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the detailed review - sl 70 review
SL 70 Review - Comparisons
Introduction | Overview | Out of the Box | Operation Etc. | Performance | Comparisons | Conclusion
Grill closeup

We stacked the SL-70 up against some serious (and expensive) competition, including the Pasquini Livia 90, a Saeco Via Veneto, and an Elektra Nivola. Two of these machines cost $100s more than the SL-70 (the Via Veneto is about $100 less), but the Nivola is closer in terms of internals and performance, being another single-boiler machine.

Two test groups evaluated these units. I've merged them in to one big group for purposes of reporting.

Steaming Performance
We stacked up the four machines against each other in a head to head steaming shootout. We did 7oz (210ml) and 10oz (300ml) tests, bringing the milk from roughly 40F (3.5C) up to 155F (69C) on each machine:

Steam Performance Comparison
Solis SL-70Via VenetoPasquini LiviaElektra Nivola
210ml/69C41.2 seconds79.8 seconds23.1 seconds76.1 seconds
300ml/69C54.8 secondsn/a31.2 seconds92.8 seconds

The SL-70 is very respectable. The last time I tested a Rancilio Silvia, it was scoring in the 35 second range for this test, so kudos to the Swiss for the machine's performance. The Livia is very fast, one reason why you pay the money you do. The Via Veneto petered out and could not get 10oz up to temperature.

Brewing Temperatures
This test isn't entirely fair; the HE machine (the Livia) has an adjustable pressurestat, and I've got it dialed into where my own sweet-spot with the machine is. The other machines cannot have their temperature adjusted, other than you "surfing the cycle", picking the time in the boiler cycle to brew.

Brewing Temperatures in Grouphead, 40ml
Solis SL-70Via VenetoPasquini LiviaElektra Nivola
92.1C91.1C93.1C89.3C

Notes: The SL-90 is definitely in a good area for brewing, and surprisingly, the Via Veneto isn't too far off. The Nivola's internal thermostat is tuned too low (on purpose), and hopefully they will change this in future models.

Flow Rates
This isn't a crucial test, but is provided for the information it imparts.

Flow Rate, 10 second sampling
Solis SL-70Via VenetoPasquini LiviaElektra Nivola
62.8ml74.8ml93.4ml49.4ml

Notes: Both the Nivola and the SL-70 are below the normal average of about 75 to 100mls per ten seconds. This is both bad and good. Bad because it exposes the grounds to hot water for longer periods (it takes longer for the initial flow to start, especially in ristretto grinding), but good in that it's almost like a poor-man's preinfusion, with a slow buildup of pressure.

The picture below shows a size comparison between the SL-70 (far right) and the Elektra Nivola (centre) and Nuova Simonelli Oscar (not compared in this roundup, but provided for size comparison purposes).


NS Oscar, Nivola and SL70 size comparison

Head to Head, Subjective Opinions

This is where the test groups got involved. It isn't really fair tossing the Livia in on this test, since it's a heat exchanger machine with a huge boiler, but nevertheless, it served as our benchmark for what might just be possible with the lower range machines.

Shot Performance
When it came to actual shot performance, as long as we made adjustments for the SL-70's filter basket size (and used the aftermarket, non-pressurized baskets), it scored fairly well with the testers. Once we tried brewing the same volumes as the Livia, it slid downhill pretty fast. And when we used the pressurized baskets, it scored even worse. In order of preference, the Livia won out, and the SL-70 and Nivola were dead heats. The Via Veneto scored poorly, thanks to the pressurized portafilter and my lack of a non-pressurized version to try and test.

Steaming
In steaming, the SL-70 was definitely the champion against the other single boiler machines, and a close second to the Livia. The Livia mainly won because of the speed and instant use, but most of our testers found that the SL-70 was easier to microfoam with, and they liked the overall "action" of the foaming and steaming of the SL-70, even more so than the Livia.

One tester immediately picked up on the SL-70's unique "boiler on" mode as soon as the steam knob was switched on, and felt that was nothing short of amazing. I concur, it's a feature that should be in every single boiler semi-automatic machine, be it a $200 machine or a $700 one.

Operation and Use
In terms of actual operation and ease of use, again the SL-70 scored high with the test group, and scored very close to the winner, the Pasquini Livia. Highlighted comments from this testing include:

"This thing is so fast transitioning from brewing to steaming, you almost don't miss the instant steam you get from an (Nuova Simonelli) Oscar!"

"I like how the whole package is put together. Hot on top, big reservoir, heavy, brews a great shot, good volume of hot water, great steaming power. If they gave this thing a commercial portafilter, it could be the ultimate home machine."

"How the Nivola is so much more expensive than this machine, I cannot figure out. It's beautiful, but lacks performance. This SL-70 should be the poster child for performance for the Elektra people to study."

"I am very disappointed with the pressurized baskets - they really take away from what is otherwise an excellent, first rate machine that can deliver the goods, if given the chance."

Looks and Style
Our group as a whole picked the Elektra as the winner in the beauty category, and labeled it as a head turner. In fact, it was the first machine everyone in the test groups gravitated to when they arrived at our massive state of the art test facilities (aka, my basement). The Livia placed second, and the SL-70 placed third, with the Via Veneto bringing up the rear, a distant rear at that.

Value
In this category, there was no question. Even though a Via Veneto can be bought for $100 (or more) less than the SL-70, the entire test group(s) felt that at $269 (a sale price for white SL-70s) and even at $299 (regular "sale" price), the SL-70 was the complete price winner in our test lineup. Everyone in the test group (myself excluded) felt that the $1000 price for a HE Livia wasn't worth the price difference.

Numerical results for these comments and ratings are presented on the Conclusions page.

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Introduction | Overview | Out of the Box | Operation Etc. | Performance | Comparisons | Conclusion
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