Probably one of the best choices for a first machine, very good performance for the price.
Positive Product Points
Very good machine to start with. Makes good espresso and while providing some freedom, does not let you to completely mess it up. Good grinder, sturdy insides.
Negative Product Points
52mm basket size, spent a while looking for a tamper. Plastic portafilter gave up after a year of abuse, machine leaked water until serviced, both of these issues are likely due to misuse and lack of cleaning.
I bought this a year ago after making a list of all models available locally and reading all CG corresponding reviews. I don't regret my choice at all and most of my experience with this machine is positive. While the model is now very dated, it still does the job of making a good espresso and an even better cappuccino. Setup was pretty straightforward, but I should says I am an "if all else fails, read the doc" type of person, so I found out I was not using the pressurized portafilter correctly only after it started falling apart and I was looking for a replacement online. Also the water here is extremely hard and even after it going through a three-piece filter, I would still see stains in the water container. This and lack of cleaning (only was cleaning it every 3-4 months) probably brought my current main problem up - it leaks water when powered on. I will try more cleaning and if it doesn't help - it will go to service. Other than that - everything is just a matter of getting used to, steam wand felt a bit awkward at the start, but then again, this is my first machine. The intake on the grinder is not designed well, oily beans may stop falling in and I used to hit the machine slightly to get it going. What I found later is that beans get stuck only in the part of container that is closer to you, so you don't have to hit or shake the machine, just open the container and move the beans to the back wall and it goes on grinding. The drip tray is awesome, it has two parts and is very deep. Latte is easy, I keep the nozzle slightly below milk surface and jug tilted and then halfway through move it to the bottom for best results. Bugs me a bit that you have to press separate button and wait for steam after pouring and every single time you have to flush out a bit of water from the steam wand first. Thinking back only thing I would change is my lack of attention to machine, it needed to be cleaned more often and not left on for hours with coffee grounds in.
A bit unfortunate - bought it at local MediaMarkt, they didn't have a tamper and gave me a service center address. Went there and saw the same machine for $70 less.
Three Month Followup
It's been 1 year and 3 months now. Machine has been serviced a week after I wrote the initial review. Actual water temperature it produced was even above normal, so I removed the temperature part from negative points. The most serious problem service found was the leaks from the boiler, so water was all over the place and some of it did not go into portafilter. Machine would also drip water when powered on. I had two year warranty on the machine, so leak was covered and I only had to pay to get the protafilter fixed, since it was disassembled and messed with. Machine still going well, especially now that I take more care of it than I did the first year.
One Year Followup
not much to add, still doing fine after over 2 years of daily use