This met all my balance bike requirements: real (pneumatic) tires, real brakes, and actual (read: replaceable) bike components.
I got this as a Christmas present for my then 16 month old daughter. It's still a little big for her (at 18 months), but my 3 year old son prefers borrowing his sister's pink balance bike instead of riding his old Trek Grommit. He went from basically walking while straddling the bike to coasting for a few seconds at a time within an hour. After a few weeks he's gotten to the point where our house is the limiting factor to his balancing (winter in Minnesota leaves few outdoor options). Still adjusting to the braking, but he is fascinated by pulling the levers and watching the brakes move - he's much better with the hand brakes than the coaster brake on his bike.
Now he wants a bike just like his sister's but with pedals (his words, not mine), so we'll be upgrading from his Grommit to a deep blue Gecko/Hedgehog for his birthday.
There are cheaper options, sure, but I have yet to see anything as well equipped as the Starfish for less money.
Update 3/30: Still love the bike. After 3 months of daily use I put the wheels in the truing stand; after ~1/4 turn on 2-3 spokes per wheel they're perfectly true. While the wheels were off - the factory pre-load on the hubs was a little high, so I cleaned & re-greased the balls & cones (totally unnecessary it turns out) and set the pre-load a little looser. Now the wheels spin forever and the kid flies around at 6-7 mph pretty easily.