I did an enormous amount of research before deciding which BRAND of portable ACs to consider (a factor of price, availability, and overall customer ratings), but what I failed to consider is the category as a whole. And by that I mean: Should I buy a portable AC at all?
Let me save you the trouble: If you own your home and can afford it, have central AC installed. If either the cost is prohibitive or you do not own, buy a window unit if your windows are standard windows and not (as I have) non-standard (e.g., french windows, oversized windows, stained glass windows, etc). If you do have non-standard windows (or standard windows for that matter) and can afford the cost (and the building owner approves), by all means, go with a split system. If all else fails and you're melting just reading this review, then (unfortunately) a portable AC is for you.
Now that you've decided that a portable AC is what you have to have, the choices get entirely easy or impossibly difficult to discern so here's some advice. There's no good reason to pay for a unit on the high end of the cost scale because they all seem to do (or not do) exactly the same thing. II'd say, based on my purchase, the $500 range is about middle of the road (though who knows, some of the ultra low cost units may be just as good).
When I started my research, I wanted something quiet and while some use the word "whisper" in their name, forget it. Save a decibel or two, they all fall into the same range which is from sort of forgotten about to boy my ears are numb. They produce about as much noise as a window unit.
Another factor important to me (and for all you eco-conscious buyers out there note especially), "eco-friendly". To my initial surprise, these units are abound but that term comes to mean that they use a particular coolant to cool the air which as it turns out is the only coolant that is approved for use in these units in the U.S. In other words, they're all the same. Though they'll consume different amounts of electricity in direct proportion to the BTU rating where higher is cooler is less eco-friendly, so the hotter you're willing to be the more eco-friendly you are! Congrats, you win. You're better than I am.
Another thing is the misconception of BTU and covering a particular square footage. Now, you'll get all sorts of informed opinions about this. Here are my two favorites: (1) in calculating the square footage of the area to be air conditioned, air will pass over an opening of less than 32 inches and can be treated as if it is a solid wall because circulating air will "skip" areas of this width whereas any room that is connected to the room to be cooled with an opening of more than 32 inches should be counted in the total square footage to be cooled (got that? read on, it doesn't matter) and (2) the BTU rating is a national average, but you should adjust for local conditions (e.g., average temperatures in your area, whether its urban or rural, the humidity, etc.) which for the Los Angeles area is 1.5 or 15% less adjusted BTUs than as labeled. meaning that a unit with 10,0000 BTU rating used in the Los Angeles area should be considered a 8,5000 BTU rating (1.5 factor = 15%; 100% = 15% = 85%; 85% of 10,000 BTU = 8,500 adjusted BTU) (i have no idea if this is true, but again, read on. it doesn't matter).
Forget all that: These units are intended to cool a room or two provided that the rooms are roughly adjacent to one another, can be closed off from the rest of your house, and are not a kitchen. The air won't circulate down a hall, around a corner from your living room to your bedroom to keep you cool day and night. It ain't gonna happen. Pick a room to keep cool and live in it.
All that brings us to this: as long as your staying in the $500 range, what's your favorite color? That's the only distinction I have been able to find. Incidentally, your choices are white, gray, black, silver, bronze, and some navy and red. Oh, and wait for a sale. Trust me, at least you can hold on to that thought of saving 10% when you're boiling mad that you're ... well, still boiling.
Now I have to make a decision: Do I buy a second unit for my bedroom hoping that the living room unit will meet it in the middle and I'll cool down at last? I like silver.