America's test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated chose the Forschner/Victorinox Fibrox 8" chef's knife as their best buy and use it in their kitchens. I have one and it's an incredible knife. Razor sharp and takes an edge easily. In addition, it's under $30. You don't need to spend a fortune to get a great knife.
Victrinox is the swiss army knife company.
That said, they do make some fine things; but you can't compare these kinds of things. I would recommend a Victrinox to one of my friends (who actually really likes to cook, a lot): he is poor, he can maintain and sharpen his own blades (this is a skill he is quite familiar with), and Victrinox knives are excellent value. They are not the crappiest, cheapest garbage you can get for the price; they are actually well-made, although they are not forged steel, not VG-10 molybdenum-vanadium, not hand-made hand-hammered etc etc etc. They're mass-produced, but not crap like Ginnsu knives.
It's in a different class, though. This is a one-time buy, and one of the bigger influences is the actual shape of the santoku; the rest is icing. I won't buy a (more expensive, probably better made/engineered) Shun Fusion for that reason. A friend has those, they are excellent
knives, but I'm disinterested. He got the $1000 set for $500ish on Woot.
For reference, this is the current Santoku I use:
I dislike the overall shape (notice the blade is flatly parallel with the handle). It is also a rather crappy knife, and the blade is both not-sharp and flimsy like paper or foil. Even straight razors with a razor edge do not feel flimsy; the edge is very much delicate, but it has bite and it has stiffness to it.
You can compare these to Wusthof knives, forged steel in the higher lines, which you can get for around $100. You can compare the Victrinox to a Wusthof around the $30-$50 range, stamped steel, also excellent quality. Again, not arguing against the Victrinox as a knife: I know a lot of hard-core cooks that buy those, and a lot in those circles with $150-$300 Wusthof and Shun and Henckles knives that give a nod to the quality of those knives. You will get shouted down for trying to compare the chef's knife in a $40 Ginnsu set to a $100 Wusthof, and edged towards some Victrinox or such for a bargain-price chef's knife under $50.
I just want a very nice knife. But more importantly, I want the skills to use the damn thing, hence the book. My expectation is of a one-time purchase: I buy this thing one time and maybe in 20 years I need a new one. This is also why I have a $100 Hangiri
, and that's just a small piece of wood (if I lost/destroyed it somehow, I would buy again! Fantastic difference in the quality of my rice). The tools are, otherwise, rather meaningless, amounting to only aesthetics and fitness for purpose.