jfruhlinger writes: "I'm a Mac guy. When our 2004-era Windows XP laptop, which was used primarily by my wife, died last summer, I got myself a new MacBook Pro and she inherited my still servicable 2008 MacBook. But after about six months, she hasn't gotten used to it, and wants a Windows machine. I don't have an ideological problem with this — it'd be her computer, and we've got a bit of money stashed away to pay for it. But trying to pick one out is my job, and I find the the whole process bewildering. Apple's product differentiation is great at defeating the paradox of choice — you have a few base models, the difference between which is quite obvious, and you can customize each. The Windows world seems totally different. Even once I've settled on a vendor for a Windows laptop (something I haven't done yet), each seems to have a bewildering array of product lines with similar specs. Often models that you find in electronics or office supply stores that seem promising in terms of form factor are exclusive to those stores and can't be found online. Obviously people do navigate this process, but I'm just feeling out of my depth. How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?"