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Thanks for the props!
The answer to your question re. price point is Absolutely Yes. If you can spend for the 2018 Hawk Hill 2 there is a lot of additional value.
First off, the frame is slightly different. It has a Boost spacing (148mm) rear end where the Hawk Hill 1 is a 142mm rear end (reduced to 135mm so it does require an axle for future wheel upgrades). That means the HH2 is forward compatible with the current wheel standard that most companies have adopted and ~ all companies will adopt.
There are also a number of component upgrades. My favourite is the Formula rear hub which is actually a really reliable choice with decent engagement points. They're also laced to 29mm internal rims vs. 27mm on the HH which is a very minor detail but again is inline with current standards.
I've been killing an NX drivetrain on my commuter bike and I'm really impressed with the reliability. One nice thing over the HH drivetrain is for future upgrades the NX derailleur can handle a 46t cassette if you want a bit more gear range.
The HH2 also comes stock with a dropper post. I have no experience with this particular model but if it's reliable that's a big upgrade.
To your point about the fork - with OE spec you can't always be certain what is under the hood BUT the Recon RL should be easily extended to 130mm, 140mm or even 150mm by swapping a relatively inexpensive air shaft. Definitely something I would have you dealer look into.
I didn't have a chance to over fork the HH I was riding but I'm sure I would have loved it with +10mm or +20mm if that was an option. Forced to choose without trying I'd flip a coin between 130mm and 140mm.
Buying an HH2 I'd budget for a great front tire right off the bat. Something like a Maxxis Minion 27x2.5 3C or 27x2.35 Schwalbe Magic Mary helps a more basic fork find traction and really boosts the confidence factor.
If the rotors have 'Resin Only' stamped on them then I wouldn't leave the shop without getting them changed out.
Without knowing how tall you are or where/what you ride... have you considered the Marin Rift Zone 2? The same spec and geo as the HH2 - so all the same feedback as above - but with the added rollover and small bump benefits of 29" wheels.
Of everything on the market this year the Rift Zone / B17 (same frame but with 27+ wheels) is the frame that calls to my desire for Champagne performance on a crap-beer budget.
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