I have only ever used the stainless steel variety. Tried a plastic version once but it didn't keep up, I felt like I was going to break it (although to be fair it was not an expensive item, if you catch my drift...) I too have lost some fingernails and a few chunks of fingertip. Luckly I was using very thin settings :)
I vote the stainless steel varieties much more efficient, if a little scary. But if you aren't cooking in a restaurant kitchen, I would vote for one with a guard that fits over the food or fingers, and a variety of interchangeable blades. If you're going to spend the money, make it as multi purpose as possible, right?
I've seen one type where the blade lifts up when you run the food over it, then recedes to be flush with the body of the mandoline.
Sorry I have no brand names to offer up, I only know what I have experienced, and I believe they were all fairly generic models.