I chose the MakerGear Prusa Mendel kit. When it is assembled, it looks like this (top view):
But it starts with lots of parts like this:
Sure looks like fun, doesn't it? :)
By now, you should know that I overanalyze everything - so you are probably wondering - why THIS design / kit / vendor - especially when I previously wanted to order a Makerbot or an Ultimaker?
After a ton of reading and some examination of my goals, I realized that I wanted to learn each and every part of the design. Sticking with a reprap design (in this case a derivative of the reprap Mendel) means that while it doesn't look as good (no fancy laser-cut case, etc.) - I'd learn the basics without vendor-specific limitations. At the same time, I liked the idea of single-sourcing the components, knowing that they were designed to work properly together and I'd have everything I need. Nothing worse that blocking a weekend, getting everyone over to build and realizing a part is missing or incompatible. I read good things about MakerGear as a supplier, and spent some time on their IRC channel (where I ran into someone I knew from the Arduino world...). I ordered the full Prusa Mendel kit, including an extra extruder "hot end" so that I can use both 1.75mm and 3mm "filament" - filament is the spool of plastic that gets melted and extruded to form the finished part.
I also figured that the rate of change in this area is crazy right now, so if I really get into 3D printing, there will always be some fancier model (Ultimaker?!) that can be purchased later.
I'm hoping it will arrive in late March, and will scheduled the build days in April. If you are interested in participating, just let me know!