You can get a Benriner type from an Asian market for about 20. The French ones in stainless steel are about 120. I see many different companies have come out with their own, like Good Grips, Oxo and others.
I would say yes, you should get one. Very handy for many tasks, not just restaurant production. I use mine most often when I can vegetables but occasionally to help make dinner. Great for quick julienne as well as slicing.
I'm a home cooke & use a mandolin quite a lot - just a simple hand operated one. Its very good for speedy thin sliced onions, for example bit lots of other things too. Its just much quicker and more accurate unless you are a wizard at knife chopping.
A little background to my query. Sunday evening my wife took a walk through the neighborhood, warm, sunny day in Salt Lake. Lots of folks had their grills going, lots of good smells. She came home and asked me to grill some burgers soon. I was think of doing some home made potato chips to go with them, and was wondering if a mandolin would be the way to go for slicing the patoots. Or if using a knife would be a way to go, even though it seems like a tedious chore that way. I'm just wondering if I would be happy with the quality of one of the readily available home kitchen mandolins, or if I'd use it for a few minutes, put it away and hope to never see the thing again.
But I do need to get out my stone and sharpen my knife, and especially my pocket knife. Tried to cut something with that the other day, what a pain!
I like using my knife. Increases my skills. Less clutter. Easier to clean. Also I am not smart enough to use the guard on the mandolin so I always wind up cutting nice neat slices into the fat of my palm beneath my thumb. Wait a minute! I just saw a tyrannosaurus rex out in the front of my house. I will be back in a minute. :~)
It's funny you were thinking of potato chips. That is one of the things I use my mandoline for. I occasionally make fresh chips for myself at home and the mandoline makes it possible fast. A quick rinse under the faucet and it's clean. about one potato worth of chips is enough for a snack.
I have a Benriner and a French s/s one. i find that I use either one depending on which one I locate first. I don't use it every week but it's very handy when I do use it. It only sits in the drawer because I'm not using it, not because it's not useful.
It all depends upon what you prepare and cook. I have a wonderful stainless steel mandoline. I rarely use it since my knife skills are pretty good and I have a large selection of knives to choose from (I can't help myself when it comes to buying knives) . . . however, when I need it, it's amazing.
I most often use my mandoline to slice a lot of potatoes very thin when making au gratin or scalloped potatoes, chips, etc. I also use it if I want to slice onions thin if we have a bunch of people over for burgers. I've also used it for slicing other vegetables when a quantity is required and the mandoline will speed up the process.
There are a number of less expensive mandolines to choose from that have already been mentioned. They don't take up much space either. I would get one and give it a try . . . but, be careful and learn how to use it properly.