I'm helping a mate look for a 500 bike for XC trail use and a bit of commuting. He wants something with suspension forks and ideally disc brakes. Currently considering Kona Fire Mountain or Blast, Marin Hawk Hill, Specialized Hardrock Pro Disc or Rockhopper, Trek 4500 Disc, Gary Fisher Marlin, or the Giant XTC 4.

The burlier hardtails (Gary Fisher Mullet, Marin Northside trail etc) are also an option.