I've been a gym member for around 1.5month now and I've used with smith machine from the start. I didn't actually know there was a free bench there - it was hiding in the corner. It's a powerlift set-up I think. They're big plastic coated weights, but I could always just add the normal ones onto it.
I was just wondering what the benefits are using a free bench rather than a smith machine? I image it will be a lot more difficult because you don't have the added safety factor that the smith machine has (the hooks). Chest day is on Monday and I'm thinking of giving it a shot.