I've never had to use a bench like the one you're contemplating on a
long term basis, but I have used them as loaners during shows.
They're..... unremarkable. Not spectacularly good, or bad enough to
make much of an impression. So they'd probably do you just fine for
the immediate future.
A little on the flimsy side for stone-setting. (or pounding) other
than that, they'd be fine.
I've also used several versions of the big fancy Otto Frei benches.
(at shows) Those things are definitely well made. They weigh a
tonne, especially the Oak double-banker, but they're *solid*. You
will never need to buy another bench after that one. You might after
the little $400 one. I guess it depends on how serious you are about
this. If you're planning on a lifetime bench, (and you don't
anticipate having to move it much) go for the big heavy Otto Frei
bench. If you're still living in apartments and expect to have to
move semi-regularly, go for the little one, or make a frankenbench.
(Plans for frankenbench here: http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/1sk
Don't make the mistake of trying to cram everything onto one bench.
I've got 3-6, depending on how you count which flat surface. It lets
me set things up to suit what I'm doing at the time, and still have
a flat working surface somewhere else when I need one.
(Unless you're Hans. Then you can cram everything into one cube of
efficiency, and get away with it. Even make it roll, and possibly