I will add to the chorus of Weber Smoky Mountain cookers! I now own 3 of them after cooking on several of the offsets....I would have to spend thousands on one that would work for me. Like knocker says..if you like tending the fire every couple hours, go for it. For me, when I cook a pork butt or brisket for 20-24 hrs. I like to get some sleep. That is near impossible with an off-set. You will need to tend it to keep your temps constant....trust me on this!
You can make that CharGriller cook just fine but you should do some mods that may cost you over $29. If you factor those in, then the WSM is a real bargain and will work much better than what you are looking at. I cooked against 3 of these units this past weekend and I saw how they all struggled with temps.
Here are those mods I suggest and why the off-sets....no matter how expensive....will always have heat issues. Even with these, you will still need to tend the fire every 4-5 hrs.
OK...here are the simple mods you can make to most "cheap" off-sets.......
Your exhaust vent needs to be extended down to the grate level....it is currently fixed at the top of the unit. This can be done easily with some aluminum flashing....just roll it up and shove it up into the exhaust pipe and make sure it comes all the way down to the grate. It makes opening the top a little more difficult on some models, but you need this to be done.
Why??? Heat will follow the path to the nearest exhaust opening. In this case it goes directly from your firebox, thru the opening and directly up to the top of the unit. Thereby passing OVER your meat. The temp difference between the grate and the top of the unit can be 100º! By getting that exhaust opening at the grate....the heat will now flow horizontally to the far end of your cooking chamber.
Check the opening between your firebox and cooking chamber. Look to see where it is located in reference to the grate....is it above the grate or half way above or below. Here again, your hot air will come blasting out of that opening and go directly thru your meat over to the now extended exhaust. That means it will be very hot at that opening. A simple solution is to put a large pan of water right at that opening. This will deflect much of the heat and will tone down that hot spot.
A surer fix is to attach a "baffle plate" to the top of the opening and bend it downwards so it deflects the heat UNDERNEATH the grate. No welding required but you would have to drill a couple of holes and simply use nuts and bolts to attach. The thicker the metal the better the baffle.
The firebox also leaves a lot to be desired. They have a problem with nowhere for the spent ash to go, so, they eventually drown the live coals out. Resulting in a fire that will burn for a very short period of time. This can be remedied by placing bricks underneath the corners of the fire grate. This raises it above the bottom of the firebox and allows those ashes to drop out of the way.
Second problem is the coals get too spread out on the grate. If you could somehow “stack” them, you could take advantage of a technique that would allow for much longer burn times. I have seen charcoal baskets that help to keep the charcoal all in one place and allow for some air circulation. This can be an actual extruded metal basket or a “ring” that is designed to keep the briqs in one place while burning. Even the high-end Klose smokers lack this critical piece of equipment. Folks using these have much longer burn times and much easier temp controls. Why?? Once your charcoal starts to burn down, the live coals get smothered and choked out by the ash. By allowing airflow, your temps will stay where you need them and are much easier to control because of the added air.
Here is a link to charcoal baskets and also pics and further explanation of the mods for some specific cookers........... http://www.teddybearbbq.com/smoker_modifications.htm