The SMokin-It smokers use chunks or chips. No need to keep adding when using chunks, which is what almost everyone using Smoking-It smokers use. Add a few nice chunks and you are done. It will smoke as long as you need which means you can go to sleep and not worry about adding chips. There is a chip insert for the smoker box if you so desire to use chips.
EDIT: BTW I use a AMNPS in mine for a lot of my smokes, and is great for cold smoking.
The higher wattage is not relevant. Its the efficiency of the smoker. The #1 is smaller and very well insulated and the element is more than sufficient. It will get to temp and fast. The element is adequately matched to the size and efficiency of the smoker.
Digital is nice if it works, but certainly not necessary. You can add a PID controller to any analog smoker and you will have a mega serious smoker. Auber PIDs are infinitely better than the digital controller that comes with the MES. This again costs more, but you can add it later if you so desire.
Again, the MES would not be a wrong choice, but trust me there is truly no comparison in quality. And yes, to get to the same capacity as the MES you would be spending more, but usually there is a reason.
I was simply surmising that if you were willing to drop $300 on a #1 then drop another $150 (a few more bucks for shipping too) and get a commercial grade smoker that you can will to your grandchildren when you pass into the great Smoker in the sky.
But what is really important is that you embark on this Smoking journey with us no matter the tool used.