Best-in-class steaming makes this unit a compelling value.
Positive Product Points
Possibly the best value in espresso under $1000. Real espresso and unbelievable steam power.
Negative Product Points
A few flaws out of the box -- pressurized baskets and 53mm size. And it's ugly compared to the competition.
I've used this machine for a couple lattes every morning for a little more than a year, with the occasional guest coming over. This machine is legit, and I haven't yet experienced the reliability problems some people mention.
I have, however, come to some conclusions about the machine. First, and most importantly, the espresso quality is not quite as good as a 58mm machine. I'd had a sneaking suspicion for awhile, but recently I did a direct comparison, using the same grinder and coffee with a Gaggia Classic. The espresso with the Classic seemed more expressive of the single-origin Yirgi I was using; the aroma jumped out of the cup and the flavor seemed creamy and balanced. With the SL70, the coffees always seem dominated by chocolate and roast notes, and the aromas a bit muted. I think that this may be related to temperature, but the difference was unmistakable.
A couple other minor issues: I had a bit of trouble getting a non-pressurized basket for the machine. It took a month or so, and that really handicaps the machine. Also, the pod adapter basket has a tendency to trap water inside it, making the pods even more watery than they need to be. And yes, it's ugly and plasticky. A Rancilio or Gaggia looks better on the counter; or a Francis Francis, if you're really into looks over performance. Also, I really do miss the 3-way solenoid, which I didn't expect to. The pressure relief really speeds up pulling multiple shots (even just two.)
However, this machine seriously outclasses all the competition in one aspect: steaming power. It's a night and day kind of difference. The micro switch kicks on the boiler while steaming and you don't lose power at all. This is why I bought the machine, and the first time I used it I was amazed, especially coming from the Gaggia, which is frankly underpowered for steaming. The thing just cranks out the steam, and makes beautiful, latte-art microfoam very easily if you've got the chops.
When you weigh it all out, it's a bit hard to come to conclusions. This is absolutely the winner if you're a latte/cap drinker. If you're a total espresso nut, you should probably buy a Gaggia if you're OK with the aluminum boiler, or a Silvia if you want to spend more money. However, for me, the price point combined with the best-in-class steaming capability sealed the deal.
However, there is one more thing to consider: at some point, I will PID this machine if possible. At that point, it's a whole new ballgame.
No problems. I think it might have been a link from "onsale.com" but I'm not sure. I believe that all the items ship from Cafe West Distribution, and they do a good job. I think the item was triple-boxed.
Three Month Followup
I've had this for more than one year, actually, but I recently found out something very important about this machine: most of these machines come from the factory with their over-pressure valves set far too high. The pump on these units is capable of 19 bar, nearly twice the ideal brewing pressure, and the over-pressure valve would open only rarely before I adjusted it. It's a necessary adjustment. For instructions see this thread: Click Here (coffeegeek.com)
One Year Followup
Some people have apparently complained about corrosion or reliability issues with this machine, but, even several years on, I have not encountered any, knock on wood. I recently had the machine open, and everything was ship-shape; just something to take into account if you're thinking of buying a secondhand unit.