Vinsect, I like the smoker fairly well for my needs. I hadn't done any smoking before I got it. The only problem I've had is getting it up to temp sometimes on windy day's. I made a wind block for it out of some of that sheet type insulation ( basically just a square box a little larger than the smoker) and that takes care of the problem 99% of the time.
I use soaked chunk's, hickory mostly. The element is kind of a " U " shaped deal with about a 21/2 - 3 " space between the sides of the " U " where they run parallel with each other.
I lay the chunks right on the bottom tray in this space and they smoke just fine. I've heard other's say they set the chunk's directly on the element and like that method, I guess it's just a personal preference thing.
I chose this unit because at the time it was one of the few electric unit's I was aware of that came with an adjustable thermostat, and as a newbie Q'er I figured I couldn't mess thing's up as much as I could w/ wood or charcoal. I've found that I don't really have to use the adjustment very often, most times set on high it'll maintain about 225 deg. and at times might spike to 250 for a while which isn't usually a problem for me.
I can't comment much on the cheaper red unit's you mentioned, don't know much about them or anyone who uses one. I don't remember exactly, but I think I paid around $80.00 for mine at Lowes or HD at the time. Don't know if this is of any help to you or not. Best Wishes, YB2.