I'm considering a K2 Zed 3.0. Looking around a bit, the K2 and Iron Horse brands seem more common with big box stores.
Could anyone comment on how difference the performance between, say, a K2's (which I think is off-the-shelf OEM frames, but could be wrong) vs Specialized, Trek, etc...? For example, I've seen many posts saying that the Rockhoppers are a good value because the frame is so good. Besides components (since, for the price, they are fairly well matched between the brands), how big of a difference does Specialized new M4 and A1 alloys really make, especially in Specialized's lower end models (e.g. Rockhopper comp)? Is there something really 'special' about those frames vs other brands?
I test rode the Zed 3.0 two times. Also tried a Rockhopper Comp Disc '09, and previously had a Novara Ponderosa for a couple rides before it got stolen. I've felt the most comfortable on the K2, felt a little cramped or something on the Rockhopper. These are all 17". I did purchase the Zed from REI today, but haven't ridden it and could return it if there is a really compelling reason to.