Solid construction, simple mechanism, quick heat-up, easy user maintenance, long history, enthusiastic user community.
Negative Product Points
Primitive, finicky, inflexible.
I paid $350 in 1996 for the "Carina Grande" from Zabar's, which is a rebranded Professional. The price has gone up somewhat but this remains an alternative. A solid month of frustration ensued as I struggled to get a decent, consistent shot out of it. Web pages and newsgroups helped a lot. Now it seems natural. The single basket is useless, and the method of pulling a shot (lever up to fill the cylinder, down to press water through grounds with a mechanical piston) means that the volume of a shot with the double basket is capped at about 1.5 oz (or less, if you yank the cup away). The machine is quite sensitive to grind, tamp, and even humidity. When you get it right, though, it makes superb espresso, and always froths milk well. You can make coffee for a few friends as well, but not for large parties (you don't want to spend your time playing barista to fifty people, anyway!). I'm quite happy with it and would not trade it for a more modern steam-pump machine (I upgraded from a Krups Espresso Novo); I feel more in touch with the process and with history. You should buy this machine if you're a "do-it-yourselfer". Imagine: you can take it apart with a socket wrench, clean and lube it yourself!