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You seem to get the best value from Dell - at least it used to be the case. However it's not just a case of getting the biggest hd, fastest cpu, gpu, most ram. There's other things to think about, like what your main usage is, what other stuff you intend to connect to it, If you are just browsing the 'net you really don't need anything powerful at all. If you are doing cad on it you need to think about graphics capability. And of course there's a load of stuff in between.
If cost is your issue, you will likely get an equally good if not better laptop second-hand to a new one, for any given price, so that's worth considering too.
Good luck with the hunt!
Way, WAY too broad a question IMO. Surely you have at least SOME criteria for things you would prefer to have in your laptop? what will you use it for? will it store a lot of videos or music that might need a bigger hard drive? or would you prefer speed or even want to do video gaming on it? What about portability, battery life, screen size?
The first thing I do when purchasing a computer is consider the size and what it will be used for. A laptop with a larger 15" or 17" screen may be nicer to look at and may have a more spacious keyboard, but may also be bulky and difficult to carry around. Smaller laptops are lighter and more portable, but will have smaller screens and may not always have options for things like higher-end CPUs or on-board graphics cards. Where will you be using this machine? will it mostly just be in your home, or will you be transporting it around enough that you may want to consider getting a dedicated carrying case? If you plan to use it on a desk or at home a lot, consider getting an external monitor or getting a display cable so you can display your screen on a TV.
Another important decision in the current computing market is whether or not you want to go for an SSD or a traditional magnetic hard drive. Hard drives will be cheaper for a given capacity, but an SSD will significantly improve performance, load times, and reduce general stuttering, etc. If you are on a budget, you may have to choose between a small capacity SSD or a large capacity HDD.
Other performance specs like CPU, RAM, and GPU will depend on how you use it, what programs you plan to run, or any games you play. If all you plan to do is browse the internet or use basic office programs, you probably only need basic performance, as pretty much everything will be limited by the speed of your internet connection. 3D modeling/CAD, video editing, gaming, engineering simulations, etc. will all require more processing power to run smoothly.
One of the more subtle features I look for in laptops is whether or not they have a replaceable battery. Thanks to being able to easily replace the battery, I have an HP DV6 that has been going strong for about 5+ years now. It has a quad-core CPU, 16GB of RAM (which was practically unheard of in a consumer-grade laptop in 2012 when I got it), and I retrofitted it with an SSD, so still no need to replace it for the foreseeable future. Laptops with integrated batteries are often sleeker and more compact, but for the average consumer it turns into a paperweight once the battery goes.