Had the opportunity to stop at a local Ace Hardware (Palo Alto) where they had one Classic Joe out on the floor. Seeing it in person I was impressed. The ceramics did seem thick and had the rough surface I've read about. The lid was heavier than I expected but the unit didn't at all feel unstable in the steel cart included.
The side tables don't seem overly heavy-duty but they do click into the upright position solidly and seem fine for holding the usual serving tray / thermometer base / beer. The arms of the side tables are each secured to the kamado body with four small bolts - two on the front arm, two on the back - which are capped with what look to be stainless acorn cap nuts, which was nice to see up close and rest assured that if you someday move up to a table or BBQ island you could remove the side tables and just re-cap the bolts. (KJ also sells these units without the tables and cart in case that's your plan from the get-go).
The top vent was very impressive. It's heavy and well designed so it can be completely closed (no rain cap needed) or you can swing the whole daisywheel vent aside to expose almost the whole vent for maximum exhaust. The felt gaskets were naturally peeled up in some spaces due to being a display model, but the felt was thick and looked like quality. There are gaskets on the lid and cooker and I wouldn't be worried about sandwiching a braided therm cord between them the way I do every time I close one of my kettles. The bottom vent was sticking so I didn't mess with it much, but I think it's an older display model that didn't have the 2012 upgrade with a screen that also slides open for ash removal. The stainless cooking grate seemed very sturdy and has one hinged section for adding coals or smoking wood and worked smoothly. It might be a tad narrow for the largest wood chunks I've pulled out of bags but not really a big concern. The overall cooking space seemed fine for my purposes but I'd be interested to see a BigJoe in person for comparison's sake.
The last observation was how very attractive a cooker it was! The pictures made me think the black unit wasn't very pretty but the ceramics are shiny, not matte, and the bamboo side tables and lid handle are stained a very rich dark brown that really dresses up the look of the whole thing. I had been thinking the red option was a no-brainer based on Internet photos but up close the black was a head-turner for sure.
First time I can remember being excited to do my taxes in a while...