I’m specifically talking about their metal hobbyist lathes. I’ve heard recommendations for both, but that’s about it – has anyone used their lathes/hobbyist lathes? If so how has it performed?
Or do you know something about the lathes that’s not written on their website?
It depends on which models you are considering. Both Grizzly and Enco import the lathes that bear their name, neither company actually does their own manufacturing. Depending on the particular model and the purchasing cycle, most of their import lathes come from either Taiwan or China. So you really need try to find out what sources they use, their reputations, and product track records. In some cases, the two companies offer virtually the same lathe - they both use the same manufacturer and the only differences are the label and paint that are applied at the factory. In other cases, there are dramatic differences in very similar appearing machines.
I looked into both options (as well as other sources: MSC, McMaster-Carr, Jet, Blue Ridge Machinery, etc.) back when I was buying my lathe. I ended up choosing the Enco model 110-2038 12x36" gap bed lathe. Enco and Grizzly offered very similar lathes of the size and price range I was looking for. Howver, the choice was finally determined by several user reports I read about problems with the particular Grizzly model under consideration. The Chinese source that they were using at the time had a lot of problems with voids in the castings, casting sand embedded in the finish, and twisted bed castings. These problems were pervasive with all the models Grizzly had obtained from that source, and that (combined with what I perceived to be a better customer support program from Enco) sort of soured me on using Grizzly. I don’t know if they are still using the same source, but I would suggest that you check for user reports and evaluations of the model you are considering before purchasing to see if there are still similar problems. There are several good forums worth checking, such as the Yahoo Metal Lathe group and the Machinist Workshop BBS.
That said, a general rule of thumb is get the largest lathe that you can afford and that can fit in your shop. If you can handle a 3-phase system, it is preferable to a single-phase set up (more torque from the motor, and less start-up surge). And finally, remember that the lathe is only the beginning of the purchase. Expect to spend a very significant amount on the tooling that you will need - this can frequently add up to as much as you spent on the lathe itself.