Oh, I remember, I DO have a knife like that ... it's called a Mad Dog Taiho, which costs $300, more than three times what I paid for my first two San Mai tanto. At this point, though, I concede that we're talking apples and kiwi fruit ... (I like my tanto ... but I LOVE my Taiho..!)
Yes, nowadays the prices are a bit high, but (here I go again) compared to what? A factory knife? You couldn't pay me to carry an SOG Seal 2000 (though I did give my son a Seal Pup to play with .. just gotta sand down that silly needle sharp checkering a bit). Oh, and try and buy an Al Mar for less than a Cold Steel tanto series knife.
For comparison sake, a Randall is about $235 .. good knife (I like all three of mine ... a lot!), but in essence a factory/benchmade knife, not a custom one. I don't consider it an affront to compare a CS tanto with a Randall.
Now that I'm a little older and wiser and have a bit more money to spend, I've caught the Mad Dog bug and am assembling a nice collection of Dogs which I carry and use daily. Yes, I've put away my Cold Steels, but I had to go to a custom, SELECTIVELY tempered, nearly indestructible knife before abandoning my old friends.
My CS tanto knives are now in a locked box awaiting a cabinet for display, along with my old Gerber MkII and my old Morseth and Puma and Pacific Cutlery and Al Mar and Black Jack knives. I sometimes think about selling off my original, mint Master Tanto, or maybe my 12" San Mai Magnum to raise more money for another Dog, but I figure if I wait another month or so I can raise the extra hundred and get my Dog AND keep my old friends.
In short, it doesn't matter which you get; the San Mai is a neat, but mostly cosmetic offering. No, the lamination line does NOT create friction and no, I haven't seen any with the grind so far off that the center layer was not the cutting layer. And no, the lamination doesn't peel away. Nor do I doubt that you could break either knife with your bare hands ... unless you REALLY tried, say with a piece of pipe over the handle.
If you want one, get it. It'll work just great. If you want the other, get it, and it'll do fine, too. You could do a lot worse, that's for sure.