OK, for a 14.1" model...........
I think your choices in this size/performance category come down to the HP nc6000 or an IBM T41 or T42. I saw this particular Gateway at Office Depot yesterday, and I have to say that it looked really, really flimsy and cheap. The HP and the IBM are not supposed to be that way. The nc6000 has received the best overall professional reviews lately, the IBM traditionally has been top notch. The IBM is a little thinner, and a little lighter. As to which is overall the better unit, it is difficult to tell. Neither has firewire, but you can add that with PCMCIA for $20 or less, so no big deal.
Regardless of what you are told, don't get a 14.1" Dell, any model. The Inspiron and Latitude are the same machine, basically, and I do not like the screens on them. They don't overall look and feel as cheap as the Gateway, but they are below the quality of the IBM and HP. Same goes for the Toshiba Tecra M2 or whatever it is.
Also, a lot of keyboard flex on the Gateway, Dell and Toshiba.
If you want a smaller screen than a 14.1......
The IBM X31 is the best, but has no internal CD drive, you have to use an external.
SONY and Toshiba 13.3" are OK, but have the reflective screens (XBrite, etc) that are mirror-finish, that you either hate or like. (I don't like them, many people do, I wouldn't recommend them to use with fluorescent lighting).
Keep in mind that if you buy anything from SONY, accessories are expensive. The price of a battery for the 505 series is $350, unless you can find a cheap generic on EBAY.
There are also several ASUS 12" and 14" models, but would not be something that I would call as dependable as some others I have mentioned. Some people here may disagree.
Quality is somewhat a crapshoot, since you may have grief with a supposedly reliable unit, or really good luck with one that is said to be problematic.
I hope I have helped.