A few niggles like the cup warmer tray, long cooling flushes, vibe pump is kinds loud, but probably not much more so than others.
This is my first semi auto machine, so I don't have too much to compare it to. Having said that, I have found the machine easy to use and service. The coffee has been excellent and the value is tough to beat. I don't see anything that a more expensive HX E-61 does any better or different than the Cuadra.
I have found the machine to be a bit of a "dragon' and thus cooling flushes are a bit on the long side. However, I am only making a latte or so at a time, so it really isn't a big deal. I strongly recommend pairing Eric's E61 thermometer with this machine. That is an extra $90 well spent. Brew temp stability seems good to me. The temp doesn't seem to vary by much more than 1 degree +/- during a shot (at least I assume that is good?).
Steaming is pretty easy and consistent once you get it dialed in. I plugged two of the four holes in my steam tip and that works perfect for me. With the new no-burn wand, you can purchase the Rocket steam tip 4-pack and try all different tips to find one you like.
The forward slant of the cup warmer was kind kind of annoying as cups wanted to slide off the machine when the pump was warming. Four SS cabinet handles from Home Depot took care of that and now I can easily remove the entire tray to fill the water reservoir without even unloading the cups.
The vibe pump is loud, but from what I have seen of other (more expensive machines), this is simply a fact of life of vibe pumps.
At the end of the day you could spend a lot more on a Rocket or Quickmill or other HX machine, but I don't think you will get much difference in the performance. Will those machines hold up better in the long run? Only time will tell, but after almost a year, I have not seen anything that makes me skeptical of the Cuadra's build quality.
1st line has been great to deal with. Questions have been answered very quickly - even on weekends. Jim was also quick to replace a mildly damaged part at no charge and without having to ask. I would buy from 1st line again without hesitation.