David the problem using a circle jig without a plunge router is starting the hole. The jigs are meant to be used with a plunge. Many of the members here will tell you that if you only have one router it should be a plunge because it can do anything a fixed base can but the opposite is not true. In your case you should be considering using a template type jig with either template guides or a pattern bit so that you can advance the bit into the cut safely.
Finish is based on a few variables the most important of which is the sharpness of the bit. You can get straight bits that have a shear cut angle on them or a spiral bit. A bit with spiral or shear angle will leave one edge smooth and the other rough. A compression type spiral will leave both edges smooth but the bits are quite a bit more costly. All panel boards (ply, mdf, etc) are harder on bits than wood is.
As mentioned, you should only be routing 1/8 to 1/4" if you are using the bit for cutout purposes so this isn't going to be any faster than the bandsaw method and much harder on the router and bits and router bits are more costly per inch of cut than bandsaw blades are.
Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.