To start, I work as a barista in a small cafe, with a Marzocco 3-head, but I've only owned Wal-Mart-type espresso machines. This is my first real foray into home-use espresso machines, so take my words as you will.
Before I even opened the box I was surprised by the heft of the machine, which I took to indicate solid construction. I cracked the thing open, and everything seems to be built well. The Barista itself has that minimalist Starbuck's aesthetic to it, with a surprising amount of functionality involved. The water reservoir is large, and easy to fill. The drip-pan is somewhat shallow, but has a useful little storage drawer beneath it. So far I haven't had any water overflow and I've used the drawer quite a bit, so the balance is on the plus side. It's a useful, eye-catching design that makes you think "I need more chrome in my kitchen."
The actual function of the Barista is a mixed bag; on the one hand, it's easy to use, on the other, the machine sacrifices quality for simplicity. My main fear is over the portafilter, which is well-constructed, just not by someone who likes coffee. The portafilter is spring-loaded, which means the springs or the bushings are going to wear out. The portafilter is made half of plastic, which will crack or develop that "old-coffee" flavor. And to top all that off, the espresso isn't all that great. HOWEVER, the portafilter does protect the user from the truly terrible shots possible with another filter-- it also protects them from the truly great shots possible.
The steaming wand does what it's supposed to... in a way. I'm not wild about the idea of having to "prime" the machine between steaming and brewing (hence the "6" for usability), but I'm not familiar with the home-machine market, so this may be normal. Do not expect microfoam from this machine. You will not be able to pour a rosette, or any other design for that matter. (Unless you count "blob of foam" as a design.) The steam wand heats and froths your milk, that's all. It does however, make a lovely pitcher of cappuccino foam, perhaps even moreso that the professional machine I'm used to operating. That said, I may get better results when I reduce my pitcher size from 12 oz. to 8 oz.
This is not to say that the Barista has let me down, in fact, quite the opposite. With two spoons of finely-ground coffee, and a good tamp, the espresso shots are quite drinkable (if somewhat short). I happen to LIKE cappuccinos, and this machine shines in their construction, which is fine by me.
Overall, this machine is far more valuable than the price I paid. If you can afford the full price for this machine, I would suggest skipping it and going with one of the higher-end machines. But if you are but a poor worker such as I, ebay sellers seem to regularly auction these Baristas off for about about as much as I paid. The Barista is good, not great, but a workhorse that gets the job done. My only fear is that my boss will find out that I purchased a Starbuck's machine...