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The cheap small shapers are very limited. They have a small vertical range (usually an inch or less), and use only the smallest spindle (1/2"), though some of them can be adapted to use router bits.

They also have advantages: more powerful than a router, because they use an induction motor. Also, they are reversible, which is sometimes handy with shaper cutters (and some router bits, if they have removable cutters, like rabbeting bits and occasionally profile bits).

The smallest shaper I'd want to start with would be the 1.5 hp. Grizzly or Jet. Of course you can go on up from there.

There are also planers that can take moulding cutters. Grizzly and Jet both make 13" planers that can use molding knives. These are not lunchbox planers, but more like mid sized, medium duty machines, certainly robust enough for most home shops.
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