I hate to disagree with Phatch because he's a friend, he's quite knowledgeable, and because he's so close to being right that correcting him might seem like niggling. But his post needs some modification.
The AG Russell chart Phatch posted is OK as far as it goes, but its outdated especially as to hardness. Phatch is also a bit outdated on the subject, in that there is no general "sweet spot." The best hardness for any given steel alloy depends a great deal on the makers' hardening techniques; even so we tend to make something out of seeing particular alloys with a particular hardness range.
"Toughness" is a materials property. The flip side of toughness is not edge holding, not even in knives, but "strength." Tough materials bend but resist breaking, abrasion and tearing. Strong materials resist bending, but when they do fail they tend to fail from (wait for it) breaking, abrasion and tearing. "Hardness" usually goes along with strength, enough so that you can use hardness as a metaphor for strength. The best knife alloys are by and large a well balanced mix of strength and toughness; but there are exceptions.
There are three kinds of relevant hardness; impact, scratch, and indentation. Indentation is the one least useful and least related to actual knife performance, but it can be measured cheaply is somewhat inaccurately. Rockwell "C" Hardness aka RCH, RC, HRC, etc., is a measure of indentation hardness. The test is performed by counting the number of twists it takes to drive a hardened pin into the knife before it leaves a permanent impression. Manufacturers' numbers tend to range from very to wildly optimistic.
A tough blade won't "hold" an edge any better or worse than a strong blade. Tough but not strong, soft edges tend go out of true very easily and need to be steeled in order to be retrued. Strong but not tough, hard edges resist bending, but tend to wear and chip.
Theoretically if 2 chef knives used the same metal; would there be any noticable benifit to a stamped knife or a forged one to a novice? I'm guessing no, but why not ask.
The answer is maybe no, maybe yes. Some help, eh?
Cooks notice all kinds of things, some of which are associated with the manufacturing technique but most of which are merely endemic to a given knife. Novice cooks in particular tend to overrate "balance" and "heft," even though "balance" is seldom an issue for a good cutter, and "heft" is more often a problem than a help. In-store evaluations are particularly misleading in those ways.
The trick for you is going to be figuring out the best general type of knife for you. Once we do that we can narrow down your choices to a few "can't go wrong" and you can make your final decision based on what most tickles your fancy.
As far as I know, there's no resource which discusses knife alloys in a way which is really helpful to someone starting out. The best resource is probably zknives, but it isn't organized in a way which is going to be particularly useful to you. I think we're better off establishing some basics about what you want, looking at a few knives which fit your criteria, and then -- if you're still interested -- asking questions about the particular alloys.
Off hand I can think of at least half a dozen alloys you might find in the "good value for ~$200" group.