Morning guys, thanks for all the nice suggestions, but....
"The specs is the specs"!
I did a lot of planning with the buyer and the specs I listed in OP are "must haves", and for reason. Any other spec in a laptop can change, but not those.
The main purpose of the machine is to run some high end video editing software that will utilize all the cores and RAM you can give it, so the i7 was was not a frivolous decision. And there is a lot of transfer of large files from external drives so the USB 3.0 is huge.
I was really surprised to find just how few choices there were in that $1000 range.