Great "starter" machine, best bang for $ when bought on sale. (although the competition is closing in)
Positive Product Points
Best value for beginner. Leaves room in your budget for a decent grinder. Huge reservoir. Relatively quick boiler time.
Negative Product Points
Steam is a little weak out of the wand, but if anything, it will just teach you how to properly steam milk. Water temp can be a little inconsistent, so learn to surf.
This machine is a great setup for the beginning junkie...er, enthusiast. I pull solid doubles of my own roast from it, with good crema. It comes with a pressurized portafilter to take some of the guesswork out of grind and tamp, but once you get the hang of things, it's easy enough to modify. I paired mine the Starbucks (Solis Maestro) burr grinder.
You can pick one up the local 'bucks, though I wouldn't pay full price. Fortunately, they seem to go on sale pretty regularly.
Learning and setup were pretty easy. Included is a video to help you get going.
I probably outgrew this machine, but a lack of money and the fact that I have a La Marzocco Linea 4 group at work, keeps me from buying a new one.
I think this machine is great for the first time buyer. If you catch the bug, well...you'd be on a never ending upgrade cycle anyway. But if you don't, or you find this is just enough machine for you, you can pocket half the difference from a Livia and send me the rest!
The model I purchased was on sale, plus I was able to buy the floor model which had only been used a handful of times.
Three Month Followup
I have now owned this machine for over 3 years and it is still going strong. Starting to notice a little wear on the steam valve. Still a great beginner machine.