I use sand in my small 10 gallon with my baby gold spilo. I like it a lot. Like you said, it's a lot more natural looking (except for the fact that I use blue sand). It's also a lot easier to clean the tank bottom since all the poop and fish remains stay right on top of it. Only bad thing is that when you're putting in new water (depending on how you do it) if you disturb the sand, air bubbles will form in it and you'll have big sand coated air bubbles floating around. Nasty looking and hard to clean out. Also you can't use undergravel filtration as far as I can tell, but I just use a power filter. Sand will</A> get in it if you're not careful about how you pour in your water or houw you pour in your sand. Not big deal, once a month I just wash my filter out and it works good as new.
i have sand and i am never doing it again. if your fish are big, it is very easy for them to kick up plenty of it. then your filter takes it in. then your filter makes horrible grinding noises. you clean your filter constantly but in about 10 mins it starts grinding away, until one night, you come home at 1 or 2 am to find that your filter has stopped running and that the impeller is locked up no matter how much you clean it. then you go out bright and early the next morning to drive all around chicago in search of a new impeller.
sand is okay with small fish, but big ones will make it not worth it.
I used to have a 30 g with sand in it, and it did look kick ass! IWe, me and my brother, after washing the sand, filled up cup fulls of sand and slowly lowered it in the tank. This prevented the water from looking "yucky". We also shortened the intake on the filter to keep it as high as possible so it wont suck out that much sand. It will definately need more maintenance to keep up tho.