The first characteristic you should look at to determine the quality of patio furniture is the material of the pieces. Patio furniture can be made out of many different materials such as steel, iron, aluminum, wood, rattan, molded plastic, or resin. This post discusses the pros and cons of the most popular materials.
Aluminum is widely considered the best metal for patio furniture. The biggest advantage of aluminum over iron or steel is that it doesn't rust. When aluminum comes in contact with air, an oxide layer forms that keeps out oxygen and water (unlike iron, which has a permeable oxide layer which water and oxygen can continue to pass through). This characteristic lets you keep aluminum furniture out in rain, wind, and snow.
Aluminum is much lighter than iron or steel, giving mobility to aluminum sets and pieces. Lastly, aluminum furniture won't heat up in the sun as much as iron or steel. Aluminum is a much better conductor of heat, which means that the air outside will do a better job regulating the surface temperature, and keep the set cooler than a set made of a different metal.
Unfortunately, aluminum is a more expensive metal than iron or steel. Also because aluminum is a softer metal, it is easier to scratch.
The vast majority of high-end metal patio furniture is made out of aluminum, and all of Flamingo's metal patio furniture is aluminum.
Rot Iron patio furniture is usually durable, and can boast a nice rustic aesthetic. Iron furniture pieces tend to be extremely heavy because of iron's high density. Iron pieces will tend to rust very quickly when left out wet, so iron furniture has the unfortunate combination of being heavy and hard to move around, with needing to be brought in from the elements. Iron is the cheapest of the metals.
Steel patio furniture is extremely durable and scratch resistant, although it still suffers from the problems of rusting. Because steel is stronger than iron, a smaller amount of metal is necessary for a functional piece of furniture, so steel furniture tends to be in-between iron and aluminum in terms of weight.
Wicker patio furniture is created from woven wood, rattan, or resin, and has a very different look and feel from metal. Wicker furniture tends to be bulky and light, although can have a luxurious and decadent look to it. Traditional wicker made from rattan or wood can break down from exposure to moisture, thus should be brought in after the summer months. Wicker made from resin is moisture immune, and like aluminum, can be kept out all year long. Wicker furniture tends to be more fragile than metal. All of the wicker at Flamingo is hand-woven resin.
Wood patio furniture is a completely different animal. Wood furniture tends to be heavy, and can also range from cheap mass produced Adirondack chairs, to top-tier hand-crafted furniture art-pieces. Wood furniture can be weather resistant depending on the type of finish used. As of this moment, Flamingo carries no wood furniture, although if we develop a relationship with a supplier that is up to our standards, that could change.
Molded Plastic patio furniture tends to be the cheapest, as it is all mass-produced from plastic molds. Molded plastic is an extremely light material which gives it great mobility, although it is so mobile it will likely get blown around in a high-wind situation. Plastic is moisture immune, so you can feel free to leave it out in rain or snow. Molded plastic sets almost never have a luxurious feel or look to them. Flamingo currently has no molded-plastic sets, and is unlikely ever to do so.
When you are choosing the material that is best for you, you are going to have to consider both your budget, and your aesthetic. A wicker sectional will transform your outdoor space completely differently than a large aluminum dining set.
A $1600 budget will get you out of low-tier wood or molded plastic sets into mid-tier aluminum or wicker sets, but is still out of striking distance of getting a handwoven piece of wicker furniture art or a top-tier aluminum sectional set.