I dont think that my modern geo Naked 29+ (long front) is overall as capable as my Slayer but I can say that until speeds get medium to high, its probably as good but its certainly more rewarding.
I think that 29rs are breathing life back into hardtails and my decision for a 29+ was to take that to the next level. Unbelievable traction. Lower pressures soften out the rear a bit more (especially with CC)....sweet set up (Fox36 upfront).
I think how encumbered you feel on a hardtail depends upon what trails you want to ride. I dont enjoy the fast and rough stuff on any bike and 90% of the time its just me and my doggo out there so I dont have to consider what anyone else wants to ride either.
A sweet hardtail is off the charts cool to anyone whos opinion matters :)