A very good choice in this price range if (1) your top priority is function and (2) you're naturally gentle with plastic.
Positive Product Points
FUNCTION: After three or four practice sessions with Betsy, I was pulling shots and building cappuccinos respectable enough to serve to friends (if not patrons). QUALITY: In some critical areas, Betsy's materials and components are the same as Sylvia's, or similar. DESIGN: Although her footprint's small (an advantage in small kitchen, like mine), Betsy, at 12 pounds, feels solid.
Negative Product Points
MATERIALS: Betsy uses fragile-seeming plastic extensively and her portafilter is Teflon-coated, not chromed. ERGONOMICS: Water level in the viewing window is hard to see. FUNCTION: Transition from brew to steam seems a little slow. AESTHETICS: To me, Betsy's appearance was rather odd, at least initially. ACCESSORIES: The tamper and manual are minimal.
When I decided that I would graduate from my Krups "steam toy" to a pump machine, I determined that the Rancilio Sylvia was the machine for me. Unfortunately, my new-toy budget would not stretch that far (it had to cover a new grinder, as well), so I kept looking . . . for a "real" espresso machine at around $200. Ultimately, I narrowed my list to the Gaggia Espresso and the Rancilio Betsy.
I finally chose Betsy for several reasons. I prefer brass over aluminum for the boiler. I like how Betsy and Sylvia use the same 41-watt pump. I like Rancilio's approach to the inevitable compromises between quality and cost (function and durability over packaging). Although Betsy's appearance strikes me as odd, it also seems, somehow, more "authentic." Finally, since I already was fond of Sylvia, I probably was prejudiced in favor of Rancilio.
While I waited for Betsy to arrive, I had time to obsess over a few post-purchase questions. Betsy uses a lever to control steam, rather than the more common knob: Does the lever work as well and is it as reliable? Betsy has a "Panarello Frother": Wouldn't I be happier with a plain steam wand and nozzle? I could find very little information about Betsy (only one dealer and no reviews on Coffee Geek): Is that a bad omen?
After a month of daily use, I can report that all is well. The steam lever works just fine and feels solid. I did not like the frothing device, it's true, but Jim at 1st-Line Equipment located a plain steam wand with a three-hole nozzle and we swapped (a great bit of customer service!). Since Betsy has now proven herself, I'm no longer concerned about her relative obscurity. And her appearance, though odd, is beginning to grow on me.
Dealing with 1st-Line was quite pleasant. Their price was good (as best I could tell), service was prompt, a (very minor) packaging error was corrected almost instantly, and my post-sale request for the different steam wand was honored promptly and politely.