I too was considering a 26 but then for the money you can get the 28 which I was going to buy but someone beat me to it. Home Depot sold the 28 Deluxe at $999 which my local dealer was going to match. I wound up going with the 30 Deluxe for something like $1250. That included my dealer having to pick it up 3 hrs away from me. I thing general rule of thumb for picking out size is to always buy as much engine as you can afford (or want to spend). Fiance thought the 30 was big but consider it is only the width of your hand more than the 26inch is really not that much. But the 100cc more than 26 and over 50cc than the 28 is really the difference. The city likes to shove a pile of snow in front of my house where I need to set my trash cans in my culdesack. The blower i have now doesn't slow a bit when mowing through that heavy pile and I credit it to the extra engine size. I would have gone with the platinum 30 for even more but I thought it was to much of another jump for another 50cc.
Between the 2 models, I'd go for the Deluxe 28. According to the specs on the Ariens site, they both have the same engine but the Deluxe 28 has a 14"Auger/14"Impeller which will handle more volume than the 11"Auger/12"Impeller setup on the Compact 26. IMHO I think you'll be happy with the Deluxe 28. I decided to go with the Platinum 30 with all the bells and whistles, has the 342cc same as the Pro series so I figured I couldn't go wrong. Handwarmers actually keep your hands pretty warm, ATC (Automatic Traction Control) takes getting used to but it is definitely easy to make turns than a solid axle without remote lock. It was more than I wanted to spend, but I expect it to be around for 20+ years easy. I have an 18 year old MTD 10hp/28" with a Tecumseh Engine still runs like a champ but doesn't throw very far I'm handing it down to my brother - doesn't get as much snow as I do here in WNY but when will come in handy when it does. My neighbor has an Ariens 5520 that he bought a couple of years ago and even though it's smalller it performed better than my MTD. So when the opportunity presented itself I decided to go BIG . Either way good luck with your decision, you'll definitely be happy with an Ariens.