Superb machine and value, but does require solid technique.
Positive Product Points
Extremely well made: rock solid frame, all stainless body, brass boiler & fittings, replacable parts. Produces excellent product, but is a professional-style machine, so grind, tamp, and freshness must all be right. So the learning curve is a bit steep if you are new to it, but the result is worth it if you want good espresso. You are unlikely to get the same quality with less. The professiional style portafilter is a real plus in this regard, and far superior to the various other kinds designed to compensate for stale coffee and lack of technique. The steam production on this unit is excellent as well, but quite forceful, again requiring good technique to get a good result. The solenoid pressure release is also an excellent feature.
Negative Product Points
Does require technique, which may be a problem for some users. Stale coffee or too coarse a grind produces terrible coffee. You have to want to get it right and take the time to find your groove. Same for the steam. In truth, the filter basket insert was not of the best quality. Luckily my old one from my Gaggia fit (much better). You can get better after market ones for a few bucks though.
This machine replaced a Coffee Gaggia that was similar in general characteristics, but had a disintigrating aluminum boiler (as do all Gaggias) and an enameled steel body that rusted through eventually (even the stainless starbuck's machine has an enameled plate where it counts--holding the filter head!). The Sylvia is really a high quality machine that I expect to last a very long time (pumps etc are replacable). It does require an adequate grinder. I use a Zassenhaus hand unit, that I motorize with a cordless drill when I am lazy (see my post for instructions). It does the job very well. After using the Gaggia for years, I also appreciate the solenoid pressure release on the Sylvia: no more spraying myself with grounds when removing the filter too quickly. I've worked professionally in demanding circumstances and am very happy with this machine.