Pros: Nice construction, all stainless, holds temperature, EXCELLENT insulation, easy to operate, affordable
Cons: No damper controls-leading to a heavy, choked smoke, built in China
Now, I will write this review by saying I'm very biased against electric units and do not like them for anything but cold smoking (cheese and fish in particular)-even though the Smokin-it can do BBQ easily. However, I still managed to purchase a Smokin-it #2. At the time when I purchased mine, the digital controls were not available.
The Smokin-it is basically a rip-off of a rip-off. You can debate that as much as you want, but it's true. The Cookshack smoker was the first that I had witnessed in an all stainless configuration and their design was replicated by Smokin-Tex. Smokin-it replicated the Smokin-Tex design with (undoubtedly) the goal of selling units at a cheaper price by offshoring the work to China. (Not a fan of companies that do this and stab the American pubic in the back by the way, but alas, I purchased the unit)
With that being said, the Smokin-it is a very well built unit. The construction is excellent for the price and it will absolutely destroy the MES units as far as built quality is concerned. Everything from the racks, to the firebox, to the drip pan is well constructed. THIS THING IS WELL INSULATED!!! My unit on numerous occasions has held temperatures when the outside air is -10F! So as far as those factors, this unit is absolutely fantastic and can't be beat for the money.
My biggest concern with the unit however (and I have used mine for a LONG time) is the lack of damper controls. So what you end up with is something called the "burp" when smoking with this unit. The "burp" is caused by your wood source demanding oxygen inside the cook chamber and not having enough-so as a result the burning wood attempts to draw it's oxygen from the exhaust hole in the top of the unit. The manufacturer most likely does not add a damper because they want to protect the electronics/burner in the unit from extreme temperature fluctuations. This problem is well documented on the "smokin-it" forums.
There are a few solutions. 1-You can ramp up the temperature of your smoker slowly and this will extend the burn time of your wood source causing a less oxygen demanding fire 2-You can wrap your wood pieces or chips in aluminum foil and poke a few holes around them-this serves the purpose of choking oxygen at the source of the fire.
Either way you look at it, you cannot and WILL NOT get optimal smoke flow/quality with this unit. Those who cook on them are used to it. You only need anywhere from 2-5oz of wood depending on what you're cooking and regardless of what kind of wood or how much you ALWAYS END UP WITH THICK, WHITE SMOKE-NOT THE THIN, BLUE SMOKE needed for optimal BBQ. Sure, you can cook some good tasting BBQ but anyone with oxygen controls to their fire will have the upper hand over this unit.
So, in summary....
Will this unit cook some good tasting food? Yes
Will this unit put out competition quality BBQ? No way, not by a long shot.
I would say that a person should invest in this unit if they are cold smoking, and cold smoking only (and then you're going to need extra accessories).