Rick is the only US AZBox dealer, I bought mine off EBAY NIB. Since most FTA receivers are not designed primarily for the US market, there is a lot of room for improvement. There is a new receiver coming that promises to be a well fitted unit for the US market. GeoSat Pro Micro HD. All it lacks is 4:2:2 format. Which is mostly used for sports feeds. So if your not an avid sports fan you might think about waiting a few weeks for this new receiver. It will be less than half the price of the AZBox.
This link will help you regarding where to buy AZBoxes: Set Top Boxes, Media Center: High Definition | AZBOX From the list, you can see that Rick's is the only official outlet in USA and Dr. Sat is the only official outlet in Canada. I would recommend either with confidence.
As for other makes and models that would serve the purpose for a FTA hobbyist, there are quite a few. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. You will have to read the specs of all, ask questions, read others evaluations, listen to what others say and report about their boxes and make a personal decision on which box fits your needs the best.
There are Traxis, OpenBoxes S9 and S10, Coolsats, Pansats and several others that might be good choices. There is a new box to be released soon called the microHD from GEOSATpro. Read the thread on that in the normal (general and broadbased) FTA forum section.
You will simply have to conduct your research, do your homework, gather the best information you can from others and then go shopping.
Whatever you decide upon in the line of FTA receivers, there will definitely be someone here to assist you and we will all support your decision.
Since you are "new" to FTA. I would suggest a starter FTA box that is user friendly. You should still be able to find these on the used market, but they are no longer available new from the maker. These are the Coolsat 4000, 5000 and 6000 models. But, only those three models.
These receivers are out of production, but you can pick them up for a song on EBay, Craig's List, etc. I am speaking of less than $50 total. These boxes have virtually no glitches or nasty hiccoughs. They are simple and do exactly what you program them to do. Piece of cake receivers and best for a beginner. I still use my Coolst 5000 along with my AZBox. These Coolsats that I mention only do DVB-S reception, so they are limited in that regard, but they are great at it.
The AZBox may be a bit too complex and quirky for a novice to FTA. It is my opinion that the AZBox Premium Plus is the best in their line, but it is expensive and a bit quirky in some regards and there is some question regarding its support (external software programs for editing channel lists). It is not something that you should just jump into right off. You need to build a good foundation of FTA knowledge and experience first. Otherwise, you might become disillusioned as to the real value of the AZBox.
You cannot go wrong if you can acquire an old Coolsat 5000! You will be out virtually nothing in expense for one, and the wealth of knowledge you will gain is great and a lot of fun, too! They will operate all sorts of motors and switches and LNBFs and hardly ever fail. They are the F150's of FTA boxes! Tough! Rugged. Easy to work with and get the job done! They just don't do everything. They do blind scan very well, though. That is a great PLUS!
Hope you enjoy your experience here and learn all sorts of fun and valuable things.
Just another tip, if you buy into such notions of fate.... Look at the letters in your screen name (your handle) here: ColoSAT101.
Reverse the position of the "l" and the "o" in "Colo" and it spells "CoolSAT101"
I own both AZBoxes and Openboxe S9s and had I known the difference between the two BEFORE I bought the AZs, I likely WOULD NOT have any now! The S9s function fine for what I want them to do and are MUCH cheaper than the AZs. As mentioned, the Openbox receivers won't do 4.2.2 but from what I understand (never done this BTW) it will record it and it can be played back on your home computer. That and the Openbox also won't do FTP or YouTube, the later of which doesn't work half the time on an AZBox either.
As was mentioned there is a new receiver coming out soon that may be the a good alternative to the Openbox Sx receivers but I'd wait until others use them to see what "bugs" come forth as pretty much ALL of these receivers have them to some degree.
FYI, I bought both my S9s USED for under $95 each and have been EXTREMELY happy with both! One came from another member here and the other came from Amazon.com.