I have a Smithy 1220 (base model) that I used for a year and a half before converting to CNC. I fly R/C helicopters and have had an interest in machining my own components. I spent $2000 on the machine with bench and accessories. For someone who had never machined anything before, it's been a great machine, and I made some complex parts with good precision using it as a manual machine. The quality is somewhere between the machines that Harbour Freight sells and the more-expensive import machines on the floor at my local machine supply company. Smithy is local to me and provides good support and advice. For the price range and support I would recommend their machines over Grizzly, Enco, or Harbour Freight.
That's the good. The bad is that the slides and screws are so poor that they would not be a good fit for CNC conversion. I cheated and bought 2 Kuroda linear slides off of Ebay and unbolted the standard carriage and screws. These linear slides give me the precision and range needed for my heli parts. I added a ball screw to the Z-axis, but I get a poor surface finish when machining aluminum due to a lack of rigidity. I'm working to add linear bearings or something to strengthen it up. I've added an extension and a small precision linear slide to the column that allows me to mount a Dremel tool. This gives me a range of about 14"x16" for routing, and I can also cut vinyl decals. When time permits, I will build suitable tool holders so I can use the lathe in CNC. For now, it takes about 15 minutes to unbolt the slides and return the machine to original configuration.
The motors are 270oz (i think?) Nema 23 motors and the controls are Xylotex. I've also recent added a 486 Industrial PC that is dedicated solely to machine control. Coolant is a mist system I built. All told I have a little less than $1000 in the conversion, including pc and software. Software is TurboCAD for design, Deskam for CAM, CNC Simulator, and TurboCNC Dos for machine control.
This has been a great project and a new hobby unto itself. You can see pictures of my machine and projects at: