i'd get the opti-drive system that has variable speeds. that's similar to the mower i have now. it uses a belt but i've never had to replace the belt and it still works great. i'd never get a hydrostatic/cruise control system. it's just more maintenance and if it goes out you're screwed. the belt drive all you would have to do is buy a cheap belt and you could even use it to push manually until you got a belt for it without having any resistance.
i hate reviews like this when they say things completely opposite of the truth though. the honda engine on my pushmower runs smooth as butter and always has. it doesn't surge or run rough or knock at all and never has. no honda engine i've ever used has including my trimmers so i dunno where all of that comes from. just a review that isn't true in my experience.