The wide variety of strength training and other weight training equipment available today at reasonable cost is truly amazing. It was not so long ago that the use of such specialized weight training equipment was limited to the world of elite bodybuilders and other athletes. But no longer. Today the varieties of equipment to choose from are so numerous, especially when you factor in different brands, qualities, and feature sets, that it can be a very challenging task for the novice to choose an appropriate piece of equipment which matches your targeted fitness goals. It's not just buying a piece of fitness equipment however, but actually using it in the appropriate way (which means mastering appropriate exercise forms to get the most benefits per calorie expended) which will determine whether you reach your fitness goals. After all, whether you are working on improving your abdominals or strength training, it is not just working hard but working smart that matters, by targeting the exact muscle groups most effectively to get the most bang for the buck out of your workout efforts.
Now the main debate people usually come back to when it comes to weight training equipment is that of between the free weights and fully functional exercise "total" style gyms. If you are on a very limited budget to start, free weights beat the total gyms hands-down, as you can literally get started with some used weight training equipment, such as some secondhand starter free weights (especially if your initial weight tolerance is low) for under 100 bucks. This requires an adventurous spirit and serious time commitment however, as free weights are just that, a bunch of weight either on a dumbbell or a barbell, and without dedicated practice towards mastering the specific exercise forms, these weights won't be of much use. Without the right practice, you risk spending significant workout hours which, while burning calories heavily, may not target the specific muscle groups you are aiming for. At worst, the improper use of such weights could lead to injury. If you're willing to put in the time however, free weights are definitely the way to go as any experienced weightlifter would tell you.
If you're just starting out as a beginner and have perhaps a little more to spend and a lot less time to devote to learning perfect form, than one of the nearly fully automated weight training equipment pieces would be for you. Such weight training fitness equipment is designed to grow with you from the lowest weight resistance to the highest, and is extremely easy-to-use, designed so that almost anybody can begin targeting the appropriate muscle groups right out of the box without any need to master perfect form. The other reason you may want to consider a more sophisticated piece of home exercise equipment is that they can also target the lower body and legs, as well as abdominals. Due to the fact that free weights are essentially designed to be carried by the hands only, they're not of much use for building up the lower body.
Finally concerning the cost of getting started on your fitness journey, it is true that at least initially purchasing large-scale home weight training equipment would cost significantly more than picking up a few free weights. To consider the long-term perspective however, especially if you have a goal spanning many years in which you aim to build up significant muscle mass, you need to keep in mind the increasingly heavy dumbbells you will have to keep purchasing as you build up your total collection of free weights. Complete fitness home gyms however are designed to grow with you as your ability to tolerate weight increases, and thus over the long run you may end up actually spending more on free weights as compared to a one term long-term investment in a total style gym.