This is a workhorse option. Very easy to clean, resistant to scratching, can handle a hot pot, and mostly stain resistant. I've heard that over time the surface becomes a bit dull, that it can lose it's shine. And of course it has a very limited aesthetic application;meaning it would be difficult to put stainless steel counter tops in anything but an industrial or modern kitchen.
Granite used to be the counter top option, and for good reason. It's beautiful, and can be found in a wide variety of colorways. It's very easy to clean, difficult to scratch, and has a high sheen. I have been told it is the perfect choice for a pastry chef! Since it is a natural product there are natural variations in the veining and the colors are usually darker than say marble or a light engineered stone.
Ceramic tile can be inexpensive, durable, and comes in a wide range of colors and sheens. When we bought our house it came with granite counter tops, in large tiles. I know that the previous owners picked this option because it cost less than buying one large piece of granite and having it cut to size. I would say that the biggest disadvantage here are the small grout lines that are more difficult to clean than a solid piece would be, but over all it's been workable.
We lived in a rental for a couple of years that had butcher block countertops. They looked extremely warm and held up pretty well. These countertops do take more maintenance as they need to be sealed often, and scratches need to be oiled. The rental we were in had butcher block around the sink, this area did not hold up well. This specific area darkened and warped and stood out from the rest of the surface.
This surface is found in historic and period homes. It is dark gray and often has a matching sink. It has found place in the modern kitchen as well as it is smooth and really lovely. It does require some maintenance and it can crack over time if not properly cared for. This is also an alternative to concrete countertops, but appears more chalky and is decidedly softer.
We see the surface a lot in shelter magazine and TV shows. It is beautiful and expensive. It is also porous, so it can stain. It is not as hard as granite, so scratching is also a concern. The honed finish on marble can fade if an acidic material, such as vinegar, is spilled.
Laminate has come along way. There are times when it is difficult to tell from a distance that something is laminate and not a natural stone. It's main advantage is price, it is the least expensive option out there. Laminate is not as scratch resistant, durable, or heat resistant as stone. In fact I would say it is not heat resistant at all as it will bubble terribly if a hot pan were to rest on it. I have never seen it applied as a solid surface.
This category contains Sile Stone, and Cambria Quartz. These surfaces are great because they don't require the annual maintenance of stone, but provide similar levels of stain protecting, heat resistance, and scratch resistance. The colorways on this surface are endless.
These surfaces are solid throughout, meaning that they can be sanded down to fix scratches. The most popular solid surface that I know of is Corian. They are not heat resistant, but somewhat stain resistant. Not as expensive as stone.
Concrete countertops have gained in popularity over the past ten years especially. This is because they can provide a seamless surface, can be poured in house to fit your space exactly, and can be tinted a variety of colors. If sealed properly it is resistant to stain, and of course it can handle heat!
Do you have any experience with these different surfaces? We'd love to hear your opinion!