I bought this for 2 reasons - tons of excellent reviews (and almost no bad reviews) and the deal Illy had going (buy the Livia for $725, and agree to a year of their coffee). You also got a set of cups which are worth $120, and some other stuff. Both the cups and mandatory coffee ($400 for the year) are easily eBayed. It was a no brainer for me.
First, the lack of an E61 group was the only biggie holding me back. Let me tell you - don't let it. I can make a perfect shot of espresso consistently with this machine which I would put up against the finest Italy has to offer <humility speaking>. I love it, and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone gets the deal I did. If you are going to pay full price ($1300+), there may be others like Isomac that you might want to consider instead. After all, if you are paying that kind of money, why not get the E61 feature? In my mind, I paid about $800 for it using my above eBay formula, so please remember my cost to quality ratio.
As far as the small drip tray, I empty mine often anyway, so it has not been an issue yet. If you were to pull 10 or 12 shots at a time, it might be an issue. Loud pump, big deal. If you are a guy, loud is better right?. The 4 hole metal and plastic tip that are included just dont work well. Get a 2 or 3 hole replacement tip online. I say dont rely on any cup warmer, you want to preheat your cups with water anyway.
Something else others have mentioned is temperature surfing, especially after steaming. Yes we all know temperature is very important. I say, you can get a nice shot out of the box with this machine, without worrying about temperature. Focus on your grind & tamping, then after you make a consistently good shot with good crema, play with temperature and see if you can make it a great shot. So far I havent had to. I think Americans are a little too scientific sometimes.
I like leaving it on all the time; it is designed for that. You can get super hot water anytime for tea, cocoa, or as a utility source for cleaning and preheating. The steam is super powerful, maybe a little too much. The whole machine is very hot all the time, and that is a good thing. My portafilter stays very hot just being locked in to the group head. It should look good anywhere. It is not retro, neo, or any other term. I call it decor-neutral.
I was able to get a perfect shot using my Baratza Solis Maestro Plus grinder, although I think I may just be lucky based on what I have read from others. However, upgrade fever made me purchase a Mazzer Mini. Although as of yet, I am getting the same quality of espresso between the two, I am sure the Mazzer will maintain that over the long run, and probably last longer. Just make sure get a grinder capable of allowing this machine to produce the finest cup of espresso you have ever had.