Largest boiler in its class, which makes for plenty of steaming power, and the temperature won't drop once you start brewing. Once you get the grind sufficently fine, you are in for some great espresso. A few weeks of practice and you'll get some great cappucchino.
Negative Product Points
Terrible manual (very poor translation from Italian). Must spend time on-line reading before you use it (or risk dry-firing the boiler, i.e. melt down).
Lack of pressure or temperature dials.
The end result, plenty of power to make a great espresso/cappucchino. For $500 you still have to do the work yourself (grind, tamp, refill boiler, etc), and you lack specific gauges that tell you the temperature or pressure. Oh well, it still makes a fine cup of coffee.
I did a lot of research and wanted to only spend about $300, but worried about the tiny boilers (or worse yet, theroblocks). Ultimately, if I'm going to spend $300 on something that would need to be replaced it a few years, better to spend the extra now. So, it was down to Rancilio Silvia and Gaggia Classic (and I went with the bigger boiler on the Silvia).
While 20 minutes is best to warm up the machine, I have made good a cappucchio after only 5 minutes by running hot water through the system to heat up the portafilter (i.e. handle). The bigger boiler does take longer to warm up.
You must pay a lot of attention to how much water is in the boiler (of course there is no gauge, that would be too convenient). Once you get down the routine it is not too cumbersome, but I sure did worry a lot the first few weeks).
1-st line was fine. They bundled a very nice tamp (for an extra $30), and had a three-holed steaming head for only $5. They also supplied some additional instructions, but I still don't understand what "priming the machine" means.
Three Month Followup
The Machine behaves perfectly and predictably. The learning curve of frothing has been conquered, and I am producing excellent microbubbles every time. I couldnít be happier.
Iíve begun roasting my own coffee beans (in hot air popcorn popper), which probably doubles the amount of flavor in my coffee. It only takes an extra 15 minutes a week to roast, but makes a huge difference in flavor.