Since concealed carry is off the table... no need to go with a sub compact.
A full size or the slightly smaller "duty size" as I call them... which are called compacts by manufacturers for some reason... are the best options. (I guess they are "compacts" because they are smaller than the 1911, Hi Power and similar pistols)
You tend to get more round capacity in the magazine and better shootability over all for full sized pistols (I consider the duty size and bigger full sized)
There are many options for your price range that are really good. As was mentioned, getting out and holding many different pistols and manipulating the controls and getting a feel of them is a good idea. Finding a range that has rentals is even better.
As for a few pistols that are generally considered good options by a big portion of people here.
CZ75 SP-01... I am real partial to the CZ75 pistol. Many consider it one of the most comfortable/ergonomic pistols available. Very easy to shoot accurately and well. Recoil is very mild compared to other pistols. One of my favorite pistols I have owned or even fired... and I have fired some real nice pistols before. For you the SP-01 version would be a good choice as you want the ability to mount a laser. They make a decocker version the SP-01 Tactical, if that is what you prefer, and I feel decockers are good for new shooters/handgun owners when it comes to DA/SA hammer fired pistols. Basically the same pistol as the normal 75 but with a accessory rail. Runs about $600 online.
(CZ also has a polymer version, the SP-01 Phantom that many like... they also have a smaller duty sized polymer called the P-07, many like it, but I am not a big fan of the grip texturing)
The Springfield XD/XDM pistols. In the 4 inch or longer barrel versions. I owned an XD in 40 and found it a great pistol. Tough and reliable. $450-600 depending on model.
Sig 2022. Never owned one, but I here good things. I almost bought one for my fiance, but she wanted a CZ like mine. $350 on sale online, or around $400 normally. Comes with only one magazine though.
S&W M&P series. I like how they feel in the hand, not as big on them as the XD/XDA though, as I think the XD/XDMs are better built internally. I here plenty of good things about the M&P though. Not sure on price.
Ruger has many handguns in the $350-500 range, I hear mostly good, but have no direct experience with them. I have a Ruger 22 pistol and rifle and find them fine firearms.
Glocks are good, though I am not a fan of them myself, and as you said neither are you... But if someone gave me a Glock, I wouldn't be unhappy.
The Walther PPQ is not too bad, I look at it about the same as the M&P. As I said, the XD is my polymer framed choice, but thats me... My fiance liked the feel of the Walther but not how it felt in recoil. She felt there was too little texture in the grip and the pistol felt loose in her hand during recoil. I had no such problem.
The Beretta 92... I like them well enough, and they are basically the same pistol as the US military uses. Some complain about breakage of the barrel lock up unless maintained well... No direct experience with that, but something to look into should you think about getting one.
As someone new to handguns and on the budget you mentioned... I would stay away from 1911s. While you can get a good one at that price with some research and knowledge... 1911s can be more picky and finicky than more modern designs. Not a good thing for someone new to the sport or handguns... and definitely not something you want in a defensive pistol. An experienced 1911 owner can fix and tweak any little issues quickly, but inexperience may be frustrated.
There are many more options, in the budget you specified... like has been said... get your hands on many options.
If I had to suggest a pistol for someone to buy sight unseen... it would be the CZ 75 as I have found that it fits so many different hands well, and many love how it feels to hold and shoot... but that does not mean that another pistol would not be better for a certain person.