I don't really plan on doing any retouching or such on mine, just using it for downloading from CF cards and burning BU DVDs in the field, as well as of internet service when I'm out of town, which isn't very often. You can find all kinds of deals, but if your friend is going to be doing what I do, plus actually retouching, he doesn't really want to go with the lower level options, and its the little upgrades that get you. For example, (in the PC world - I don't do MAC), he'll want a fast processor, not a Celeron chip, and if he needs to be doing stuff on battery, probably a Centrino chip at that. He'll need at least 1gb RAM for retouching, 2gb would be better. He may want a DVD burner, firewire, etc. Also, look at the hard drive. Most drives out there are 4200rpm, but you can get them as an option at 5400rpm (you have to drill into the tech specs to find this), which greatly improves the access speed on those big files (most desktop machine hard drives run at 7200rpm by comparison). And then there is screen size and resolution. I didn't order a 17" screen because I think they're bulky and most of my images go veritcal anyway, and I don't really need room to one side for the palettes, although your friend might. If he's going to be disconnected when he works, a larger battery would be helpful too, as well as an external mouse (instead of trying to retouch with a touchpad).
All these things considered (and not getting into the wisdom of retouching on a laptop), you can see how that $799 special at Best Buy doesn't really cut it, and you can end up well into the mid-teens. I ordered mine online from HP through Costco for $1550 (Costco gives you an unconditional 6-month return) and then got this promo yesterday. Its good machine, but the specs and some features aren't quite what I ordered, and its a Dell, which doesn't have a great reputation for laptops (although my brother has one and swears by it, but he's the only one). I almost considered canceling my order and getting this one, but amoung other things, it only has 1024x768 screen resolution (mine will be 1280x800). http://tinyurl.com/c2py9
BTW, I heard a lot of good things about Fujitsu, especially their build quality, but they're also considerably more expensive for what you get. Since I don't plan on taking mine everywhere I go all day, that was not a major consideration.
Andy Pearlman Studio