My daughter bought an AMD Athlon 2000 based one with Win XP, a CD-RW, StarOffice (report to published in PCA shortly) for about £800 a couple of weeks ago. It seems fine. They also do a less expensive one without a cd rewriter.
I've been happy with both my Dell and Sony laptops. The quality of both is very good but the support has been a little lacking from each manufacturer. I read that Toshiba, Compaq, Samsung, Sharp and IBM also have a good reputation, but IBM tends to be lacking in features at your price range. Others on the forum may suggest other makes as well.
From personal experience I would list the things you would like to have based on what you're going to use it for e.g. CPU, Hard Disk size, DVD/CDRW, Firewire, USB2, amount of RAM, battery life etc. and search for the models that include those features and try to get hold of reviews of these in the computer magazines (obviously PCA should be the first you look at). Then, if possible, I would actually try them out if you can at a computer store as you can judge the general quality, the display and the keyboard. The reason I went for the Sony was that it had all the features I wanted but the keyboard felt really good to use and didn't flex like some other models did.
After you've narrowed down your selection I would strongly recommend searching both the Helproom and ConsumerWatch for both the manufacturer and model number to see other peoples experiences as this may sway your decision. I wish I'd done this on kit I've bought over the last year or so.
I know this doesn't precisely answer your question but hope it is of some help.