The hydraulic is operated by your foot leaving both hands free to reach for another hull and wad. The Automate requires your hands to push two buttons each time. The foot is much quicker and I feel less tiring.
The Automate offers portability, something a reloader without a dedicated work area will appreciate. When finished loading on the coffee or kitchen table, just unplug it and put the whole works in a closet - it doesn't have to fastened down and has no provision for that. It's also quieter and less cluttered than a hydraulic system and has no potential for leakage.
The foot vs hands operation thing is a non-issue for me, as I don't reload for raw speed. But there's probably no reason why a new MEC Automate could not be converted to work like my ATS Automate - just push both buttons and the machine operates while your hands pick up another hull and wad.
Well, I have to assume he did not know how to set it up properly. And there isn't a whole lot to that, so I think you know what I'm saying about him...
After a few routine adjustments during the first flat of shells I loaded on mine five years ago, I've not touched it or the loader with a tool except to change bars or bushings (and I don't need tools for that, either!). I've replaced two fuses because I was stupid enough to cycle the machine with a finished shell under the resizing/decapping die. Mine's been about as trouble-free as a machine can be.
I have both, and I think I would just buy the automate to start with, bucket slides right under shoot for shells, portability a plus, not a big deal keeping buttons pressed it gives you a chance to check primer drop and other functions for problems and if you plan on loading 28 or 410 there will be a occasional problem. automate works fine once you get it set up. Buy the automate and be done with it.
Been using the hydraulic (plus a Grabber) for gotta be 15 years now. I fully recommend it but might consider the automate if I were in the market now. Ed's remarks are right on regarding portability; mine's set up permanently in the garage.....breakemall....Bob Dodd