I smoke a lot of ribs, pork loin, chicken, pork butt, wings. Over the last 6 years I have moved through 3 different smokers. First was a Chargrill unit very similar to Mark Lipton's Brinkmann, cost me less than $200. Had a huge problem holding temperature though due to the thinness of the metal and poor sealing of the cooking chamber. Changed to a Weber Smoky Mountain bullet smoker (cost about $350) and experienced an immediate improvement. Much better at holding temp in the 250 degree range but still required a lot of monitoring.
Just two months ago I upgraded again based on a friend's experience and recommendation. This time I bought a Traeger (costs range from $300 to $1500), model Lil Tex Elite. For those of you not familiar with Traeger, these are electric-powered but wood-fired smokers. The fuel is wood pellets, they come in many varieties: oak, mesquite, hickory, pecan, alder, maple, cherry, apple. You load the pellets into a hopper on the side of the unit. At the bottom of the hopper is an augur that slowly delivers the pellets into a small firepot inside the cook chamber. The firepot is heated by electricity. However, the heat that cooks the food is coming from the wood pellets. This unit has been wonderful to use. Set the temperature and go, not much additional effort required to keep it running, product comes out juicy and flavorful. Just make sure the hopper doesn't run out of pellets; another friend told us she has smoked for 9 hours without emptying the hopper. As far as pricing, keep an eye on your local Costco...they don't carry Traeger; however, once a year, Traeger will visit for about 10 days....and the prices are much better than their usual retailers charge.
On another note, an acquaintance of mine is a graduate of CIA and corporate chef for a national steakhouse chain. He has a BGE at home and loves it. One major advantage of the BGE and its ilk is the ability to cook at very high temperatures. Another is that the ceramic walls make it easier to use during the winter in northern climes. A major disadvantage is weight....if your ceramic smoker doesn't weigh 400 pounds or more, its walls are probably very thin. Another disadvantage is price.....tough to get a decent sized BGE with minimal accessories for less than $1000.
Summary: if you already have a grill for steaks and high temp cooking, I highly recommend the Traeger as your smoking weapon. If you are looking for an all-in-one unit, the BGE is the ticket.