We received the Barista as a wedding gift ten years ago. In that time it has seen daily use and traveled all over the world with us, including in my suitcase! This thing has saved my life during some long hotel stays.
The Barista has only needed repairs once, about a year after we got it. One of the nuts on a pressure fitting had cracked (!), allowing hot water to escape from the boiler into the innards of the machine. Starbucks worked with me to locate a repair kit, I made the repairs myself, and we were back in business.
As an espresso novice, I found this machine to be very easy to use. I used the pods that came with the machine just to see what they were like, but I've always ground my own beans. Within a couple days of getting started, I was getting fantastic foam, and, a plus for us lefties, the steam wand is on the left side of the machine! I suppose that's a negative for most users.
Now that it's getting on in age, the steam wand has developed a drip while the machine heats up. Cranking the knob will stop it, but like a faucet, I assume this will eventually damage the valve.
The water reservoir is quite large, and can be filled while in place. The only issue is that it can be hard to spot the water level through the tinted polycarbonate, and overfills are a mess.
We've got the stainless version, which looks great when polished, but, well you know what a dirty stainless appliance looks like. Non-metal parts are polycarbonate; very durable, and easy to clean. I tend to be lazy about cleaning out the drip tray, but even after months of use it cleans up quickly. No hints of corrosion or cracking. The stainless grate over the drip tray is likewise in perfect condition after all these years.
The group head itself is a bit of a pain to clean, and somehow grounds manage to get under the drip tray and into the little storage drawer, and even under that, as well. A funny little combination tool is included, that scrapes the portafilter gasket on the brew head, and also features an embedded philips-head bit for removing the diffuser screen from the brew head. Go gently! If you strip that screw, you're going to be in a fix. I'm sure it's a standard machine screw, but it's in tight quarters, and you're going to have a battle to get it out if the slots are wrecked.
The Barista heats up quickly for either brewing or steaming, but temperature can be erratic. Sometimes I get a great shot as soon as the ready light comes on, and sometimes it's better if I wait a few minutes after that. From what I've read in the forums here, apparently even much more expensive machines are flukey as well, so that's not much of a mark against it.
Overall I'm extremely pleased with the Barista. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend one to any budding barista.