I live in the Middle East and so have just taken down my soft top for the winter
. Up until recently I had a hard top which was blisteringly hot. The big difference between the two is that the soft top has tinted window which makes an enormous difference, but imho the soft top does not radiate the heat the way a hard top does and is able to vent the heat far quicker.
I did play around with the idea of a liner for noise reduction such as http://www.californiatops.com/liner_hard.html
but for the next six months the top will be down so I can't be bothered. This sort of thing should provide greater heat and noise reduction.
As far as protection goes (and I assume you mean for safety and not comfort), the hard top is fibreglass which will shatter in a crash and is far more dangerous than fabric, but if you want true safety buy a saloon car.
Weather wise the soft top is noisier at speed but keeps out the rain with no problems (it doesn't rain often but when it does it REALLY RAINS
My four year old son begged me to get the soft top the minute I bought my jeep and would be totally gutted if I were to put the hard top back on, which I assure you will never happen
When the sun is really hot the soft top will go back up and provide all the protection that a 4year old and his 4month old brother will ever need.
At the end of the day an open jeep is the ultimate driving experience
Protection from the elements = soft top when it is really hot, hard top only when it is really cold and naked in between
. I suppose the nice thing about the california liner is that you could use it for both situations, never thought about it like that before.
Oh, good call on the OME shocks, I'm getting the OME coils this weekend to go with my 32" BFG's on OME shocks and stabilisers.