Hello, I have never owned a new mountain Bike, however I am a good rider and am looking to buy a new bike. I was in a bike store over the weekend and looked at a TREK 3900 and 4300 which ran about $370 and $400 respectively. The lady helping me said I should really go with TREK or Specialized as far as MTB quality is concerned. But I also know that Haro and Gary Fisher also make MT bikes. I was just looking for some different brand ideas, Im looking for something with front suspension and something that will be ok in the street just enough to get around not really long distance riding, and something good for trails and offroading.
The Gary Fisher Wahoo is also a good low price bike, if she neglected to mention it they mustn't have had one at the shop. It has good reviews, and is generally well-liked. I don't know how the fork will perform on the street, but you could always look at a stiffer fork if you don't like it.