2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering? Doesn't matter, I'm just a resolution whore
3. What screen resolution do you want? 1600x900 minimum, anything bigger is great
4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop? Doesn't really matter.
5. How much battery life do you need? Always in reach of a plugin, so doesn't matter.
6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)? Medium resolution on most non-demanding games (Diablo 3, older games, etc).
7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.) Will be installing some flavor of linux (ubuntu/edubuntu to start with, with plans to move to arch), so something with hardware that isn't a ton of work to make work with linux would be nice.
8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need? Doesn't matter.
9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links. I'm fond of newegg, but I'm not locked in anywhere.
10. How long do you want to keep your laptop? 'Til it dies, so a few years at least.
11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ? DVD RW would be nice, anything beyond that is gravy.
12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons. Not a fan of Sony (machines seem like they're same spec and 2.5x the price). Otherwise, I don't have any real biases. Well, maybe against eMachines and Compaq.
13. What country do you live in? USA
Basically, I'm looking for a laptop that isn't a ton of work to make work with linux that has a high res screen. This is mainly going to be my tabletop gaming laptop/CS coursework machine, so a raging videocard or the like isn't strictly necessary.
14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
The budget you have is really too small for what you are expecting to get. Unless you wanna wait for Black Friday deals. Based on what's available at Newegg you cannot get a laptop in the $700 range unless you are willing to settle for refurbished laptops with relatively weak GPUs like the following.
Here's a TOSHIBA Satellite L775D-S7305B Notebook AMD A-Series A6-3400M(1.4GHz) that's in your price range with a 1600x900 screen, but it has an integrated graphic core which is about as powerful as a desktop Radeon HD 5550. The Llano CPU core is a bit weak compared to Intel.
Ah, okay, so it's mainly the gaming requirements throwing things off then from what I'm understanding? My mistake for misunderstanding then. If we remove gaming from the equation, so that this becomes a school work/internet machine, are better resolution screens available then? As for hard drive/ram, minimal with the option to expand is fine, I'm adept at monkeying around with that sort of fiddly bits, I've just never actually bought a laptop before.
Actually, I was under the misconception that you were specifically looking for a 15.6" or smaller laptop. Most post are for those sizes. If you can live with a larger and heavier laptop, then you have some options. Usually the smaller and lighter something is, the more expensive it will be.
There are plenty of laptops at Newegg.com to choose from; both new (only 10 though) and refurbed within your price range with a 1600x900 resolution screen. Click the following link and play with the sliders / filters to find them. They are all 17.3" laptops.
Here's an example with a nVidia GT 610M discrete graphic card. It is pretty weak, but at least it is better than Intel's integrated graphics. But this is the only new 17.3" laptop with a discrete graphic card in your price range... and it is a 1st generation Core i5 CPU and is pretty heavy at over 7lbs. A 2nd generation Core i5 with the same clock speed on average offers roughly 12% more raw processing power.
Another is the TOSHIBA Satellite L775-S7130 Notebook Intel Core i3 2350M(2.30GHz) which has a 2nd generation Core i5 CPU but it is not as powerful as the laptop above. It also features the Intel HD 3000 graphic core. It weighs in at a little over 6lbs.