The Francis Francis X1 is beautiful, which is a major driver for why it seems to sell so well. The espresso it makes is good, ranging from an excellent crema with pods to a poor shot depending on the tamping of grounds.
Negative Product Points
This machine seems to be all about the outside body--its beauty does not compensate for its poor inner construction . I went through two separate machines that both failed in exactly the same manner before deciding to move on to another brand--I was very happy that I bought it at Williams Sonoma so that I could return it for a full refund with no fuss.
I spent a great deal of time looking into espresso machines before deciding to buy the X1. Based on reviews on this site, it appeared to me that problems that the X1 had might have been resolved with the newer models that are currently shipping, but I was unfortunate enough to find out that wasn't the case. It's true that the new machines now have a brass boiler and do an excellent job making espresso from pods. From what I have gathered, this machine was designed around esthetics and ESE pods, and it appears that's where it ends. I was a little bit swayed by the very positive review that CoffeeGeek had on the X3, and the fact that the inner components between the X3 and X1 are now virtually the same, but the X1 still has some pretty serious issues.
I had fully resigned myself to just going the pod route and giving up on grounds altogether, blaming my technique on the poor shot quality, when my first X1 started leaking out of the top left hand side of the machine (under where the fixture that holds the portafilter meets the body of the machine). Since I'd bought it at Williams Sonoma less than a month ago, I knew there wouldn't be an issue with an exchange, so I took it back for a new X1. I got the second X1 home, and within about 3 days, it started leaking in exactly the same manner. At this point, I'd had it with the machine, and decided that two identical failures in this manner weren't random, but must be some design flaw, so I took it back and got a refund, deciding to go with another brand of machine in approximately the same price class (I went with the Kitchenaid Pro Line, which seems to be excellent so far).
I don't have a whole lot of experience with brewing espresso (fairly new to the art), but I do know that a machine must be able to survive to produce it. The Francis Francis X1 does produce decent espresso from pods and might be able to produce a decent shot from grounds, but is in my experience so unreliable from a construction standpoint that you'd be better off paying a coffee house employee fifty bucks a shot to hand deliver brewed espresso to your home.
The only thing that made this experience tolerable to me was the customer service at Williams Sonoma. Given their history of carrying quality products, I'm very surprised that they even carry this model. I wouldn't be at all surpised if it gets pulled off of their line in a very short period of time.
The buying process was very easy, as was the return for a replacement, and the return for a full refund on my second X1. I'd say if you're going to risk buying this model, Williams Sonoma is where you want to do it at.
Three Month Followup
3 months later, I have no regrets that this machine no longer plagues my kitchen. Buy something else, unless you're into art.