Farberware Pro forged 8" Chef's knife (can be found for under $12) has been my main knife for a while. It rates higher on Amazon reviews than all the $100+ chef's knives I've looked at. I wouldn't suggest their Santoku though because they use a European style handle (as on the Chef's knife) and blade geometry. It's forged, has a full tang, and triple rivets (though really it's all marketing and not a real reflection of quality or durability).
Victorinox acquired Forschner and makes very highly rated Chef's knives that aren't forged, full tang, or triple rivets. To me; they're pricey ($40-$60) and have primitive shaped handles. They look like the Cozzini knives we have at work and I have yet to see one of those break, and I have seen them abused. I really like the blades, but not the handles.
It seems like the more expensive the knife: the more fragile they are. I've seen pictures of expensive knives that have broken with no indication of abuse by people claiming the manufacturer wouldn't honor the lifetime guarantee (claiming owner abuse). Expensive knives also like to walk off on you.
I hone a lot more than it seems the average patron here. It can make a huge difference when done right, and it's so easy to do. I'm even gentle on the cutting edge. I agree that a good knife is a sharp knife, I'm picky about handles and how they suit the type of cutting they'll be doing.
Recommending brands isn't a good idea: Each brand has different tiers of quality and names for those tiers. While some make a decent Chef's knife, they may not make a decent Santoku (for those who know the difference). Edge retention may be more important to some, and why they'd want to spend more for a knife. I'd rather have a few cheaper decent knives than an expensive brittle and magically disappearing one.