I like to thin it too. Whether I wipe or brush, I don't like thick layers that mask the feel of the wood.
Zinnser Sealcoat (dewaxed shellac) for color followed by spray-on water base poly is my current finish of choice.
I like poly for a tabletop finish due to its resistance to water and alcohol but I prefer other finishes when that resistant is not so critical.
Poly is fine but I like to cut it with mineral spirits and wipe it on.