The other choices were for my wife and me. The girls will outgrow their bikes fairly quickly and so I expect to be buying them a new bike every 2-3 yrs, but ours I expect we'll keep for a while, so I wanted to make a good choice for the long run. This meant avoiding the ultra-cheap box store bikes, and yet still staying under $500.
I went with a Trek Allant and couldn't be happier. It offers the best of all worlds for a recreational rider. Unlike a comfort bike, it can actually tackle hills. Unlike a road or Mtn bike, it is a nearly upright ride - great for folks like me who are approaching their 50s and maybe not in the best shape of their lives. It can also handle dirt roads as long as they're fairly smooth.
My wife on the other hand went with a comfort bike (a Trek Navigator) and is only somewhat happy with her choice. The bike is perfect for her on 100% flat
rides, but is a real chore on even the slightest of inclines.
If you try a comfort bike, you might be easily fooled by its extremely comfortable ride. But consider the geometry of the ride. I was very surprised at how uncomfortable a "comfort" bike is on anything but perfectly flat pavement.
Hope that helps and good luck with your shopping!