A good friend of mine builds mountain bike and road bike frames. When he bought his first welder it was a lower Miller model probably just over $1000. I forget the exact problems but within a few weeks he took it back at got one that was easily over $2k, but I am even thinking it could have been $3k-4k. And he is only welding tube that is .095 or thinner unless he is TIG welding something for one of my trucks.
For some reason the cheaper model didn't work that well. I will try to remember to ask him and post it here. For that reason I decided to just buy a better MIG welder and leave the TIG welding to him.
a good friend of mine has the econotig. it is 3 years old and welded lots of cages. very nice machine for the money. absolutely no problems with it yet.
there are a couple things you need to remember when using it. it is an air cooled torch, and low duty cycle machine(30% i think) so you have to be patient when doing a lot of welding. let the machine keep itself cool. it is also only 180 amps, plenty for tube, but if you start trying to do heavier aluminum you will need to preheat it.
i've used this machine on many occasions and it welds very nice compared to what you get in an old "dinosaur" machine for the same money.
i am in the process of doing lots of tig welding on my new Pro-2. i couldn't justify taking the money out of the truck budget for a new welder, so i'm borrowing a dinosaur, not the econotig, because i have LOTS of welding to do.
The mountain bike was probable using it for aluminum. Not the greatest for the purpose. As it is low powered and it doesn't have High freq. It is rated at 40% duty cycle at 100 amps, which is ok for mild steel, but you have to remember to let it stay cool. You would be much bet off with the new model of the Sryncowave 180. It has a better duty cycle, high freq, squarewave and many more features. The best part is its prices within $200 of the econotig.
The 180 is a good machine. 70% duty cycle at 110 amps. AC wave balance lift arc or high freq starting. It is the machine I am saving up for. Of course we just got a dynasty 300dx at work that is a machine. All digital AC freq control from 120-2something hertz allows full control of wave form. Very nice. A steal at 5 grand.
I have to agree with what everybody on here is saying. My dad has had an econotig for probably 6+ years, and we've both done a lot of welding with it with only 1 problem....a circuit board got fried, but it was under warranty and they fixed it no prob. As for the Sync 180, I just bought one about 2 months ago (Christmas/Birthday present to myself!!) but I haven't been able to use it. Damn motorcyle accidents...keeping me on the couch! Anyways...I did a bunch of research and talked to several people that had the old version of it, without the digital display, adj AC balance, etc. and they all loved it. For the money...you can't go wrong with it over the econotig. I paid $1410 shipped to my door from Cyberweld.com. They were cheaper than all the local suppliers and the machine was drop shipped brand new from Millers warehouse in L.A. The only disadvantage of the 180 vs. the econotig is size. The 180 is pretty big and not very mobile where as the econotig on a cart with a small bottle is great for field repairs.
Anyways....after a bunch of rambling....just my .02!!