As far as hardware compatibility, you can check the Mint Community site database (http://community.linuxmint.com/hardware/search
). There are currently 55 pages at 20 entries per page for "Laptop/Notebook" and 11 pages (not all duplications) for "Laptop". The entries are color coded the darker green entries are the most compatible.
If you are not registered on the Community site, you will need to register. It is no more difficult than registering on the forum.