I think there are some misunderstandings on this thread about knife performance. For example, despite modern formulations and air-hardening techniques, it isn't possible for a knife to wear longer and sharpen faster. Granted, some of the more modern steels can hone faster (on a steel) because the higher vanadium content keeps the microscopic serrations from snapping off, but they can't actually be sharpened faster. As one guy in the steel industry said, if it's harder, it wears longer and sharpens slower; if it's softer, it wears out faster but sharpens faster too (paraphrased, of course).
Also, each blade can be equally sharp. Yes, the ceramic blades are, in theory, sharper than steel ones, but it really has no practical advantage. You wouldn't notice a real difference in real-life situations. So to say that one brand is sharper than another probably means that the "sharper" brand has softer steel and is easier to sharpen and hone.
Knife choice is really all about personal preference, and that's been demonstrated perfectly on this thread. One person loves a knife, another is unimpressed by it. They're both right, of course, because they're probably looking for different things and have different ideas about comfort. For example, I just simply don't like most Japanese knives. It's not about quality, it's about feel. For certain slicing tasks they're fine for me, but I prefer heavier knives for most things. Hell, I use my 10" Henckels chef's knife -- my companion of about 15 years now -- for finely mincing garlic. I don't know what I'd do without it. Others don't like knives of this size.
I also like the Henckels for its shape. Its basically a typical German shape, but it has the finer tip of a typical French chef's knife, which gives me a little less "rock" than a German knife but trades that in for finer tip control. Its hardness -- RC 60 -- makes for a longer-wearing edge, which I like on this workhorse. Now, for faster honing for quick projects, I switch to my Thiers-Issard Sabatier. I have the 6" version and use it as a utility knife. It's also wonderful.
I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Lamson Sharp. They're American made, competetively priced, and attractive. I have only one but I love it. The steel is a little softer so they're easier to hone and sharpen, but due to this I'm not sure I'd like a Lamson chef's knife.
For a short time Chef's Choice made a premium line of cuttler that was awesome. It was quite hard and very spendy, and maybe that's why it didn't work. I have a couple, including a 10" kuellen slicer that is just a joy to use. It's kind of a bitch to hone, though.