Besides being an object of desire in terms of post-modern industrial design, this machine is well-built, extremely simple to use, and guarantees a pleasant and satisfying expresso with nice crema.
Negative Product Points
Major issue: machine is light in weight, so one must apply some pressure to top of machine (which can get rather warm) with flattened palm in order to properly insert/remove filter holder unit while keeping machine from moving around on countertop.
Minor issue: the "tamper" that came with the machine is lame. It‘s actually a coffee measuring spoon with a flat bottom that‘s supposed to double as a tamper.
The FrancisFrancis X1 is comparable in every way with other machines that I have owned in the $500 to $800 price range (Gaggia, Saeco).
The body of the machine is beautifully and simply designed, offers high-quality construction, and is easy to use and keep clean. Pump is reasonably quiet. Heats up quickly, in under a minute. Pull a shot every 2-3 mins., and steam milk in 40-60 seconds to between 150-170 degrees F.
This machine requires a fine grind (read: you need access to a quality burr grinder). I have not, nor do I plan to, try the E.S.E. pod system.
The X1 is certainly not the best machine available for serious home baristas, but it's one of the all-round best in its price class for those who enjoy both fine espresso and fine design.
Initially, I brought home a lime green one, but it looked totally out of place in my kitchen, so I exchanged it for a black one. I ran into some aggravation with the retialer I purchased it from, Inform Interiors. They wanted a "restocking fee" in the neighbourhood of $75.00. However, when I mentioned the possibility of returning the unit altogether and purchasing it from Caban instead, the "fee" was waived. The unit cost just over $900 CDN, including taxes.
Three Month Followup
Continue to use daily. Still admire the design; still pleased with the espresso it produces.