Did you PAY $2650 or was it $1350 (You said you paid about $1300 less than if it were retail price).
Even $2,650 seems ridiculous to me, didn't you look at the $750 off Dell coupon? The i9300 has really good reviews from CNET and PCMAGAZINE.
I do agree though, an IBM thinkpad is a top-top machine. I would have gotten one if it weren't cost-prohibitive for me for all the specs I want (basically what you got, but without bluetooth).
I paid $2650. The normal price of this machine, without education discount, is close to $4K. ThinkPads are expensive. In my mind, they are over priced. However, I had two things to consider.
First thing is that my school will increase my student budget by the cost of a computer up to $3K. This means that my laptop cost will be bundled into my student loan. Since that thing is so freakin huge anyway, what's another few hundred bucks? Second, while I did look at all Dell models, and price configurations, they just don't make 'em like a ThinkPad. It's kinda hard to describe unless you've got both side by side.
The ThinkPad is built like a truck. The LCD has zero flex, the keyboard is the best out there, and the security and recovery tools that come built into the thing are amazing. It's made out of stronger and lighter materials than my bike for pete's sake! I just didn't get a warm and fuzzy when using the Dell. I didn't like the keyboard, I felt the designs were clunky and not as solid, etc. While I did like the screens on the Dell, I'm very happy with my SXGA on the T43.
In the end I think buying a computer is a personal thing. I've been buying them for 20 years and every time I do it's a several month process to find the right one. And the reasons I end up buying one will always be slightly different then the next guy. I can't say you should buy a ThinkPad or a Dell. All I can do is tell ya what I did and let that factor in to your decision process. The extra $$$$ on the ThinkPad, in the end, was worth it to me.