This product roundup includes a review highlighting some of the newest mortar mixer models. Manufacturers of mortar mixers this year are touting hydraulic drive systems, safety features, longer drum life, and a bigger selection of sizes. The 1997 lineup of "conventional" mortar mixers focuses on flexibility--meeting the needs of both contractors that do large-volume jobs and those that primarily do repair work. Manufacturers emphasize operator safety and convenience in their literature. One company promotes its ability to customize a mixer to accommodate space constraints: Components can be configured in a mirror image of what is typical and paddle movement reversed to allow the operator to stand in a specific location. Hydraulic-drive mixers permit the operator to reverse the paddle shaft to back out of a jam. Without belts or gears, these machines are said to simplify maintenance, and they run more quietly. Contractors in the market for a mortar mixer should compare the seal systems and paddle configurations of various models because these differ among manufacturers. Also consider the quality of the steel used in the drum and other components. Since a mortar mixer is probably the most used and abused piece of equipment on-site, look for features that indicate durability.