I'm not sure how others feel, but I was in the same boat as you about 2 months ago and after some searching around I found a nice FUJI with disk in that price range. although I must say I've probably already dropped another $400 just in upgrade parts (shock, cassette, rear der, rims) but thats because I ride harder than what the bike was made for (entry level) but the frame is essentially the same that they use on their higher end models. (very strong welds and gusseting where needed with a Power diamond bottom tube.
check out the link in my sig and go from there..
hope this helps