Have you looked into Kawasaki? I picked up the smaller 600 model (kht600? I think) recently and I like it. 24" double side blade. weighs a hair more than the stihl which I'd imagine could be contributed to a bigger blade than the hs45. Twice the fuel capacity of the HS 45. A little less displacement than the HS45. Ball bearing gearbox.
I think I paid $250 from my local kawasaki dealer.