Macbook Air Competitor? -- Update

UPDATE: Just ordered the 13'' Air 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM

TL;DR - Looking for a thin laptop with at least 8hrs battery life, 256GB SSD, at least 6GB RAM, and good trackpad for under $1,200

I'm starting grad school in a month, and I'm in the market for a new laptop. I'm currently using a ~2.5 yr old Lenovo laptop, which has given me zero issues. The only thing is that it's heavy (large at 15'', plus have to carry charger everywhere) and has terrible battery life. Seeing as how a new laptop was a want and not a need, I decided to just stick it out with this baby until it no longer suited my needs.

This all changed last night when I went to the local coffee shop to study. All the inside tables were full, so I had to go to the outside tables and do my work (no outlets outside). I hadn't even been there for 2hrs when I got the Windows 8 "your battery is very low" warning. That was it, I had had enough.

I was looking online for the best thin and light laptops. Naturally, I started with the MBA. If I get the 13'' with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM, it comes out to $1,239 (with education discount). That's pretty steep, especially for a student like myself. So I went around looking for other thin and light windows laptops with great battery life, and I honestly did not find any that are comparable in specs and quality, and are cheaper. Is this really the case? For instance, the Vaio Pro starts at $1,200, and has half the RAM and storage as the Air I specc'd

People always talk about Apple being so expensive, but in this case it seems to be the other way around. Edit: Just for clarity, when I mean under $1,200, I really mean the $1,100 pricepoint point or lower. I don't see any reason to buy a windows laptop that is within ~$150 of the Air, when the Air is a better machine.