Not great, not horrible, just plain satisfactory. A very respectable first-time unit for $250 or LESS.
Positive Product Points
Cheap. No shortage of users for support. Good features and performance for a low-end machine. Very respectable beginner's machine. Using Peets dramatically improves taste ;-)
Negative Product Points
Definately not worth the Starbuck$ retail price. Steam peeters out quickly. Not good for more than two or three people. Can get up to "good" quality shots, and get them consistently, as long as all other variables are perfect (beans, grind, tamp, filtered water, perfect timing, etc). "Great" shots and the elusive "G-- Shot" are simply not possible with this machine for obvious reasons.
I actually have the Saeco Rio Vapore, which when set side-by-side to my neighbor‘s Barista is *identical* in every facet, and I do mean *every*! For the sake of experiment, we traded machines for a full week and both commented that there was no operational or final product difference whatsoever. The only difference is that the Rio uses a pressurized Portafilter, which actually produces more consistent shots than if I use the Barista‘s filter (apologies to the elitists), something which my neighbor actually went out and purchased for his Barista because of its greater consistency. If I had a Silvia or a Livia 90 (EDIT: I now have a Livia 90, and obviously do NOT use a pressurized PF on her), I‘d obviously run from such a contraption, but in a low-end machine like the Barista/Vapore it‘s a welcome addition.
EDIT: For review and continuity-sake, I refer to the Vapore as a Barista in my other reviews and in my BIO simply because everyone knows what a Barista is but has not likely heard of a Saeco Rio Vapore. Have you?
Since my wife hates coffee and we don‘t entertain many connisseurs of the caffeinated nectar the Vapore/Barista has proven adequate to hone my skills and gain experience. I had bawked a few times at purchasing a Rancilio Silvia and accompanying Rocky, but have made the final decision to wait a few months, until Christmas perhaps, and go all the way and get a Livia 90 and stainless Moka grinder (EDIT: Bought Mazzer Mini instead for same money--better than the Moka, IMHO, for the same money). My next purchase will be my last, hopefully for many years to come. In the meantime, my current unit satisfies, expecially for Americanos and Red Eyes in conjunction with my big Bodum. Cappuchinos are as good or better than any local Starbucks, as though that‘s a difficult feat to accomplish, especially using Peet‘s. I‘ll probably wind up getting an Alpenrost along with the Livia/Moka combo and make the full commitment. For now, the Barist/Vapore is just plain satisfactory.
EDIT: Now that I've moved up to an Audrey from the Vapore/Barista and to my new Pasquini Livia 90 Auto from the Audrey, the deficiencies in the Vap/Bar are substantially more evident. I guess ignorance *is* bliss, and "you don't know what you don't know."
I can certainly recommend the Vapore/Barista to any first-timer without hesitation, but only for $250 **ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM**!! Do NOT get sucked into paying more for the stainless or copper versions. If you have the money, the Rancilio Silvia is UNQUESTIONABLY the way to go for a few bucks more, only $395 *including* shipping at MANY reputable vendors. The Silvia looks better, is more substantial, and performs MUCH better than the Barista/Vapore.
Bought *new* from eBay vendor for only $177.50 including shipping, which is a VERY good price for a beginner, low-end machine like the Barista. Everything arrived as advertised and worked the first time out. No reliability problems whatsoever and left it on all day all the time (definately NOT recommended by anyone;-)