But what's a 'good set'? For example:
1.) Is brass better than aluminum? Most units seem to be aluminum, but I ran across a brass set from MasterCool which also happens to have metal valve handles (pointed sideways). It's model # MSC84772G and it runs around $130 delivered. Seems like a good set, but MasterCool makes more expensive sets that look like the Harbor Freight set with an aluminum body and plastic thumbwheels.
2.) It would seem to me that the quality of the valves is very important, but how do you know what quality of valves the unit has? I've seen reference to "double-O-Ring", but that's not the valve, per-se.
4.) 2.5" gauges seem to be a 'must have' for easier readability, but while size matters, how do you know the level of quality of the gauges? Harbor Freight's gauges LOOK good, and they claim to be within +/- 2% accuracy, but are they? Is there a company that supplies quality gauges for the manufacturers of these sets?
5.) Some units say they can be 'recalibrated' in the field. Does this mean the lower-end units cannot be?
Shopping online, at least, it's difficult - if not impossible - to differentiate quality among these different vendors and models. The writeups just don't seem to tell you very much about the product. You end up looking at the price and the picture and that's about it. Even comparing within a vendor (like MasterCool) is a nightmare, as they have MULTIPLE models with seemingly identical features (but a wide span in pricing).
Yes - (almost?) all Harbor Freight stuff is from China - and I hate that, but what I hate more is buying something based solely on price without having a good feeling that the higher price is justified by higher quality. I don't mind paying more, but I want to feel good about the quality that I'm paying the premium for. I don't want to pay upwards of $200 for a "NAME" brand set, only to discover that the quality is really no better than the Harbor Freight set.