First recognize that for just about every brand name you know, the laptop is NOT made by the company whose sticker is on it.
You like Gateway and HP but it must be recognized that the same company makes Dell's, HP's and Gateway's laptops.
The vast majority of laptops on the market are manufactured by a small handful of Original Design Manufacturers (ODM).
Major relationships include:
* Quanta sells to (among others) HP/Compaq, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, Acer, NEC, Gateway and Lenovo/IBM - note that Quanta is currently (as of August, 2007) the largest manufacturer of notebook computers in the world.
* Compal sells to Toshiba, HP/Compaq, Acer, and Dell.
* Wistron (former manufacturing & design division of Acer) sells to HP/Compaq, Dell, IBM, NEC, Acer, and Lenovo/IBM.
* Flextronics (former Arima Computer Corporation notebook division) sells to HP/Compaq, NEC, and Dell.
* ECS sells to IBM, Fujitsu, and Dell.
* Asus sells to Apple (iBook), Sony, and Samsung.
* Inventec sells to HP/Compaq, Toshiba, and BenQ.
* Uniwill sells to Lenovo/IBM and Fujitsu.
* Clevo sells to boutique manufacturers like Sager, FalcolnNW, WidowPC and others
Personally I find $750 about the entry point for a good laptop.