--Relatively cheap price --Quite capable (with a couple tweaks/workarounds) --Steam light comes on fast --Attractive looking --Good build quality
Negative Product Points
--Small boiler means not tons of steam (easy solution though - read below) --Heating elements seems to cycle on/off alot --Frothing attatchment kinda sucks (lots of easy solutions to this - read below)
This machine really lets you appreciate what a much better machine can give you. It is quite capable, just sometimes a pain to use.
First off, I (not being an expert at all) am quite happy with the espresso produced. What can I say - the portafilter is quite heavy and retains heat well. It cleans easily which is nice. It's not pressurized which means you have alot of control over your shots - tamping pressure and grind size make a big difference. This is a huge plus if you're particular about your shots, but it's an inconvenience if you are happy with any old coffee as you have to work at it for a bit to get a combination of grind/tamp that you're happy with. I have a capresso infinity grinder, and with the large gaps in between settings, it was a bit of a challenge to find a grind that worked well for me.
From when you press the steam switch to when you have steam is a short wait. I found the frother attatchment totally unusable for making micro foam. I didn't spend alot of time with it - after usuing it maybe five times I lost the washer that holds the sleeve in place. Fortunate for me! First I used just the steam tip without the sleeve. This worked fine, except that the tip was short so this will only work if you have a short pitcher. Some people have totally replaced their wand with a Rancillo wand, but this was much more extreme surgery than I was interested in (it also voids your warranty). Fortunatly, there's no need - for $10 WLL will send you a Saeco panarrello wand. The outside sleeve of the wand is quite useless but the inside is marvelous for making great microfoam. It's basically just a long narrow plastic tube with a single small hole on the bottom. I have been imho, making great microfoam with it.
The small boiler means you don't get a lot of steam before it runs dry. Plenty to foam 4-8oz milk, but not much more than that. Simple fix - after you start steaming, right when the steam light goes out (and the heating element kicks in) turn on the brew switch for just a second and this will kick a bit more water into the boiler which will instantly get heated. Do this again after 20 seconds or so and you'll easily be set to steam large quantities of milk. This is really a drop dead easy workaround.
Overall, I think the machine is quite capable for the price, but it will make you lust for a more expensive machine that needs no workarounds.
WLL was great. I lost the inner washer to my steam wand and they sent me a great Saeco replacment wand for free. Customer service is great - the reps are really familiar with the merchandise and coffee in general. Super accomidating. Also they price match!