I had a HF mini lathe that I bought for my son to play with and get teh "feel" of machining. He made lots of cool little lures etc.. out of wood and plastic. The thing would take a .02" cut in aluminum but wouldnt touch steel or ss. For what its worth I would spend a $1000 on a well used piece of old equipment and have something that will work when you need it to. Old horizontals like that go very cheep from eBay and machine brokers. Very few shops still use a manual horizontal machine for anything. Once we went CNC back in the 90's we never had use for a horizontal again.
I have had no such experiences with the mini lathes that I have used in our lab. I did extensive research on several of them some years back and published the findings in both a dissertation and also an engineering journal. None of the ones that we worked with had any difficulty holding .001 tolerances in either aluminum, brass, or steel. My personal mini lathe has been used to do a variety of precision work and it has served me well. As long as the limited capacity is understood, and you understand that it is not a 1000 pound engine lathe, it does great work and the higher spindle speeds are useful for smaller work. It is also worth noting that none of the lathes that we did the tests on had been modified in any way, other than to add quick change tool posts. Many people have done extensive modifications to these machines which has resulted in an extreme increase in precision. They are far from the boat anchors that many would have you believe.
I have a nice old Rockwell 10" lathe in my basement shop, but I find myself using the mini lathe more just because it is plain useful, and it works. Your mileage may (and apparently did) vary.