all i can say about hubs in general is, if you're shopping for them, check out the *other* site (empty bee yar--you know what i mean) and check out reviews. I was looking at hopes for a mtb build, until i read some credible yet negative reviews over there. Another factor is, finding the older hopes, that aren't disc-brake compat, is harder these days. And, if you're not running discs, you won't want the disc hubs, b/c they'll build a more dished (and, thus, weaker) wheel.
I love Shimano hubs. They're higher maintenance than many, but the maintenance is cheap and easy, and they're dirt cheap, really. Personally, i don't think i'm going to ditch the Shimano hubs for anything other than Phils. I do have some surly sealed bolt-on hubs on my SS 29er, and having the sealed bearings on an affordable hub is nice; i'd condider building up a geared wheelset with a surly front hub in the future. But, usually, you can get the shimano hubs for so cheep, and you can learn to adjust/rebuild them so easily, and replacements are so plentiful, i can't find a compelling reason to abandon them, beyond bling-factor.