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These AMD based laptops have excellent 2D video support in both Windows and Linux, but are definitely not 3D graphics or gaming machines. For programmers and Linux users like me who do not need 3D graphics, these Athlon and Duron laptops offer a tremendous value of full-featured integrated peripherals and high performance without breaking the bank.
I have been less than impressed by my personal Sony Vaio FXA36 with its very poorly 3D capable graphics controller and terrible sounding onboard speakers, but otherwise it has been a reliable and fast non-multimedia computer. The Compaq Presario 700 series has a few minor drawbacks with slower burner and slightly smaller LCD screen, but otherwise the benefits far outweigh the detriments. The onboard speakers and 3D graphics within Windows XP are tremendously better, while 56k win-modem actually works in Linux, unlike the Sony laptop. UPDATE: The Contexant supplied Linux drivers seems to have a problem with the kernel in Red Hat 7.3. I am contacting the manufacturer with a bug fix report, hopefully this can be fixed quickly.
All in all, I have to give the Compaq series of AMD powered laptops a higher overall value rating than the Sony series. Both product lines have available the same Mobile Athlon or Duron processors, but widely differ value of integrated hardware and peripherals. The Compaq Presario 700 series Duron laptops are currently an excellent low-budget value systems with full features, while its Athlon cousin is the same thing in terms of features but with expected higher performance.
I highly recommend this series of laptop especially for Linux usage. All peripherals and features with the exception of 3D accelerated video can be made to work nearly perfectly with only minor tweaks.
At the time of writing this article, the Compaq Presario 722US 1.1GHz Duron laptop reviewed here was $1,259 after $100 rebate in-store only at Office Depot, with a 1.4GHz Mobile Athlon XP equivalent Presario 725US for $1,559 after rebate. CompUSA online and in-store has a slightly slower 1GHz Duron version with a DVD-only optical drive for only $999 after rebate. I would consider any of these machines to be an excellent budget value for both Windows and Linux users.
This site has tons of information on the Athlon powered Sony Vaio laptops for both Windows and Linux users. They have downloads and guides for various BIOS upgrades, drivers and other tweaking for both operating systems.