thanks for the review, I always enjoy NSMBs thoughtful and unique perspective on things. But (there's always a but?!), I'm starting to find there's always one thing missing in the reviews of these "new-school" short travel bikes... which you touch on but don't delve into. While these bikes have adopted "correct" geometry, and undoubtedly (as you mention) can go as fast or faster than bikes with more travel, they also don't have the suspension, and aren't specced with parts to deal with the impacts that they can now expose themselves to. The durability aspect is glossed over.
My opinion/theory is that people are drawn to these bikes because they are lighter and pedal better. If they are told they can ride in terrain just as gnarly as a heavier, squishier bike, why bother with all that heft? Durability, that's why. I had to talk a buddy out* of an Optic and into a Sight last year. He's always been on short travel xc bikes, but rides hard and fast. He was constantly wearing parts out. He wanted to try something with new-school geometry. I was able to convince him that the Sight is the better bike for him because it's built for the kind of abuse he dishes out. Lo and behold, he didn't need to replace anything on it last year.
IMO, this point should be made more explicitly in reviews. You touched on it a bit (worn fork bushings), but didn't really attribute it to riding a lighter bike faster on smashier trails. I think readers would be well served by having this pointed out to them more often... again, just my opinion...
*And I say I 'had to talk a buddy out of it', but this was entirely for self serving purposes. Not only is he fast, but he's also one of those people that doesn't carry what he needs to fix his bike himself (i.e. a tube, a pump and a puncture kit), so whenever he breaks down, we all suffer, lending him the shit we schlepped around, and standing around getting eaten by bugs!