Most of this well be covered in more detail in "ALL ABOUT UKES".
This is just my $.02 for starting out with a Ukulele.
First, who is it for?
If it's for a young child who has never played an instrument the choices will be very different than for a child who already plays an instrument and has shown they will stick with it.
The same holds true for an adult.
You don't want to invest a lot of money in an instrument that won't get used.
By the same token you don't want to buy an instrument that the player will out grow.
If the answer is "they / you will stick with it and play it for years" then buying a bad or marginal instrument is never a good investment.
It's sad to say, but the market is flooded with really bad Ukuleles.
In many cases they are unplayable or will be so difficult to play it won't be enjoyable and it will lead to a negative experience.
There are good starter Ukes that are a step up from the "cheap crap", bargain Ukes.
Having a good starter Uke is never a bad thing, if you go to the park or you throw it in the car or ?
Entry level Ukes are usually all laminate and are really durable.
Worst case, if it doesn't get used you can sell it and get some of your money back.
Sadly I've had a lot of customers who have bought Ukes online or in stores that have been badly built or not set up and maintained well. Money wasted if you have to start over just to get what you thought you were getting in the first place.
The reality is "you get what you pay for".