Well, I believe I promised Lowcel a while back that I'd do a comparison on my old versus new wheelset. Basically I wanted to do this because when I owned XT Rhyno Lite's, I always wondered what I "may be" missing out on so I want others in a similar situation to benefit from my experience.
The background (lengthy):
When I first built my XLT, I got a set of XT Rhyno Lite's with DT Champion spokes for a Christmas present. I had a bit of trouble with them loosening up on me because they were machine built. I had them retensioned a couple of times, but I was annoyed. I took them to my LBS to have them "re-done". The service manager "hand built" them with lindseed oil and got them back to me pretty dang quick. I rode them for a while and did the typical 100mile or so retension. After that, I never had them loosen up again, nor did I ever need to true them up. They were pretty dadgum bomber!
I decided that I wanted some "sealed bearing" hubs and I wanted to save some weight, so I wanted some Hope Pro II hubs laced to a pair of DT EX 5.1d rims via DT Competition spokes and brass nipples. This build, along with DTC Kenda's instead of Stick-E's, saved me quite a bit of weight. I had UniversalCycles.com do the build because all of the reviews I read were VERY positive, they have a ton of return business, and it was over $120 cheaper than having my LBS build them. If I can't save at least $50 bucks or so, I'm a big advocate of doing business with the LBS, so it pained me to not have my LBS do it, but I'm part of a 1 income family with two kids and I need all the "break" I can get.
There were three things that I noticed right out of the gate about the new build:
3. Noisy freehub
Acceleration: The XT Rhyno Lite's always felt a little sluggish, but as soon as I "hit the gas" on the Hope/DT's it almost felt like a lightweight XC'er. They are very quick with very little resistance. I feel like I can ride longer/faster than with the old wheelset with less effort.
Rigidity: The new wheelset is noticeably more laterally rigid than the XT/Rhyno lites. There is a more positive feel with the terrain below. I feel more confident leaning in turns and bombing hills as well.
Strength: I don't feel that there is much to compare here because I haven't taco'd either wheelset. I haven't broken any spokes either. I feel equally confident in the impact resistance of either wheelset. Like I said, the XT Rhyno Lites are a Bomber wheelset on a budget!
Features: I was a little leary of ordering a set of wheels because I was toying with the idea of getting a 20mm fork and wasn't sure whether or not I should wait until I made a fork decision first. The great thing about the Hope Pro II hubs versus the XT's is that the front hub can be easily converted to either Std. QR or 20mm thru axle. I am currently using a QR fork and feel that this setup is adequate for my "main" style of agressive XC riding. Another nice thing about the Hope's is that they have sealed cartridge bearings that don't seep lube like the "loose ball bearing" XT's. I also like the 4 pawl action of the Hope's. They are VERY STINKIN' LOUD!! I love loud freehubs, so I'm in my height of glory riding these things. The ratchet action sounds like a 3/4" drive Snap On ratchet with a 2" socket on the end, hehehe. If you like a quiet freehub, these are not your product. If you want people to "get the heck outta your way"...just back pedal once and they'll hear ya coming!
Over all, I think the XT Rhyno Lites are a good "cheap" wheelset. Possibly the best cheap wheelset on the market when built by a respectable wheelbuilder like my LBS. But...if you really want to treat yourself, spend a few bucks and check out some Hope Pro II's and DT rims. So far, these are the best wheels I've ever had and highly recommend them.