good questions... forgot to mention both of those - pellets are roughly the same size, possibly a little bit longer.
thermo was actually the first thing I checked, I hadn't checked it at all in the 3 years it's been on and it's been through 3 cold winters and 3 hot summers... it was dead on. Water boils right about 208* here and the needle just barely touched the 210 line...
Oh and with a thick bath towel covering it, I'll hit 165 and stay there, no higher though. (on smoke)