Originally Posted by alpha_helix
My best advice is don't get caught up on features. Most sewing machines on the market simply advertise based on how many functions it can do. For example, I was channel surfing just a few days ago came across a shopping channel segment on a high end sewing machine, which I watched out of curiousity. The whole sales pitch was basically "Look at how much stuff it does!" Most of it's "cool features" would only be used every once in a blue moon by even a proflic sewer, and many of those are just "lazy" versions of things than can be done with a more basic sewing machine or by hand (which sometimes, honestly, is better).
Excuse the rant. tl;dr: bells and whistles do not a good sewing machine make.
Follow this advice.
In truth, the bells and whistles of a machine are features that are rarely used. It's going to come down to you testing the machines (if a store will let you) and asking the employees and other customers what they use/think works best. Don't go for the shiniest model because it may not work for your needs.
My machine? The Shark Eruo Pro X Dressmaker. $14.98 at Target. Feel free to make fun of it. I needed something small, portable, and able to perform simple sewing tasks, and that's what it does. I have many more years of experience with hand sewing, so for me this was a good starting machine, and it hasn't let me down yet. Sometimes it surprises me (like working with stretchy fabric)! Just look at all the stuff I made in my profile. XD Though I still feel vastly more comfortable hand sewing my work, having this baby around helps when I need it to.