I purchased this machine about 5 months ago at starbucks on sale for 250. As anyone who visits this site knows, that is an excellent price for an espresso machine. The question, of course, is: does it work? Well, I can definitely say that it does. There are a few negative qualities to it, but overall it can't be beat for the price.
Starbucks advises you to not use a tamper with this machine. I think that is bologna. They have probably received too many products returned because of people "over tamping", but with a light tamp, I always produce better coffee. So, my quest to find a tamper that fits this portofilter size is still ongoing. I used the underside of the scoop for about a month and finally just bought a smaller tamper about a month ago. Starbucks used to sell a very nice tamper for their machines, but no longer...oh well, this'll work.
The portofilter plastic is flimsy. My buddy has one from a couple of years back and his portofilter is even worse. They've certainly improved the design, but I still feel that it could be made stronger.
It's really loud. I feel bad when using this thing early in the morning because I'm afraid I'm waking up my neighbors (apartment).
It looks nice. A clean white finished, curvaceous product. It fits well with the rest of the appliances. It isn't bulky at all. Very well designed.
For the price, this machine is excellent. Milk can be foamed extremely well once you get the hang of it and I can get espresso that is better than my local shop's. As long as you work with it (practice foaming, find the right grind, the right tamp, etc.), you'll produce fine shots of espresso.
It looks and feels very strong. With the exception of the portofilter, the machine itself looks like it'll last a long time. There are no frills with the system, so there are few things that can potentially go wrong.
Customer service is excellent. I haven't called them personally, but my friend has. After his portofilter broke (see above), he called them up and they sent him a new one, no questions asked, for free. That's impressive, in my opinion.