and plenty of USB ports. HP, Compaq, Acer, and even Gateway would do nicely.
7200RPM drives aren't all that much faster, really. A good 5400RPM drive is good enough.
Yes, Core Duos are Intel only, and they are dual-cored CPUs, so they can be considerably faster than AMD's mobile CPUs, unless you find a Turion X2 setup. It's a bit overkill for a basic notebook, but if it's in your price range, why not?
I'm a big fan of the Seagate Momentus drives. Seem to be tied for the top in terms of performance, and my top pick for reliability.
As far as the whole laptop, the Core Duo is a good performer, but it's not "basic" in the least (neither is a Turion X2). Both would mean a lot of extra expense, and probably with no real upside for you Mom (guessing she's not using CAD/CAM or a hard-core gamer!).
I've been running into the HP/Q V5000z everywhere lately. It's a medium-sized, mid-range laptop with a nice build, good keyboard, screen and sound, that can be had for around $500. It's definately a comprimize... there are smaller, faster, lighter, fuller feature systems available, but this is a very well-rounded system that comes in at a very low price point.