Welcome to the forum! You'll find out that there are a lot of helpful people on this site. I'm pretty new to flyfishing too, so I guess I can't really include myself in this group of people!
I recently purchased a new 8 1/2' ---5 weight St. Croix Avid combo from Cabelas($300), which includes the Cabelas LSR reel (a lightweight machined aluminum reel) , Scientific Anglers GPX fly line (premium line--$59.95), and a cordura-covered rod case--AND also a lifetime warranty. The rod, when purchased alone, costs $190.
I've only been out fishing once with this new set-up....Had a lot of fun, but didn't catch anything. The one thing that stuck out to me the most was the rod's light weight and balance. The rod is VERY lightweight, especially when compared to the cheap dept. store combos, and balances very well when matched with the LSR reel. It doesn't have that whippy feel and the "forward-weight" (if that makes sense) of cheaply made rods.
There are several other rods in this price range out there--low-end Sage, G. Loomis, etc. The St. Croix is the my first "real" fly rod, so it's the only one I've had any experience with. You'll be able to tell a big difference with ANY of the rods you mentioned!
Good luck in your search!