Silvia is solid, dependable, and can produce a great espresso.
Positive Product Points
It's beautiful, durable, includes a 3-way solenoid valve, has a normal steam wand (i.e. no froth-o-matic gizmos attached), and is more mechanical than electronic.
Negative Product Points
The tamper is worthless, the instruction booklet from Rancilio is worthless, the water container lifts up out of the top of the machine requiring some clearance space to do so, and the filter basket should be replaced with a better LaMarzocco basket.
I promised myself I wouldn't write reviews if I didn't have something new to add. With 58 reviews on the Silvia prior to my writing this one, it took me awhile to see the patterns in the reviews and in reading what would-be purchasers were looking for in an espresso machine at this price. The main fear buyers seem to have about purchasing the Silvia is the fact that it is does not allow the use of a pressurized filter basket to make decent pulls easily.
It's time to put to rest the fears that Silvia is a difficult machine to use. That's not to say it's not a difficult machine to MASTER, but so would ANY machine. If you're comparing the decent pull of a pressurized filter basket, the Silvia can match it after the initial dialing in of your grinder.
What's more is that once you can match that decent pull, the pressurized filter basket machine won't ever improve, but a Silvia user will. Also, keep in mind that pressurized filter basket machines like the Solis SL-70 or SL-90 do not have a 3-way solenoid valve to allow backflushing (though some have said that backflushing voids your warranty) or the immediate removal of your filter basket after pulling a shot.
My first pull was with my Maestro grinder set at the portafilter notch with month old beans from my freezer - hardly ideal for a decent shot. Yet, that first pull was a 25-second double shot of a little more than 2 ounces with crema. It wasn't great because of the bean quality and because I hadn't learned about the nuances of tamping and temperature surfing, but it was decent right off the bat.
A pressurized filter basket may make your experience easier, but the Silvia will let you get better at making espressos and appreciating the skill. It would be sort of like buying a bunch of bus or subway tokens instead of a car. They'll both get you where you want to go, but I'd rather drive.
1st Line provided a great buying experience. When the steam knob became loose, Jim at 1st Line told me how I could tighten it a little, and sent me a new one to replace it.
Three Month Followup
Great steaming tip makes wonderful froth easily.
One Year Followup
After six months, I decided to splurge on a heat exchanger model (Isomac Tea). I found it necessary to temperature surf with the Silvia, that is, bringing the boiler to a higher temperature by waiting 40 seconds after turning the steam switch on. Installing a PID would eliminate the need to temperature surf, but I never got into that.