An excellent starter machine for not a lot of money.
Positive Product Points
Makes a good espresso with rich, dark crema, but not necessarily "God shots"; excellent value at less than $150 if you're an advanced home barista, but cannot afford a $300-$700 home machine
Negative Product Points
I don't like the fact that this machine does not come with a filter basket specifically for cleaning. Also, it's been hard for me to find a good tamper for this machine.
As I mentioned above, this machine is an excellent value. I originally bought this 4 years ago, and it still going strong. It makes a pretty decent espresso shot, although I've been trying to figure out how to pull a God shot on this machine. I either grind too fine and tamp too hard and end up over-extracting, or the shots come out in less than 10 seconds (the best time I can get is 6-7 seconds). There's some sort of "perfect crema" attachment on the portafilter that makes it impossible to pull a shot without crema. I think that's what makes this such a good beginner machine, because it's difficult to make a really bad shot.
As far as tampers are concerned, I started out with a convex tamper from Starbucks. It was a little too small around to get a good tamp. I'd have to move the tamper around inside of the filter basket in order to cover the whole area. I am now using a flat plastic tamper from Saeco that is a tad larger and covers more real estate in the basket. I'd definitely recommend a flat tamper, but get something a bit heavier (such as steel). I think a Pro Tamper (see it in the 2003 Espresso Tamper Shootout article-http://www.coffeegeek.com/detailed/2003tampers) will be my next tamper of choice for this machine.
My biggest complaint about this machine is cleaning. It does not come with cleaning parts. I've used the pod basket for cleaning, but that obviously does not work as well. The best I can do is dissolve some espresso cleaner in some hot water, pour it in the water tank, and run it through the machine (in fact, I believe the espresso cleaner I use, Urnex, gives instructions on how to do that).
All in all, it's a good, sturdy espresso machine 1) for beginners, and 2) for people like me who can't afford the really great but way more expensive machines. This will do the job while you're saving your pennies (like what I'm doing for a La Pavoni lever machine).
I purchased this in 1999 online from Coffee Corral. They're still around (www.coffeecorral.com), but they don't carry espresso machines anymore. The owner/manager at the time was extremely helpful both by e-mail and over the phone in getting me started with this machine.