Silvia hardware and performance in one ugly package. Jump on it at $250 or less!
Positive Product Points
Free! Free! Free! Basically a Silvia in less attractive clothes with a puny reservoir. Once "mastered", espresso quality is Schomer-esque with all the right variables! Good recovery and steam endurance.
Negative Product Points
A face only a mother could love. Puny reservoir needs refilling after every dozen shots or so, more frequently if steaming. Unwelcome faux steaming "enhancer" comes standard. Not much room for cups, etc.
I was getting by with my Starbucks' Barista, trying to hone my skills and make due until it was Livia 90 time (which has now come, I am pleased to say. Feel free to read my new Livia 90 review here in Geek too). My wife's cousin and husband recently opened a new pizza restaurant and planned to offer espresso as well, but that never transpired so they gave the Rancilio Audrey (formerly Rialto) they were going to use (they're clueless and couldn't make espresso, so they gave up. Not that an Audrey would've been up to the task anyway) to me for nothing, so I gladly accepted. Considering the Audrey is functionally and operationally identical to the Silvia, it certainly took some time to familiarize myself with her. Once I did, I was able to greatly improve my shots over the "Barista". Also, steaming with Audrey was a BIG step up, in both time and capacity. Where I could only steam enough milk for two average cappuchinos with the Barista, I could accomodate 4-6 people, and even more with Audrey's very respectable recovery time.
I've seen the average prices for the Audrey and would NEVER buy one or recommend it to anyone at those prices. For the extra $50-100 I would jump all over the Silvia instead unless you're artistically challenged and can't do without the design of the Audrey. It could make a VERY nice "Poor Man's" Silvia however if the price is right or you can find a good one on eBay from a trustworthy source (look for mine shortly ). I personally wouldn't pay $300 or more for it, given the Silvia's price at $395 at most places online. $200-250 seems to be a nice sweet spot to get Silvia quality and performance, albeit at a visual penalty and for really crappy reservoir capacity. For the money however (the discounted cost, that is), you simply won't find an equal.