Are you only considering intex style pools? The metal intex with the wood grain look is an intex ultra frame with a metal sided trim kit that fits around the pool. This trim kit is not a supporting structure but an attempt to make the pool look more "permanent". In a traditional above ground pool the uprights and metal walls are the supporting structure for the pool. Traditional above ground pools tend to cost quite a bit more than an intex.
With any above ground pool a stable, level surface is required for a good installation.
I have been lurking on this website since last summer when I bought my first house and got the pool bug, but it was too late in the season to do anything about it until next year. Now that the new year is here and spring is right around the corner I decided to go ahead and register today so I could eventually get help from the TFP community about what equipment I should buy, so this thread is of particular interest to me too. So, I thought this might be an appropriate thread to go ahead and make my first post.
At any rate, I've learned a lot lurking on this site for a while. It seems to me that people on this site are a big fan of the Intex Ultra-Frame pools for a temporary setup, but for a more permanent rig I have seen many people talk about the Sharkline Matrix. Also, more recently, I've seen people talk about Doughboy pools, of which I know nothing about.
I am curious too as to what the TFP community think is the best above ground pool out there. I am looking for a more permanent setup than an Intex pool. If I were to buy today, I'd buy a 24' Sharkline Matrix round pool (at one time I was looking pretty hard at the 26' Intex Ultra-Frame), but I won't be ready to buy until well into April or May, so I still have plenty of time to get informed and hopefully make the best decision possible.
Also, I wanted to thank zea for mentioning the wood grain trim kit for the Intex Ultra-Frame pool. I had never heard of that before.
Looking forward to hopefully becoming a contributing member of the TFP community!
Waaaay too many variables to say which single pool is the "best", there's lots of quality pool manufacturers.
It depends on many things, including your budget and how much room you have and how much effort you want to spend maintaining it.
I have a 20' Sharkline Matrix and I'm very happy with it, no regrets, but I certainly wouldn't say it's the "best" pool. Each pool at a given price point has certain competitors that are equally as good, I was going to buy an Aqualeader first, I'd wager that a comparable Aqualeader is just a good as my Matrix.
I have the 26' intex ultra frame and am going into my second season. I love this pool. It was more cost effective for me and not knowing exactly what I was getting into, I figured it'd give me a chance to see if I was truly up to the task of maintaining a pool without totally breaking the bank. I have found that I enjoy it. When the intex dies eventually, I may move to a more permanent type of pool but maybe not. Too, part of the attraction for this pool was that if I decided I hated it, it would take minimal effort to return our yard to normal. And again the cost was less than a professionally installed pool store pool. My grandchildren love it too. It's big enough to swim in without getting dizzy from swimming in circles. Same for walking for exercise. Deep enough too. I didn't need a deep end.
The main reason I chose the Matrix was the oddball size of 20', I was trying to get as much pool as I could into a limited space. 18' seemed to small and 21' seemed like it would be too close to our garage, when I saw a 20' model I researched and bought it. Sharkline Matrix receives good reviews and I'm very happy with it.
That said, the Aqualeader model (Oceania, I believe) also has good reviews so I suspect that pool is just as good.