What you are going to find with switching from an SBDU to a Heat Exchanging machine is that the time to make milk drinks will take considerably less time. If that is important to you, then that really is something you should consider. Otherwise, if you are insistent on staying within your budget and you want to buy new, then unfortunately, SBDU is the only way to go.
When I switched from using my Rancilio Silvia (A SBDU) to an Alex Duetto (DB), I found it took me roughly around 1/4 the time to make a milk-based drink. It's nice not having to wait for the machine to warm up for steam.
HX- I think I get it, but I need help on machines to look at.
HX machines are usually in the Prosumer or Commercial class and have a wide range of prices. However, like Coffeenoobie said, you won't find one anywhere around your budget unless you consider buying used. I've seen them start out as cheap as $800 (When on sale) and go straight up to roughly around the $2200 mark, depending on who made it, boiler size, etc.
Now, in saying that, you probably just looked at that and I bet that your jaw hit the floor, so I wouldn't blame you if you decided to just continue sticking with SBDU due to budget.
The difference though is that once you spend the cash on a HX machine, it will last you a very long time if you look after it.
Bezzera I think, at least IMHO, has the entire low to mid end prosumer line of HX machines covered. The BZ09 is cheaper than a NS Oscar, but does lack a hot water wand, which is crucial if you make Americanos. Again, personally, YMMV.. I do not have personal experience with this machine so you can only go by what the reviews say on this site. Please read them!
Now, the Nuova Simonelli Oscar is an excellent starter HX machine. It has an excellent reputation in this community. However, it has the disadvantage of looking cheap due to the plastic body. My only issue with the Oscar is that it lacks a boiler Manometer. (To tell you boiler pressure) In all honesty, it is a nice to have.. only because knowing your boiler pressure helps you know if the machine is ready.
PID... I get what it does, but once again I don't really know what machines I am looking at.
1st-line carries Lelit, who is one of the very few manufacturers which sell a PID-Equipped SBDU machine. It's $200 over your budget, but the PID gives you better temperature stability. There is also the Crossland CC1 as well which is another machine which is PID equipped, but it is a dual heater machine, so it has a coffee boiler (Or what some people call a brew boiler) but it uses a Thermoblock for steam.
PID stands for Proportional-Integral-Derivative. Basically, it is a fancy schmancy temperature controller which looks to see how everything is heating up and adjusts the boiler element duty cycle dynamically to keep the boiler at the precise temperature for brewing, not to mention it is a great way to quickly adjust the boiler temperature to taste.
In the case of the Lelit, it looks like it uses a fairly common off-the-shelf Gicar PID, so if it ever needs servicing, it can be easily repaired or replaced.
Like I said though, I do not have personal experience with the Lelit brand, so please be aware that if you consider buying one, YMMV....
Garbage In, Garbage Out, for every step of the process. From Beans to grinder, grounds to machine, coffee to cup.
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