The Fleet Rhode Island remains the one ship that I just CAN'T mothball for any period of time. The fact that it's my drop-dead favorite Trek ship anyway notwithstanding, no matter what new, shiny, ship comes along I always pine for that little ship and wind up back in it eventually.
It's actually an extremely understated and often overlooked little ship too - as you say, it's VERY competent in it's role, benefits from a Lt-Cmdr tac BOFF, is as nimble as some escorts and I can do some wonderful shield tanking in it - a combo of two shield enhancing MkXII Embassy consoles, a MkXII [Purple] Field Generator, a few Elite phasers and good points in my sci's shield skill means that that my shields (MkXII MACO) almost never fail, and when they do a MkXII [purple] Neutronium alloy console means that I can still hang in there.
I have tried all this with the Vesta and Fleet Intrepid too, and whilst I acknowledge that the Vesta is a superior ship, I enjoy using the Fleet R.I MUCH more. The Fleet Intrepid is interesting - one of hte Intrepid's 'showpieces' is the Ablative Generator, if you own it from the T5 version, but that simply doesn't feel all that effective anymore, with so many NPC's spamming plasma all over the place and the Tholian's are pretty good at bypassing shields and hitting the hull, which actually does hurt the Ablative armor in my experience.
Anyway - mm looking forward to the new Dil mine consoles too - the new Neutronium console will suit the Rhode Island VERY well!
I'm looking to do some nasty Partigen damage out of the ship, otherwise yes, I would set up the Fleet Rhode Island for some serious tanking.
To be fair you need to compare the Fleet Intrepid to the Vesta.
But yeah the Vesta is easily the best Sci ship Fed side.
I was once DKnight1000, apparently I had taken my own name so now I'm DKnight0001. If I ask you a question it is not an insult but a genuine attempt to understand why. When I insult you I won't be discreet about it, I will be precise and to the point stupid.