I bought this lens, rather than it's rivals, primarily because I didn't want to scrimp on image quality and I have been immensely satisfied with it. I don't have a lot of experience of other lenses to compare it to, but after having owned it for over a year, I'm still blown away by it. It's quite satisfying to know that the only thing holding you back from taking great photos is your own ability (something that you can improve) and not your kit.
It's other features are great as well. Bokeh appears nice to me (with my lack of much experience) and shallow depth of field effects are nice and easy to produce at f/2.8 (although it's slightly sharper at f/5.6). Overall, it is fairly solid lens. When carrying my camera with this lens attached, I tend to hold it by the lens, and it feels sturdy.
Regarding it's price, it is a little more expensive that other everyday lenses. I'll keep getting my lenses off eBay; so far my experience has been good. The way I see it, if you might as well invest your money in the lens you're going to use most often.