I have experience with a number of lap tops running a number of Linux distros. To my eyes Mandriva 2008 is the finest OS I've ever used, bar none. It runs on lap tops I had previously not been able to get so much as a boot slash on.
As for my personal equipment, Mandriva runs great on my old (P-III) Dell Inspiron C600. An atheros based Netgear PCMCIA wifi adapter works right out of the box.
But I have had a Dickens of a time with a Dell Vostro 1000. The problems are too numerous to list. One major brick is that there is no way to power on the built in wifi without running Windows. None, period. No amount of laboring over the problem will ever fix that.
ACPI is very unstable on the machine as well. On several occasions the machine would not boot without disabling it, then magically it would run fine with ACPI enabled again.
Every so often upon shut down the video becomes unreadable, randomly and out of the blue. When this happens, hold your breath: on a couple of these occasions I found myself reinstalling the system from scratch afterward. All manner of errors spewed on the next boot, which was of course not successful. I have never seen such errors, huge swaths of memory addresses with "trace" and "stack" thrown in.
This machine doesn't shut down all the way automatically by default, either. I had to add a kernel cheat code (apm=power-off) before it would shut down without hanging on an error about an unknown key being pressed.
In all, this is the most Linux UN friendly machine I have ever encountered. It seems to be designed as a whole-system equivalent of a "winmodem." It's stripped down to begin with, including BIOS, and all the reduced hardware functions (like a physical wifi button) have apparently been offloaded to the Windows OS. A month of searching, and trying suggested fixes yielded no fix to numerous of the problems this lap top throws at the Linux user.
It runs great under XP by the way...
But for Linux; if you want severe headache/heartbreak, and enjoy "losing it all" randomly and frequently, then the Vostro 1000 is for you!
I urgently stress Linux fans avoid this machine. Now that I have reinstalled it, spent a week tweaking it and learned what NOT to attempt to do with it, the 1.8 GHz AMD Athalon 64X2, 1 GB RAM and 160 GB HD are a fine combination. Using an additional USB wifi adapter is a bit of a pain, not to mention disappointment, but the 1280x800 display is stunning, very nice.
But it shouldn't be so dang hard getting here, including the compromises I discovered the hard way, like don't run NX on it! I'm left suggesting anything else.
I have heard from a least one fellow saying a Vostro 1500 runs fine. Easy for him to say: he has a physical switch on his on board wifi. I don't