Home Basic has everything stripped out of it, so you'd need to think about upgrading it to Home Premium to get all the bells and whistles out of Vista.
Plus, sticking another 2GB of RAM in there wouldn't hurt one bit.
Though, I've seen some much better boxes at $500-$600 when they go on-sale in-store or online, such as Dell.
Well, considering the machine you're getting, you're probably better off with Home Basic, anyway. Most of the added features of Premium would be meaningless on such a computer, like Aero and HTPC functions. You're probably even better off dual-booting Linux and just using that, resorting to Vista only when you actually need a Windows OS for some reasons.
You can certainly get better laptops, but you'll have to pay more, even with sales. For $300, this is not, comparatively, a big blow to one's budget. The only thing close is something along the lines of Asus' Eee PCs and similar products. And frankly, a 6'1, 230 pound man would look silly using one of those.