Since you are specifically shopping for the 26″ tire model, I can only assume that you have found a used bicycle somewhere and are trying to evaluate if it is a worthwhile purchase.
Everything Giant makes today uses the 27.5″ tire. And, before that, they had the Anthem X with a 29″ tire that sold much better than the 26″.
Best I could tell, the idea was to take the aggressive, tested, racing model of the XTC and transfer that over to the Anthem. So they wanted minimal travel in a lightweight machine.
And that is pretty much what they did. Their Trail bikes are much more to the general public’s liking, in that they add more weight and have more travel. But the anthem with its sharp headtube angle and punching acceleration keeps everyone else guessing.
The Anthem has been solid XC (cross country) racer. It is very sporty and designed for the skilled mountain biker. While it can handle all mountain in the hands of the correct rider, it is at home on the flat and fast single-track.
Add the least bit of technical challenge to the trail, and the athlete will need to use their skills to compensate. An all-mountain bike like the Giant Trance would eat up these challenges with no effort. The Anthem makes you think your way through them.
That said, it has long been the top choice of Adam Craig, their factory racer. He has ridden this kit to multiple victories, and they use proven engineering for these frames.
The newer Anthems move the shock lower to prevent pedal bob, but the older ones still used a higher-mounted shock that did an excellent job of keeping the frame stiff on the ascents.
Here is a good example of what it looked like
They also had a good color design that is going to age well. Timeless, as it were.
Assuming that you are shopping a used frame, I would certainly wheedle them down on price since this is a much older bike, but it was one of the best in its day and is still a worthy machine.
This could make a solid racing bike for a new racer. And you wouldn’t feel bad if you trash it.
Keep in mind that you may want to invest in a shock rebuild (or replacement) as the oil and seals are going to start getting less reliable. Additionally, you’ll likely be buying new brake pads and chain. Look closely and make sure that the chainring teeth haven’t been damaged.
If you ride a lot of flat terrains, feel pretty confident in your skillset and want a fast, racing, bicycle, this is an excellent rig to consider. However, if you are torn between a few different options, this is probably one of the most nimble, snappy, accident-prone rides I’ve ever enjoyed. An excellent bike, but more responsive to the rider than it is to the terrain.