Another important feature is getting one that has high-resolutions. There are some laptops that have 1920x1080 (called 1080p) this will give a bigger work area within the program (as I also use that program).
You can get by with the normal 1360x768, just that more res. makes it easier to see things when your doing lots of zooming and arc rotating.
The 3ds Max minimum system requirements are actually quite modest. System Requirements for 3ds Max
Just getting started, he won't need the type of computer hardware he'd need if he was going to make a living with 3ds Max or similar software.
It would help us out if you can mention a comfortable budget range.