The impression I get is there is no such thing as a free lunch, and there's also no cheaply priced banquets either. Every one of these hosting plans has its upsides and downsides. Marketing being what it is however, the companies are trying their darndest to hide exactly what those downsides are, so it takes a lot of snooping around to make an educated guess what they are.
My hunch with DreamHost from scanning through reviews is that its weakness is its uptime and support. DreamHost seems to have a significant amount of outages; I've seen reports that put it at with about 1% downtime in recent months. While one percent doesn't seem like a lot, many other provides offer a 99.5% uptime guarantee; DreamHost doesn't seem to offer any. I've also read reviews that suggest that the turn-around for support is longer than many; understandable for low cost hosting, but something that needs to be factored in. DreamHost still looks like my favourite so far, but I'm worried about the increasing rate of outages I'm seeing in the graphs.
I've also spent a lot of time researching BlueHost, as they also seem to offer a similiar deal except with a good uptime guarantee. However my strong hunch is that they enforce this uptime by being rather ruthless in throttling CPU usage, which is a concern. There's not much point to having terabytes of download bandwidth if you can't get enough users on your website to utilise it.
I'll need to consider this a bit more. Unfortunately I've got no way to properly estimate what I need from a web host until I get some hard data on what capabilities I need - which requires web hosting. Catch 22. If it weren't for my desire to start a webcomic this year (it was a New Year's Resolution; still got five months left [smile]), I could go with nearly anything, but I need something with decent bandwidth capability for something that image heavy.
My new gut reaction however is that I can't rely on picking a suitable host first try. Whatever I choose, I don't think I'll sign up for more than a year, and in that case only to waive the setup fee. If the host turns out to be good I can sign for a multi-year discount plan next year, otherwise I'll switch. But I'll still need a week or so to make a decent decision; maybe wait a day for all this to sink in and make a series of informed questions in the forums to get the general lounge lizard's opinions.
However, I think I might start parking a domain with Go Daddy to ensure I've got a name I really like. There's a couple I'm leaning towards, and at about ten dollars a pop it's pretty cheap to reserve a few.