For making a reasonable shot of espresso this machine is a bargain, it has already paid for itself, having kept me chain store free since I've had it.
Positive Product Points
Makes nice shots with rich crema. Lots of pressure, easy to use and clean. Seems built to last. Reputable brand for 200 bucks.
Negative Product Points
Its a little bit noisy and has some ergonomic foibles, such as the inconveniently located water reservoir and the low steamer. I keep it next to the edge of the bench as I find I need to hold frothing milk jug below bench level to get it clear of the frothing wand.
My wife and I sold our fully automatic Gaggia Synchony Compact when we moved from London UK to Houston Texas. When we arrived in Texas we had grandiose ideas about upgrading to a fancier fully automatic. However surfing the coffee lists on Amazon I read some pretty positive reviews about the little Gaggia Carezza. The price was low enough ($200) for a gamble so I thought I'd take a chance.
Video of the review: http://matthewrhall.blogspot.com/2007/08/gaggia-carezza-review.html
The machine is made with typically Italian hard brittle plastics which I don't typically like but experience shows that they do wear well. It is very basic with three switches, there is no digital display offering unwanted complexity. There are chunky click-clack buttons for On, Steam and "Make Coffee".
The machine is too short as noted by other reviewers. This means that once you have a frothing jug under the wand and the milk has been frothed, removing the jug without spilling milk is impossible. I keep the machine next to the end of the bench so that I can froth milk holding the jug below bench level.
Once you have that jug positioned the milk does froth easily with this machine, however some reviews here say the opposite. I do tend to use full fat milk, not some of the watery stuff that you can get in US supermarkets. Maybe that's what I'm doing differently.
The Carezza takes 5 minutes or so to come up to temperature. Its easy to use. If its your first machine you just need some finely ground espresso coffee to get started immediately. Gaggia have thoughtfully included a plastic tamper which is nasty but usable. This machine is cheap, you can use it to make a couple of shots quickly and the resulting shots are decent.
Amazon.com delivered it quickly and had a competitive price.