A great unit at a good price, that also prevents "upgrade fever."
Positive Product Points
Unit has high quality components at a low price, for a machine with a heat exchanger. Easy to clean casing. Internal insulation helps keep reservoir from heating up. Steam wand is highly flexible/movable and is covered for protection. Size and design don't "take over" the kitchen.
Negative Product Points
I actually prefer the look of this unit over the more traditional stainless steel options, but it seems that most view this casing as cheap. The plastic steam control knob has a "cheap" feel and appearance. Some view the lack of a separate hot water dispenser wand as a weakness. I don't miss this feature. If I wanted hot water from the machine I would think you could just push the dispense button, while leaving off the portafilter.
I was upgrading from a SAECO Cappuccino Magic espresso machine. After reading reviews and information both here and on alt.coffee I decided to go with one of the home systems with a heat exchanger. I ended up choosing this machine for several reasons. For one thing I liked the idea of a totally encased unit to prevent burns. I didn't limit my options to the traditional stainless steel units and therefore ended up with a machine that is very easy to keep clean. I also wanted to get a brand machine that is readily available in the US, so parts and repairs wouldn't be an issue. Finally, once I determined that the Oscar had high quality components under its skin for much less than other machines in its class, I was sold. I immediately began getting better results than with my previous machine. The two portafilters that come with the unit are also a plus. I keep the backflush disk set in one, so I can quickly and easily clean the unit.
As stated elsewhere, the biggest challenge and learning curve had to do with steaming/frothing milk. Thanks to some information here, on coffeekid.com, and alt.coffee I finally got that part down too. One item every Oscar owner should get is the dispersion screen/kit usable only for ground coffee, which also comes with a larger double filter basket. It makes a noticeable improvement over the pod/ground coffee screen that came standard on the machine. I ordered my kit from http://sovranastore.com/index.html. It wasn't listed on their website, but by calling or emailing one can place the order.
My buying experience at Chris' went very well. I originally ordered the silver unit, but got a call before they shipped it. They recommended the black unit. They have found that the silver color is only a coating, and shows scratches, while the black color is molded throughout and doesn't show scratches. On their recommendation I switched my choice and the black matches the rest of the appliances better anyway.
Three Month Followup
I just thought I would add an update after having the machine for about a year. Most importantly, I have not had any mechanical problems with the machine. I use it with the LM ridgless double basket and added the "new tow hole steam tip" from Chris' Coffee. Although their site does not mention the Oscar, that tip does fit the Oscar. I like the few extra seconds this tip gives you to foam the milk. Overall I'm very pleased with the machine.