There is a discussion on other famous webmaster forums for this; seems that they are not very much impressed as they think it is a part of MyBB
People usually recommend IPB as the best alternative to vBulletin,but as it also costs quite a bit,I can really recommend SMF.
I recommend it because it has a lot of built in functionality that phpBB doesn't offer out of the box,even thought all of this can be easily added with a few "hacks" they tend to draw heavily on system resources,you wont notice this on a small site,but if you have a lot of traffic ,it could increase your hosting costs quite a bit.
The other reason is,and this is from my point of view at least,but SMF seems to be more secure than phpBB, I haven't been in the forum scene for a while,but a few years back,SMF was a lot more secure than phpBB,hope this helps you.
Vanilla 2 Forum is a good light weigh alternative. Easy to use, but light on features.
well i have used vbulletin as a admin once and mybb and smf self installed.
I will tell my opinion about that.Vbulletin is best as i know but really saying i don't like it's features like one license per site(if you are a student like me then i wish that u should look for alternatives or use a modded one by a good coder on a offshore hosting and when you get enough money then buy a license and then restore your site there)
Or about other scripts here are some things that i have observed.
best for newbie but knowing a small coding too.
fast loading speed
need to make some setting to enhance security otherwise some problem with security(i can say i get a Phd in it now)
vbulletin like look
many themes available
best secure forum script(better than vbulletin)
Many hacks available to enhance admin experience
Not mobile friendly (sometimes login problems from opera mini)
Takes a bit of server load so not good for shared hosting if traffic is like 400 visitors online
well as you said u r a coder i would suggest go for MYBB.
Note:-I was away from net for a whole year and more so things might have changed.