I am a beginner at rendering and have been using Flamingo nXt for over a year in the beta version and recently purchased the final version.
Flamingo is relatively easy to learn/use and is great for showing a customer what a part(s) will look like. I have mostly used it to render cast metal parts and it is great at depicting metal.
I think metal, plastic and generic color substances are Flamingo's strong suit.
I have tried rendering wood parts but find that it is difficult to get wood parts to look right and need to learn more about how to orient grain direction.
I reccomend Flamingo nXt but suggest trying it before you buy it to see if it suits your needs.
McNeel is an outstanding company in terms of their products and support.
Flamingo is an excellent plug in rendering tool for Rhino users that is both easy to use while achieving very nice photo realistic images. I have achieved excellent results using this rendering tool without leaving the Rhino work environment which is a big plus for me because it simplified the learning curve. The people I have done designs for simply love the results. My images have been used for trade show booths, brochures, and design packages going to fortune 500 clients.
Flamingo is extremely easy to use. I own the VRay plugin as well, but I still wanted Flamingo. It installed without a hitch and I was able to use it with no problems. So far after about 3 weeks it's performing exactly as promised. The help is very thorough and clearly written. I also obtained the flamingo production quality rendering tutorial, which even though it was written for the 1.1 version was extremely helpful. I don't do this for a living. I just enjoy 3d modelling and photorealistic renders. I love the ease of use of Flamingo. It's worth every penny.
Flamingo can't quite compare with programs like 3D max in rendering capabilities (say an 8 vs 10 on quality), but you don't have to wait 10+ hours to see your renderings. It's also nice not having to bust out a bible every time you can't remember the 17 step process to use a feature (ahem...3D max again.)