I have a Sony Viao PCG SRX51P/B. It is old, about 8 years - which in computing terms is ancient. It is small and light; a netbook before netbooks, yet it is perfectly good working as a notebook/laptop. OK, it only has 384MB of memory which is a serious problem these days where 1GB seems to be the minimum requirement. However despite this it still works quite usefully.
Most importantly for this post, it has what is reported as a "Yamaha YMF753" sound system which not only provides sound and balance controls, it also has tone controls and a 3D processor. The speakers are a bit small, but through earpieces/headphones, the sound is really quite good.
I recently purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad T500 as a portable workstation (1680×1050 version). It's less than 6 months old, and so at least reasonably new. It has a serious dual-core processor running at a very healthy speed. As a tool for programming, presenting training courses, processing email, VOIP, etc., it is superb. The sound system though is pathetic. Actually it's appalling. It reports itself as a "Conexant CX20561 (Hermosa)", it provides volume and balance and absolutely nothing else. The sound is tinny and, well, totally rubbish.
The T500 is supposed to be a top-end laptop, so why put a really crap sound system in it? Will things change or will the quality of sound system just get worse and worse even in top-end laptops?