This is a good beginner machine only if you want to save money on per-cup prices at the stores.
Positive Product Points
Very easy to use. Very solid piece of machinery Aesthetically pleasing Large water reservoir Inexpensive
Negative Product Points
Very loud Steaming wand is too small You cannot 'learn' how to make a good espresso with this machine Difficult to clean
Once I found out about Starbucks revamping their Barista line, I had to jump on it. You just can't find a pump-driven machine for under $150 that is of this quality. The machine looks good on the counter and makes a decent espresso. However, if you are an afficianado, you will not ever have the perfect shot from this machine.
There is no tamping necessary with this machine. The machine does the tamping for you, so you cannot tweak the quality of the espresso shot. You will never have a solid puck following a press. I called customer service to verify that. They suggested changing the grind of the bean, which helped, but only slightly. You're still left with a sludge after every press.
This is a great beginner machine, but no more. Should you want to craft an espresso to your taste, buy elsewhere. Otherwise, this will make a good 'cookie'cutter' espresso shot.
These things were selling like hotcakes once people found out about the price drop. I called 7 stores in the Raleigh area until I found the last one. I'd imagine you would have a hard time finding one at this price, if at all.