I bought this at close-out pricing. It is one of the older-style Baby models, but to be honest, the new ones don't much get me excited. The sole purpose of this machine is to make reasonable espresso at work, and since I have a rather un-secure work environment, I wanted to have a machine that I would not cry over should it be stolen. For its intended purpose, then, the Baby is a winner. The Baby makes decent shots and was inexpensive. The black case is nicely subdued and hardly anyone takes a second look at it, probably thinking it is a generic Mr. Coffee drip machine. It is cheaply made, though. The plastic case does not inspire confidence when it twists as one is loading the portafilter. It is light, though, a good and a bad thing. It is also small.
The water reservoir is accessible from the top, something more expensive machines do not offer. It is reasonably quiet, and it heats up quickly. The internals are mostly the same as Gaggia's higher-end models, a main factor in my decision. Though the group is aluminum, the heater is a clever design and, though nothing on par with even a Rancilio, does a decent job. I let my Baby sit for at least twenty minutes to sink some heat into all the bits (including the PF), but brew temperature is a hit-or-miss affair. I try to run water through for a cleaning and, hopefully, can time things to where I start my shot right after the heating element turns off. That seems to work best for me. I tried pre-infusing but got mixed results. I tried several twists on drawing shots and have reverted to simply pushing the button. Convenient and probably what Gaggia intended. The third solenoid allows backflushing but does not do a very good job at stopping water flow after the shot is stopped. This is typical, though.
I no longer even try to use the Baby for hot water or steaming. The steam wand uses some silly contraption that, in my estimation, makes steaming more difficult. The owner's manual should not even mention drawing hot water: The machine essentially spits steam out all over the place, and that's your hot water, sir. That was the only real disappointment for me. I usually drink tea in the morning. The Baby is a cheap machine, but I would say it is a very good cheap machine. I would replace it with a better machine if I could find one for nearly the same price, but then I might get attached to that machine...