It's a solid, tried-and-true top performer for its class. A fantastic first machine.
Positive Product Points
Solid construction. Reliable. Plenty of power. Nearly indestructable.
Negative Product Points
Hmm.. um.. hrmm..
The steam wand isn't so great, but it's not a huge setback. The steaming power isn't what I would like it to be, but then again, I really like to entertain with it. Hmm.. I really don't have much to complain about
My machine is rebadged as a Starbucks Proteo Romanza, but the crappy paint job and white lettering hasn't affected its performance thus far. The bottom of the machine still says "Gaggia" and "Coffee".
Temp surfing is a challenge without modification. The pump has more than enough power to get the 9bar quota job done. The aluminum boiler heats up quickly with external heating elements. (no melt-downs! ^_^)
The portafilter handle is commercial sized 58mm chrome plated brass for excellent heat retention. The same story applies to the bew group. The filter basket isn't as good as I'd prefer, but it's decent enough. The portafilter "spout" ( older model) is pretty much just two extended holes in the bottom of the portafilter.. it's not a true spout, and it has affected the pour of the shots.. but it's nothing a hole-saw and a dremel can't fix.
The "perfect crema device" is about useless. The previous owner called it a good frisbee for the dog.. so I'm not sure I'd care to use it anyway.
The plastic steam wand frothing adapter sleeve is useful if you want a bubbly mess of soap sud style milk in your drink. I've managed to get acceptable microfoam (though not what I'd like, thanks to the too-large steam hole) with it. The only problem I've ever really had is that it once ran out of steam while frothing a 20oz pitcher for two drinks at once. I proceded to run a water/white vingegar solution through the machine the next day. WOW did I see a lot of crud come out. WAY too many solids for my comfort. I ran quite a bit of this mixture through, which opened things up a bit.
It might help to press the brew button while beginning steaming to make sure there is some water in the boiler to be heating up so you don't run out of oomph during the process. The incident hasn't happened since, but it still starts losing steaming power at around 110 degrees for 16oz. of milk.
The drip tray is a VERY durable plastic with a stainless steel cover. The cup warmer is a joke unless the cups are already at temperature.. even then, the effects are minimal at best. I guess that's what you can expect from a passively heated cup warmer.
The machine is very solid, heavy, and with rubber feet! (unlike its grinder counterpart). The top comes off easily for no-nonsense access to the guts of the machine.
It's small enough to fit into tight spaces (even my college student apartment's kitchen with minimal counter space!) yet solid enough to give confidence to the user. It truly is a joy to work with.
For the money, you just can't go wrong. It's a great machine.
I sent $140 through paypal to the seller who posted it for sale on the CG forums and it was shipped in good condition. Aside from a little cleaning up of mineral deposits, it's been great.