Originally Posted by zabak80
So I looked in Dell Outlet and with my coupon, could have gotten an inspiron with a Celeron, 15 inch, 80 gb, 1000 ram, etc. for a tad over $300.
You probably meant 1GB of RAM. No such thing as 1000 RAM unless you were talking about megabytes.
OK, on to the questions.
Celerons are one of the processor lines of Intel that cater to the lower end market, while the Pentiums are more towards the mainstream. Pentiums are not the top of the line. Top of the line would be their Core 2 Quad mobile processors I think. (aaronkupen got this covered)
You should look for what suites your needs best. It looks like the purpose of what you'll be using the laptop for, isn't demanding. So most recent laptops today can handle that. But most people looking for a laptop, usually consider portability, weight, and size.
In my opinion, the good brands to look for are HP, Toshiba, Acer, Samsung, Asus, etc..
For what you're doing, yea, I would agree that you need a laptop more than a netbook.
You can check craigslist, but make sure you deal locally. If it's out of state or country, don't consider it. And read carefully on what the listing is offering.
Atom processors are usually intended for netbooks/ultra-mobiles. So basically any laptop will give more performance. Such processors would include the Pentium Dual Core or Core 2 lines.