Excellent price, good quality materials, simple to operate, sizable water tank, heats up fast, makes good crema, relatively easy to clean.
Negative Product Points
Durability, inconsistent frothing.
This is my second Saecco Via Venezia Starbucks. I had the same machine for slightly over a year and the pump just gave up. Let me immediately note that we used it a lot -- on average, we make 5-6 cappuccinos a day. Nevertheless, I thought that it should have lasted longer, given that it had been cleaned and maintained regularly. After shopping for a while, I decided to buy the same machine again. Before the Via Venezias, I have owned four Breville espresso machines ( two Caffe Roma and two 800ESXL) and a Gaggia Classic. All of these were significantly more expensive (800 ESXL and Gaggia Classic are double the price) and none was worth it. Actually, the Gaggia Classic was my biggest disappointment, given the reputation and price.
In comparison with all the above machines, the Saecco Via Venezia is still my favorite: it makes the best crema, heats up faster, and delivers consistent espresso ( IF you know how to grind and/or pack the coffee -- I never use pods). I typically use Lavazza or Illy ground espresso and the shots are routinely aromatic and smooth, and the extraction is consistent. The Illy (medium roast) is ground a bit more finely, so I am more careful not to pack it too tight. Also, we often throw parties and the Via Venezia delivers great multiple espressos without overheating or burning the coffee. You should expect an occasional drip from either the wand or the head for the portafilter, but that's normal. Just make sure you prime it after the tank has been emptied or after discontinued use.
I have only two major remarks: durability of the pump and the frothing. I am hoping that this second machine will last longer than the previous one. (Brevilles have the same problem with durability despite the price, whereas the Gaggia Classic will last longer.) As for the frothing, you can get optimum microfoam if you wait for the pressure to build up and use fresh milk and clean utensils. But even so, the steam wand wouldn't always froth it right.
Overall, for just under $200 this is by far the best entry-level espresso machine.
The Starbucks sales folks are nice but they have no idea who's authorized service & repair, what's the warranty, etc., so be prepared to look for this info yourself.