Re: A-Style Oval hole: any recommendations?
I also briefly played two Hathaways in the hobgoblin shop in London about two weeks ago.
Others tested at the same time were a Fylde Signature model which I found a little bulky for my liking, particularly the neck, although it couldn't be faulted in terms of sound/tone and a rather lovely carved top by Phil Davidson which was super comfortable to play (thanks mainly to its more slender V-shaped neck and radiused fretboard) albeit a long way out of the OP's budget range.
The two Hathaways were very comfortable to play, with lovely tone and looked to very well made - both were fitted with internal pickups (although I don't know what type, at the time I was more interested in the acoustics). The comment made by PseudoCelt above regarding sustain certainly also seems to apply to Hathaway mandolins, in fact it was immediately noticable on the two I played and seemed to go on for much much longer than I expected and was used to. Pricewise, they look to be extremely attractive, although - again - a new one would be most certainly out of range. No idea what they go for used but it would certainly be worth keeping a lookout for one.
Dave Shapiro mandolin (in progress - ETA Dec 2011/Jan 2012)
Stanford DFM-300 mandolin (2009)
Eastman MD604 mandolin (2007)
John Hullah bouzouki (1989)
Clareen Oyster tenor banjo (2011)