Excellent machine. I have no regrets about having bought it.
Positive Product Points
Very little plastic and lots of shiny steel make this machine stand out on my countertop. In three months of ownership, I've never had the slightest problem -- this thing is built like a tank. It has been easy to keep clean and is fairly simple to use. If / when I need to work on the guts of the machine, access should be no problem as it seems well laid out with the internal components all well positioned. And in contrast to my old steam espresso maker, it's easy to make several espressos or cappuccinos without worrying about consistency.
Negative Product Points
I knew what I was getting before I ordered it, but I really do wish $400 would get a more stylistically impressive machine -- its lines are more industrial than artistic. Like most (all?) similar espresso machines, it takes several minutes to warm up. And while temperature stability seems generally fine to me, I have found that after a long warm-up that it's prudent to run a little water through the portafilter first to avoid the first cup tasting burnt.
After using a Krups steam-type espresso maker for years, I finally made the decision to go for a 'real' espresso maker. Although I could have settled with any number of cheaper machines (such as the plastic-bodied Gaggia), I knew I wanted a machine with a presence. I wanted something that would catch your eye as you enter the kitchen. And of course, I wanted the best espresso maker I could get.
In the beginning, I was convinced that what I really wanted was a La Pavoni lever machine. Unfortunately, I found that its large price tag is accompanied by a steep learning curve. And several reviews pointed to it being difficult to use for multi-serving situations. So although I still drool over its design, I’m glad I didn’t get a La Pavoni. Weeks of reading reviews on this and other sites finally left me with three choices: the Starbucks Barista (a relabeled Saeco), the Rancilio Sylvia, and the Gaggia Classic. After deliberating for what seemed like forever, I finally chose the Gaggia and I’m glad I did. The Barista’s crema-enhancing basket removed it from final consideration, and aesthetics led me to choose the Gaggia over the Rancilio.
A word to espresso newbies: If you expect to just buy a pretty espresso machine and leave it at that, you should first dedicate a little time to introspection. If you have a personality that requires intensive pre-purchase research to make sure you get the “perfect” machine, you should expect to spend a whole lot more money and time on your new coffee hobby. Less than a month after getting my Gaggia, I ended up buying a nice grinder and a coffee bean roaster as well. No longer do I spend fewer than one and a half hours a week attending to my coffee needs; I now spend upwards of 4 hours. Of course the coffee I drink now is in a different league than what I used to brew…
I purchased my Gaggia Classic from Whole Latte Love. I haven't had any reason to contact them for tech support, but I can say that I was comfortable in my choice to buy from them. Their website is first-class and they were helpful in providing pre-purchase info.