Well, I burned up enough popcorn poppers and got the new Fresh Roast 500. Sweet Maria's said I was the first to pick one up; they're only a few blocks from my new office, so it wasn't hard to pop over as soon as they were in.
I had been looking at a Behmor, but I was concerned (perhaps unwarrantedly) that it isn't meant for dark roasting shied me from it. The Gene Cafe was interesting, but much more pricey. The iRoast seems to have a checkered past and is out of stock until late winter. I was about to start hot rodding, but have little spare time to fool around and was tired of buying pre-roasted.
One note of caution:It is Tippy!I intend to leave the carafe and smoke cap off except while actually running the machine. Tom of Sweet Maria knocked his over and broke a carafe before even finishing his first youtube video. I knocked mine over within a minute of unpacking, but luckily it didn't break.
The body of the machine is a heavy plastic and except for the tippiness it gives an initial sense of chunky quality. The aspects of it that sold me were that it was similar to the fun I've been having with poppers and it simply has 3 manual controls: heat, fan speed and time and none of the automated profiles that many machines have. At least as I learn about roasting, I want to have it respond (good or bad) directly to my inputs.
Check it out at Sweet Maria's:
Sweet Maria is also putting videos up on Youtube: