Started smoking 2 years back with a cheap (the cheapest) master chef vertical smoker that used water as ballast to control temps. It was always a lot of work to use. And forget trying to use it when the temp was lower than 10-15c This winter we picked up an Akorn kamado kooker (ok it's cheap compared to the ceramic kamado cookers). What a difference. With the vertical smoker we had to fight to keep temps up and forget long smokes, 5 hours or so was a limit and it went through a lot of charcoal. With the Akorn it's almost as easy as using the gas grill and it uses far less charcoal than the vertical smoker and I'd say the food tastes better, the vertical smoker often overpowered the food instead of enhancing the flavour. When we're done cooking on the Akorn we just close the vents and the fire goes out so we don't use more charcoal than required. I don't regret getting the vertical smoker as it was a good way to cut my teeth in the world of smoking and we wouldn't have the Akorn if it wasn't being sold for 1/3 retail when we bought it. Now we can smoke year round too. The Akorn does have its quirks, getting temps down when they spike is tricky, and for low temp smoking an optional ($40) diffuser/pizza stone is recommended (we bought a $13 pizza stone and $4 worth of steel rods to hold them up. We're still going to keep the vertical smoker, I suspect it will be great for cold smoking with the a-maze-n 5x8 pellet smoker I got for Xmas.