Well this topic has got me doing some more research since I last looked into a tig, and my opinion has changed...
Quality/Inclusion of Foot Pedal
Regulator or Flow Meter?
Pulse Settings (Didn't think I'd care too much for this, but I tried it on a buddy's welder last week and its great)
Between these Models:
AHP AlphaTig 200x ($680-800, +200 = $1k)
Pros: Low Initial Cost, pedal interchangeability, pulse & ac settings. All of your settings are easy to see at a glance.
cons: realistically need to replace pedal and flow meter... so tack on another 200 to price. "More difficult" to store settings - need to record rotary position instead of digital readout. Not a big deal but people do seem to complain. Most questionable build quality. Price on amazon seems to fluctuate. Starting Amps high (10-20 IIRC)
Eastwood Tig200 (680+160=$840)
Pros: Low initial cost, decently well built, Eastwood has good support.
Cons: Garbage foot pedal, no pulse settings. Definitely pretty barebones. Eastwood seems to have proprietary connectors which makes parts interchangeability questionable. Also sold as the Longevity 200SX.
Eastwood Tig200 Digital (900+40=$940)
Pros: Loads of settings, bendyhead torch, eastwood quality, can save settings. A/C Tig Mix - includes a DC pulse to stabilize arc (!)
Cons: Settings menu difficult to use quickly, steeper learning curve on setting up machine, again parts interchangeability is questionable, foot pedal looks unique to this product. Literature says it comes with a flow meter, but then parts list calls it a regulator. Product advertisements make it look like a regulator, probably need to replace. No specifications on starting amps, 220v ONLY
Everlast 185DV (900+160 = $1060)
Pros: Everlast seems to have stepped up their game with their Tigs. My previous comment was in reference to a multi-machine that I had experience with years ago, but its hard to find many negative things about their current machines. Machine settings are easiest to identify, included accessories will be the nicest and are interchangeable with other manufacturers. 5amp DC start (!), will have the cleanest arc.
Cons: No foot pedal included, lower max amperage than others.
Edit: Just found this amazon listing for the 185DV + Pedal for $950
Here's how my thinking has changed:
For me, a tig welder is more than just welding aluminum, it's also working on your welding skills and quality/precision of the weld. At the point I'm spending $800, I don't want to cut myself 10-20% short and regret something. For just welding aluminum without other concern yeah I think I'd go with the AlphaTig. But for stepping up my welding game, I think I'd rather spend that little bit extra and get a better quality arc. In the end, you're spending roughly the same amount on all of them, and the 5amp DC start of the Everlast means less blow through of thinner (ahem Datsun) metal. If the Eastwood was dual voltage, I think that would tie with the Everlast and put up with the settings menu, but I've only got one 240v outlet in my garage and I don't want to be fighting for machine space.
So as of right now, I'm voting for the Everlast 185DV.