I have been using Totalpatent and Totalpatentone from LEXISNEXIS and STN from CAS all three are paid version. If your need is only for research, Google patent or Patent lens would do work. The paid versions offer an extra edge for professionals who always need to monitor the patent status or continuation applications.
The differences which I had observed between paid and free version are
1. paid version provide whole and extended family under the same patent number.
2. paid version support to create alerts for the search and all you need is to monitor for relevant patents.
3. paid version provide patent information from around 107 countries where as free versions support hardly 20-30.
4. version such as STN are used for prior art search, STN is very powerful search engine in my view because it can search for relevant information even from images/tables in patents.