I've had the cheapos... the St1000+ (2 of them), the ST2000+, the SMRAD TP22 (2 of them) and now the Simrad TP10...
The TP22 was better than the RM ... but only by a little... I frankly liked the way the controls worked on the RM better.
I was thoroughly unhappy with the build quality of the ST1000+ when the plastic fluxgate (internal) compass gimbal busted (I was very careful with the unit, so it should not have busted). It required a full replacement of the fluxgate compass, which is a $99 ebay part - cause it non-user servicable (that includes the $0.99 plastic gimbal)... and the cost to ship the RM tiller pilot back and have them diagnose the problem (that was out of warranty) was more than me buying the part and plugging it in myself, and fixing the problem (which worked by the way).
For the TP22, I used one for a couple weeks, and had a low voltage problem on board (turns out it was a wiring fault on the boat).. it must have scrambled the electronics on the TP22... I sent it to SIMRAD who diagnosed it quickly and rather than fix it, sent me a completely new unit and covered it under warranty (total turn around time 10 days). Now I know my faulty wiring likely caused that problem and I was pretty forthcoming with that info when I sent it to them. To me their customer service should count for something, and it was fantastic, so I bought from them again when I sold the old unit with my boat. Oh and when you use the TP22 as a hammer, it works for a while afterward (that one I replaced on my own dime - so in retrospect, I had 3 of them )
I'm not doing anything that requires the fancy days on end use in 6-8 foot rollers many of the guys above are talking about though. I'm just slapping the darned thing on the tiller while I change headsails, or head to wind to douse/hoist. I'm inland and don't frequently see winds above 25 knots... I do get my share of stupid red-neck wake boarders though.
For your size boat I'd be looking at the TP22 minimum if its just for light duty near shore/in shore work, TP32 is probably a better place to start... and if you wanna do it right, you'd go with the palegic or the EV-1
I have no relations with that woman, SIMRAD, B&G, Raymarine or Palegic, just so nobody thinks I'm getting $0.05 for each time I type the company name.