I too would agree with Scott Meek. I voted "solid tool to have around" but I
recently upgrade from a bench top drill press to a floor model and for certain
jobs, it is absolutely essential. I'm glad I made the upgrade even though it takes up alot of room in my small shop!
I had been using my dad's drill press when I needed one, up until a few days ago. I was using it so much I got tired up packing everything up and driving 5 miles, so I got an inexpensive bench top model, and I've used it every day since I plugged it in.
As a hobbyist, when I undertake a wood working project, one of the essential objectives that must be met is that the execution of the project must be as enjoyable as possible. While more and more of my projects are done exclusively with hand tools, some of my other projects would bore me to death if I was limited to hand tools.
I currently use only two power tools in my work shop: a 3/8" power drill, and a ½" drill press/mortizer. I would love to also have a band saw in the shop (I do my rough milling at an outside facility where I have access to a jointer and a planer).
The drill press in my shop is used more often than my bandsaw, mitre saw, sanders. None of them are strictly essential, but very useful. I would buy a floor stand drill press if I had it to do again.
I find it essential, but not for woodworking. But for just about 'anything else'. Yes, I do use it in woodworking but only because I already have it.
For a general home shop, once you get past the portable tool only stage, yes, this is a go to machine for lots of things, home repair, metal, wood, plastic, ... basically a great way to safely make holes of just about any size.
Got to have it. There are some jobs in the shop that would be terrible to do without one. Could you do them...... yes. But hey they don't cost that much. The don't take up that much space. They don't eat anything except the occasional finger. just kidding.
I wouldn't say my drill press is absolutely essential, but for really accurate work it is second to none. I made my own kitchen with painted MDF doors and concealed hinges. The drill press proved to be a very accurate tool to drill the 35mm boss recesses that these hinges require. There are dedicated devices around for this that attach to portable drills but they are expensive and are 'one-trick ponies'.
I'm in total agreement with Scott (above.) However, I'm pretty sure they were first used for boring large holes in wood. I'll have to google this one!
I voted "Solid tool to have around" but for what I do, it's absolutely essential. You can do fine work without one if you must though.