Get her hot, give her good coffee and she will more than satisfy your needs (for espresso, anyway).
Positive Product Points
Makes good to very good espresso with attentive operator. Can steam at least small quantities of milk very well. Looks good. Has quality "prosumer" components.
Negative Product Points
Very operator dependent for quality output (OK, we've all heard this already!) Wide deadband for boiler requires some form of temperature surfing or an expensive but very convenient PID. Sharp corners on drip tray (OK, this is pretty minor).
I had achieved a level of frustration with my "15 bar pump" Krups espresso machine sufficient to get me over the sticker shock that comes with that first leap into the world of true home espresso production. I found this website and HomeBarista.com, looked at the reviews, and decided Silvia and Rocky were the way to go. I found an offering of a used Silvia on eBay from Whole Latte Love (WLL), but I decided to purchase them directly from WLL at a discount since both Rocky and Silvia were pre-owned. They arrived in excellent shape. I was pleased with the more commercial quality of Silvia in its' appearance and heft. I started right away on the journey to learn Silvia's (and Rocky's) secrets. The first lesson: do not pay attention to what posters say the correct grind setting is on any grinder- even the same one you are using. Lots of sink shots wondering why I wasn't getting the same results as they were at the same settings. Every grinder is probably a little unique, and I think mine is more unique than most. I have repeatedly set the grinder at zero to correspond to very slight touching of the burrs, and can only get good shots with Rocky set at 1 or 2 at the highest. Your results WILL VARY, it's OK.
There certainly have been many reviews and discussions about temperature surfing Silvia, and I will only add my 2 cents here. First, I would avoid any surfing technique that involves starting the extraction while the heating element is on. It just makes sense that the slope of the temperature curve is going to be flatter going down than up on a machine that has been allowed to warm up. The most helpful technique that has worked well for me was posted by Dan Kehn here: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/18247. For me, this involves allowing Silvia to warm up with the portafilter in place until the portafilter spouts are painfully hot (usually 20-25 minutes), running the pump (into the cup to warm it up) for about 4-5 seconds, and occasionally repeating for a second or two, until the boiler light comes on. I put enough coffee for a double shot into the grinder and wait for the light to go off. When the light goes off, I start timing for 2 minutes, which allows me time to grind, dose, level and tamp without rushing. At the 2 minute mark I start the extraction, and if all goes well (which it usually does), 20-25 seconds later I will have about 2 ounces of high quality espresso. I will not try to say I make "god shots" ever- but they are better than 95% of the shops locally (Cartel Coffee rocks their Synesso - they beat me every day of the week).
WLL forgot to include the Rancilio double basket with the machine, but when I called about that, they provided a ridgeless LaMarzocco double basket which works great for me. I have never weighed my doses, but I fill the basket as high as I can while avoiding hitting the screen with the top of the puck.
Absolutely no problems with WLL, including their response to the missing double basket. I never called them again after that.