We would venture that the bulk of the laptops sold to the average consumer fall into this category. They have no real home as they are being used everywhere-- home, school, coffee shop and many other places. These are the jack of all trades of notebooks.
There is a lot of competition in this category and a lot of values to be had. Machines that fit this niche are affordable and reasonably powerful. Prices range from $700 to $1200 and weights are in the mid size range of 5-7 pounds. Build quality is sometimes on the light side but with a bit of care they will last a long time. This web page is being created on a 3-year-old, $900 laptop that has traveled the world. Inexpensive does not have to mean cheap when it comes to general purpose laptops.
Screen sizes range from 14-15 inches which makes for good viewing. Resolutions typically available are XGA and WXGA for wide screens. This is perfect for this screen size and higher resolution is not really necessary.
Battery life is usually in the 1-2 hour range which, while not exceptional, is good enough for most applications. Replacement batteries and travel chargers are available for most models if battery life is an issue.
Processing power is usually a couple of generations behind the state of the art. Often the processors are of the economy types made by the manufacturers. It doesn't matter, an AMD or Intel economy chip is made on the same machinery and to the same standards as their premium products. Money is saved by providing less features on the chip which for most applications won't ever be missed.
On the whole, if properly taken care of, a general purpose laptop in this price range will give you the best value for your dollar spent. The other thing is that these laptops are inexpensive enough where you shouldn't be tempted to buy those expensive (and very profitable for the store) Extended Services Contracts. If you spend $800 on a laptop it makes no sense to pay another 2-300 dollars on some extended coverage. You have a year with the manufacturer without paying a dime. If you assume the average life of a laptop is 3-4 years you will see that the price of the warranty is no deal. Laptop prices continue to fall. A year from now the laptop you bought for $800 today will likely only cost $600 for the same features. When your first year of warranty runs out you have a laptop that is worth $600 that you are now paying $300 to insure for another couple or 3 years. Most failures of laptops occur early. If your laptop makes it through year one, it is likely to run for many more years. This is what the people selling the warranties count on. They know that it's not likely to fail in years 2-4. While some of these extended warranties cover drop damage and that is a major selling point it really isn't what it's hyped to be. The limitations and exclusions will amaze you.
In the last 10 years we've bought dozens of laptops in every price range. We have never bought an extended warranty. In this time we have never had one fail and we dropped one after 3 years and cracked the screen. After 3 years of use this $900 laptop cost us $300 a year to run. We picked up a replacement for $700 and had the latest technology for what the extended warranty would have costs us 3 years earlier.
Road Warrior General Purpose Desktop Replacement