Hi Pete,
very nice review, thanks for the insights and also the nice pics. I'm on a '13 Honzo since 3 years, after riding dualies for more than 10, I made much of the same experiences that you describe. It seems the time is just right for these new school hardtails - geo numbers, oneby drivetrains allowing short chainstays, and the availability of dropper posts, solid 29er wheels.
I'd be curious to test a Chromag Primer, but I'm afraid their availability in continental Europe is non-existent 🙁

longlivechainsaw