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That’s not realistic if you want quality. At least go up to $500+ a bit. As someone else mentioned, the Dewalt 735 is one of the best and most popular on the market. There’s a Rikon one in that same price range with very comparable features plus a factory helical cutter head. Kind of an little known gem for the money. (Especially if you can get it from Menards during an 11% sale). I’m in the market too, and those are literally the only two I’m even considering. All the rest are lacking in some way or other, or are substantially more expensive.


At that price your only options are really lunchbox planers, which can be hit or miss. Most are the same offshore whitelabel product, maybe with slight differences. I would take a serious look at Cutech's 12.5" lunchbox, it's probably the best of the bunch. I have their jointer and am very happy with it. Their MO seems to be sourcing the best version of the common offshore designs that usually have decent castings/tables/motors and adding a much higher quality cutting element. Instead of standard straight knives they do spiral cutters with four-sided and replaceable inserts. If helical is a forged three piece racing wheel and straight knives are steelies and hubcaps, spiral cutters are lightweight roto-formed alloys. Not quite as good as helical, but an excellent compromise considering price to performance. I've run a few hundred boardfeet over the jointer I bought from them with standard HSS inserts. It still cuts smooth despite a couple of nicks in two of the insert faces. I haven't even needed to rotate any of them yet. The cut quality is not finish ready, it has some very, very fine surface imperfections that are easily removed with a couple of passes with 220 grit. The cut quality on a helical will be a little bit better, but I always expect to do final sanding before finishing no matter what. It's much less touchy about complex grain than something with straight knives, but you still need to take light cuts and be aware of grain direction. I routinely use it for endgrain without issue. I used it really frequently for removing the foot/tenon on bowls, however that's now mostly done with the large disc sander.


I wish these were around 3 years ago when I was shopping planers


Just get the Dewalt 735 and be done with it. It’s the perfect planer.


I have the wen with the spiral head and it's fine. I was in the same boat, couldn't justify 2x the price for the dewalt for how much I use it. It's the only planer I've used, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I get an excellent surface when the cutters are sharp and clean. The spiral head is mostly a gimmick, the inserts are 2 sided because of the way they mount and its like $60-80 to replace them all, so I don't think there's any benefit over straight knives. I don't have good access to rough lumber so I'm not using it for milling, mostly cleaning up reclaimed wood and when I resaw boards. For that use and price it's fine.


I have had a rigid 13” for close to 20 years and it’s still running strong. With any planer be sure infeed and out feed tables are adjusted well and only take small amounts off in each pass


I have a dw734 that came to me used and cheap. It works great for me after a little tlc (drive chain was broken). These are the two popular models: https://craftsmanprotools.com/dewalt-planer-dw735x-dw735-dw734/ You can get a clone of the DW734 for less than $400 new at harbor freight. (If I remember correctly)


I'll 2nd the suggestion to bump up your budget and get the Dewalt 735.