The Thinkpads especially the T-series are business laptops that are dependable, solidily built to last laptops. I have the T400s which is the first of the 4xx"s" series (T400s, T410s, T420s, and now T430s). The "s" being a slimmer version to the T400, T410, etc. At that time the T400s was available, ultrabooks did not exist and the T400s was one of the lightest and thinnest 14" laptops around. It also was one of the coolest running (temperature wise) laptops. I was especially concern about that because my previous laptop an HP 12" unit ran very warm and barely lasted 2 years. Not all HP models are bad but I (and a lot of others) ended up with this model which was a lemon. After my hdd died after 22 months and I replaced it, the display died a couple of months later. I then checked Amazon reviews of my model and quite a number of people had problems with that model after their 1st year, many not even reaching 2 years. So in looking for a new laptop, heat was a concern for me. I found a website (notebookreview.com) where for some of the reviews, they actually measured how hot the laptop got on both the top surface (keyboard) and the bottom of the laptop. The T400s was pretty much the coolest running 14" unit around.
My T400s did have a display problem its first year but Lenovo service was great. They shipped a box to me overnight to send them the laptop back along with a UPS prepaid label. They had it back to me after a couple of days. I haven't had a problem with the laptop since then. Now this great service is with their Thinkpad series (not their consumer laptops which has a different toll-free number and tech support group. I can't speak with regard to support for their other product lines). Many business use Thinkpads (ever since the laptops were made by IBM) so the company 'overall' tries to provide good support when it comes to Thinkpads.
Now the HP Envy Spectre may not have a optical drive (pretty much no ultrabook that I know of does). But you can buy an external one to use when you want to install software that comes on DVDs. Unless you want to watch a lot of DVDs while around campus or need to burn data to DVDs alot, not having a CD/DVD drive within the laptop isn't critical. It was a way to make the unit smaller and lighter. You do want to buy an external optical drive in order to use it to create restore disks for your laptop. The gorilla glass display image will be brighter and more vivid than the Thinkpad's but again the T430s is popular with business versus for consumers who may use the laptop to view photos (so the pictures look brighter and more colorful than on a matte display of a Thinkpad).
Depending upon how long you plan to keep the laptop you need to be aware that pretty much all ultrabooks do not have user replaceable batteries. The T430s' battery is replaceable because its not an ultrabook. You can also upgrade the memory yourself (though at 8GB you won't need to). Having said this I can't say whether or not HP Envy Spectre's battery and memory are user accessible. Haven't seen anything about that with regard to this model.
SSD's are nice. they help speed up start up times. Lenovo has incorporated its "Rapid Reboot" technology to speed up start up times (though with an SSD even rapid reboot will start up even faster). You can get a T430s with a 128GB SSD and install a 2nd 320GB HDD into the space with the optical drive bay is. Or you could order it with a HDD and optical drive and then buy an ultrabay tray that can house a SSD and pull the optical drive and insert this 2nd drive in its place (and configure your laptop to attempt to boot off first).
Now at least for the T400s, I can tell you it runs really cool (definitely no overheating) and no noise. The T430s should do likewise those it is so new, websites that review laptops haven't had a chance to actually try it out. The T420s (generation just prior to T430s) ran fairly cool though there was one fairly warm spot on the bottom the rest of the laptop surfaces were fairly cool. Thinkpads don't have flashy style... they're just practical. That's why those looking for solid reliability including engineers and those in IT like them. (I've noticed among my friends the engineers and IT/computer guys have Thinkpads.)
hope this helps.
I've been thinking about my college laptop, but I can't decide which one I want to get. The college I'm going to offers the Thinkpad T430s with Intel i5, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, Intel graphics, and a three year protection/warranty for $1550. I was also considering the HP Envy Spectre ($1400), which looks physically appealing and offers SSD, but (1) I'm worried about getting fingerprints all over the gorilla glass (2) integrated graphics and (3) no optical drive.
Mainly I'm looking for a solid PC (no Macs, please) that'll be dependable, is built solidly (no flimsy hinges), is relatively compact/small, and will perform well without overheating/making tons of noise. Visually appealing laptops are always a plus, but I'm fine with a no-nonsense laptop, as long as it can perform well. Suggestions?
(Also, $1500 is probably around the higher limit of my budget)