Thanks everyone for the additional suggestions.
DirtSailor and Dave's suggestions re: cardboard cold smoker sound good except there are other smoking projects I'd like to do in the future that will need more heat, so I went ahead and picked up the MES 30 at Lowe's yesterday. $194 out the door.
I did the seasoning run for 3 hrs, and the internal temp probe steadied out at about 264 degrees when the controller was saying 274-277. I put a remote digital thermo probe in through the vent hole and it tracked very close (with 2 degrees) of the MES internal probe. So, at first blush, looks like the MES probe is accurate but the controller reads 10-12 degrees higher than actual. I'll check the difference again at a lower temp (say 100-120) and see if the offset is the same. This was in late afternoon and we had a strong, very cool breeeze coming off Puget Sound and I was pretty happy to see the MES get up to temperature fairly quickly and then (as far as I could tell) doing a pretty good job holding it there.
Bmaddox, you're right on the quantity, I have 6 nice pieces of belly at about 3+ lb. each, and I think I'll end up doing 3 at a time in the MES over two runs. Might be able to squeeze them all in at once, but from my grilling/BBQ experience to date (and using my CharGriller for smoking pork butts, etc.) I think airspace is your friend and a little extra room is better than a little too much meat.
Bear, thanks for the feedback on this - I'm basically doing your extra smoky bacon for this first attempt and planning to run the MES at ~110-120 as you referenced in your thread. Glad to hear your MES 30 was able to go from salmon to bacon no problem. The borrowed smoker made of cedar is just so fishy smelling that I am hesitant to go that route, I do have some tuna loins in the freezer, though, that I may brine and smoke in the cedar smoker while I have it.
Really looking forward to getting going with other smoking projects with the new device. With the CharGriller and its remote firebox, it was always a constant battle to control/maintain temperature, get and even temperature within the main unit, and be constantly re-filling the Weber chimney with briquets to get them ready to add to the side box. You can go through a LOT of Kingsford and wood chips to get 15-20# of butts up to ~200 degrees internal, so although the family and I loved the results, it was a lot of work. I think the MES is going to make it a much less labor intensive effort, and easier to get consistent results. I love charcoal and the CharGriller and will always stick with that for steaks, general grilling, rotisserie, etc., but for low n' slow smoking its not the best setup, at least for my needs.
Bellies are coming out of the brine tonight and drying tomorrow, into the smoker Saturday morning. I'll try to post some Q view pics over the weekend.
PS - Dave, I think I saw a reference in one of your posts that you are a former Hempler's guy? That stuff is the gold standard around here as far as my family is concerned; when I told my wife about that post, her optimism about the quality of info here on the forum, and my smoking plans, went up subsatntially! My daughter is up in Bellingham at WWU and I suggested she keep her eye out for any eligible young gentlemen from the Hempler family who might be available . . .