for what it's worth:
I have a Dell Latitude D400. I put a fresh hard drive in it and installed Windows XP SP2. After 45 minutes, the installation was complete, and I had a tiny little viewport 640x480 for video, no ethernet, no sound, no wireless, no bluetooth, no touchpad (no drivers for any of these -- on a laptop that proudly boasted a "Designed for Windows XP" sticker on it!). I spent another 20 minutes (half the time of the XP install) to put Linux Mint 7 on it alongside Windows XP, and everything worked right out of the box -- 1024x768 video, ethernet, wireless, bluetooth, sound and touchpad... all working fine. While booted into Mint 7 after the install, I surfed over to the Dell website and downloaded all of the Windows drivers for the D400, then mounted the Windows XP partition and dropped them on my XP desktop for installation there the next time I booted into Windows XP.
That was Mint 7 (Gloria). I later upgraded the Linux install to Mint 8 (Helena). No problems with the upgrade, but there were a few issues with ACPI, DPMS et al under the new OS -- instead of "sleeping" the display, it would lapse into a coma where I could do little more than power cycle the laptop to get it to wake up. Traced this back to a change in the ACPI implementation in the kernel (so it's not Mint's [or even Ubuntu's] fault) that was fixed in the 2.6.33 kernel. That kernel came out in mid-February, so I've manually upgraded the kernel on the laptop under Mint 8 and haven't had that issue recur.
Your best bet is to boot up your laptop using the Live CD (Mint 8, or Mint 7, or whatever) and use it for a while -- it'll be a little slower, running from the CD, than it would be with an actual install... but you can see if there's any issue with hardware support under that OS before you commit to it by installing it on the HD.
PS: As far as I know, those Windows drivers I downloaded from Dell and dropped on the XP desktop?? They're still there, waiting for "the next time I boot into Windows XP".