If I were to use Maschine standalone or plugin does the workflow differ at all for getting the tracks into Live?
For both standalone use and as a plugin, you can always drag and drop audio or midi directly from Maschine into Live. In standalone mode, you can also choose Audio Export (which gives you options for exporting the entire arrangment or just a loop range of each group by separating by individual sounds, individual groups, or as a stereo master) which puts those files into your Maschine export folder which are then ready to be dragged and dropped into a DAW at once. When used as a plugin, you also have the option to route the Maschine tracks into Live and record in realtime.
One thing I'm worried about is that Maschine software isn't as elastic as Live, meaning, ability to push the sounds around with the warping engine.
Maschine has offline timestretch which works very fast and feels immediate in use. Realtime timestretch is also coming to Maschine but in the meantime, you can use any plugin that does realtime timestretch in Maschine.
Is it a case of recording each Maschine track in real-time to audio tracks or is there a freeze track ability?
Yes, you can record each Maschine track in realtime to audio tracks. You can freeze tracks in Maschine by turning off plugins/modules (which removes it from the CPU cycle) and bouncing internally to another pad either by drag and dropping or resampling using sync mode (lets you set predetermined length of bars and Maschine will record a clean loop to exactly that many bars, in sync with the tempo).
I was in my local music shop today and tried out Maschine with it's Software and it seemed very intuitive but at the same time very 'locked to the grid'
Not sure what you mean but you can turn off the grid in Maschine's sequencer.
The more I think about these two controllers and what I want from them the more I lean towards Push. The potential I see from it is what is swaying me and it seems much more performance based.
Not sure about that. According to Ableton:
I would like to know if Push creators see it as a performance tool too.
Sure, Push has obvious uses onstage, but we focus on the creation workflow first.
Good move on Ableton's part for choosing 64 smaller pads to play on, no more stretching while performing more complex rhythms.
Keep in mind that with the way Ableton designed Push, you're still limited to 16 pads (4x4) at once for Drum Racks.
Hope that helps. Sounds like you'd benefit from checking out the latest manual for Maschine. Good luck.