What is your desired price range? I would stay away from laptops that are in the $300 - $500 range; those are cheap for a reason. If you want something reliable yet affordable, I can recommend some laptops in the $700 range. Some may call me a hater, but for reliability, choose a laptop with either intel i5 or i7 processor. Does the laptop have an AMD processor in it? Don't even think about it. Intel, but NOT i5 or i7 (i3 is acceptable) -- don't even think about it.
Here is a nice laptop for $699 from Newegg.http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834131303
i5 processor @ 2.5 GHz
750 GB Hard Drive
With these specs, you will definitely be able to surf the web, play online poker, and store lots of pictures without it freezing or slowing down.
As for brand names to stay away from, any low-end product of any brand (< $500 laptops). In terms of reliability and satisfaction, that is. Unless you're looking for a netbook but that's different. But I will say this: I'm not a fan of Acer or Dell (unless its one of their super high end models).
Yeah and as other people have said, Macbooks are extremely overpriced for their specifications (but they are reliable, but you can get a reliable laptop for 1/4 price with its specs).
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