I'm trying to help my sister find a laptop. She doesn't really know what she wants except that it should be AS. CHEAP. AS. POSSIBLE, and new (she's had bad experiences with used/refurbished).
I'll try to fill in some of what I think she could use:
~15" in screen
Video card doesn't matter. (Only games are years-old adventure games.)
CPU: Preferably dual-core, but she doesn't do much multi-tasking, so maybe this isn't necessary? (This is the main point I'm looking for input on.)
No need for webcam, card reader, etc.
Nice to have 3+ USB ports, but not necessary.
Basically its max load will be a couple IM clients open, along with a bunch of Firefox tabs, and likely a DVD or AVI movie playing. It'll primarily be used as a desktop replacement, but will travel occasionally. Price is more important than battery life or weight.
She also tends to store a lot of video files and stuff, so a large HD would be nice, but I'm trying to convince her to get an external drive for that stuff and for backup anyway, so it might actually be a detriment!
The RAM and HDD space won't really bring anything extra, but you'll see a noticeable speed up with the better CPU. I would get the compaq.
You don't think 3GB vs 2 would be helpful for Vista?
They've just changed their prices though.. when I first looked it was $429 vs $469. Now it's $399 vs $499. So they're making the e-machine more attractive and the Compaq less... I'd love to recommend the better machine, but since her key consideration is cost, at $400 vs $500, I think we have to go with the cheaper one... (Unless you/people reeeally think it's worth it?)