I don't really remember how much I paid for this "factory refurbished" machine on ebay, it was so long ago. I am guessing about $125 but it may have been less than that. Ours is a plain Jane black, not all stainless steel. It is stainless steel where it matters: the boiler.
I chose this machine after reading reviews here and elsewhere. I wanted a machine that would make a decent cup of espresso and the occassional latte or cappucino, would be easy to operate and would just keep going like the energizer bunny.
It has pretty much lived up to our expectations. After a few years, we started having some trouble with the filter because a lot of the holes had clogged up. We took a very fine needle and cleaned them one by one. Since then we have been more conscientious about rinsing and flushing after use.
We found that with the pressurized portafilter it is best to tamp very lightly. We just fill it full, press lightly. If you tamp heavily, you will have leakage around the top and a mess instead of espresso. This machine is so easy to operate you can practically do it in your sleep, and we do.
Everyone who has one of these probably knows that when the machine is on, the steam wand drips. Must be a design flaw. We use a small 6 oz glass under the wand. This is better than allowing the wand to drip into the tray because you cannot see how full the tray is getting. If you steam milk, you need a little glass like this to clean the wand. Also, if you allow the water to get low, the machine will lose its prime and to restore it, you need to open the steam wand valve with the wand immersed in clean water, turn the pump on, then off, allowing the wand to suction water back into the line.
We use highly purified (reverse osmosis) water and have never had a scaling problem, although we flush dilute vinegar through it 3 or 4 times a year. We use Trader Joes Bay Blend whole beans, ground in a Capresso set on left setting of "fine" (finest setting of fine, not 'extra fine').
After about 5 years now, the 'not ready light' (that's what the Italians call it in the manual) has ceased to function, hence you cannot tell when the water is up to temp and ready for you to switch on the pump. This has not been a big problem because it takes something like 45 seconds to heat up. More worrisome the drip rate from the wand has started to increase, probably the seal on the steamer valve is wearing out. Everything else has held up wonderfully, we must produced about 10,000 shots from it.