Yep, I agree with you. Would be an excellent starter MTB. In fact, it is good enough that you can even upgrade components on it for the next year or two as you get more into riding.
I was always very pleased with the series of three Trek HT MTBs I rode over the years. In fact, the 7000 was one of the best MTBs I have ever owned. Check out the auctions for them, as well. They have better components and you may find a year or two older one for the same money as the 4500.
Either way, the Trek HTs are great bikes for the money.