I posted a few days ago about my looking at buying a new entry level MTB. I have been looking at the Felt Q520 (26") and a Specialized Rockhopper comp disk 29. I had originally looked at the Hardrock, but they all rode like toys so I looked at others and found a comparable ride on that level (to the Felt).
Between the two there is honestly very little to compare, aside from the fact that they ride really similarly, and one costs almost half what the other does. The brakes and components on the Rockhopper are a bit better with a large difference in the brakes, being hydraulic rather than mech. I could actually even add hydraulic brakes to the Felt and still be under the cost of the Specialized.
Everyone I talk to tells me to go with the 29er. I simply cannot feel it ride wise. I know part of it is infamiliarity with the profile, as I have ridden 26" before, even recently. The components aren't really far enough apart to justify concern, but if I found the group on the Felt to be lacking it would cost me more than just buying the more expensive bike up front. Especially considering I plan to put on the different brakes anyway a short time after purchase.
The worst part is the fact that the more I read, the more I look, the more I am lulled into buying a bike that I really don't need and will never use at the level it is intended to be used for. I already have a nice road bike, and will be spending most of my riding time on it anyway. I will not be riding the MTB on anything outside light to barely intermediate trails anyway. I could likely ride my road bike on most of it without damage (and have on one of them).