The stuff that is shiny on one side, dull on the other, and generally 3/16" or 1/4" is masonite. I think it's the same as is often used for peg-board, just without the holes. I would expect this as a backing material for a dresser or bookshelf. Thicker stuff in the 1/2" - 3/4" is more likely particle board and in Ikea furniture would have a surfacing material applied to make it white or fake wood or whatever else would be more likely for larger shelves. Medium density fiberboard is probably not what you are looking for but is a finer version of particle board (fibers in MDF vs the small chunks in particle board). On the coarser side you get flake board where the pieces that are glued together are up to several inches long. This is generally not going to be used for furniture I don't think.
Masonite is a man made material used for cheaper furniture. It is used for furniture backs and even for drawer bottoms. As a drawer bottom, it is very poor compared to plywood and I would never use it for such.
Its age old hardboard that's what we call it here in the uk. It has been around for along time.It is cheap and cheerful not good really but there are times when it is useful.You are correct in saying it cannot be compared with Plywood.It is not nearly so strong or indeed tough you can tear it like cardboard with both hands if you try.Have fun, and I hope it works out for you.Alistair
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