I like metaphors so here's how I'll summarize this. This machine is not a luxury sedan. It's like a Porsche. It's not comfortable and easy to drive, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that you can soon be pulling shots like a pro barista.
Positive Product Points
The machine makes great espresso. As good as a pro barista can in a commercial machine.
Negative Product Points
It's a finicky machine. You have to be very conscious of your grind. The steamer works well, however you always need to prep it. It needs a good 10 seconds or sometimes more to convert water to steam. Even after the machine has been on for hours. But once it steams, it's perfect.
The Silvia is as good as I had read about. I've learned a great deal through this site and have acheived the best results. You cannot fairly review this machine without a grinder that matches it. You have to experiment with the grind. It took me a couple of days of going through a pound of espresso beans until I found the right setting. Too coarse and you'll get water flowing so fast. Too fine and water won't get through the portafilter and you'll have 1/4 ounce of black espresso. It's a very sensitive machine. Even after acheiving the perfect grind setting, a few grams off (more or less) can spoil the shot. Tampering is critical as well. But when all is right, the Silvia can deliver the best shot you can get rivaled only by commercial machines.
The machine is built for function. It doesn't have the fancy glowing buttons or slick industrial design. It looks very utilitarian. But I personally don't see it as a bad thing. It comes down to how the machine makes your drink as far as I'm concerned.
I highly recommend getting a good grinder. I purchased the Rancilio Rocky Doserless grinder. It does the job well is very consistent.
My only grind (pun intended) is the steamer. It always needs a good 10 seconds or more for the water to convert to steam. Even after the machine has been on for a long time, you still need to release water before steaming with the Silivia. Otherwise you'll mix water with your milk and have terrible froth.
The machine doesn't have a 'crema-inducing' portafilter, so you have to get it right otherwise there will be no crema in your espresso. The steam wand doesn't have a frothing filter either. You have to learn the hard way to correctly froth milk. Having been a barista once, these all came naturally. But for first time users, I highly recommend taking an entire day to really perfect this machine. It is so worth it, and you'll be a better espresso maker after it.
Perfect buying experience from aabreecoffee.com. They have great customer service as well as excellent prices. Purchase the Siliva and the Rocky with the stainless steel base for $780. On top of that, they gave me a $50 gift certificate which I used towards a Rancilio Rosewood/ Stainless Steel tamper. Although by the time I publish this review, the offer may no longer by available.