Very solid construction, produces wonderful crema on its own (though I'm no expresso expert, I mainly drink lattes), easy to use, and it's aesthetically pleasing.
Negative Product Points
It's weak when producing steam (in fact, I'm downgrading usability because of it). I mean, the jet of steam is plenty powerful, but the machine can't produce steam for very long. Probably enough in one pass for a single, but I seem to run out a lot with doubles (could be operator error though).
At full price, there are several other machines that are worth considering instead.
At full price, it's probably a bit much for what it is. I've really only owned one other pump machine, so I'm not sure how qualified I am to say this, but I think it's a good beginner pump machine if you can find it on sale. The lower tray is only really useful for storing the small accessories that come with it. You have to remove the storage and drip trays to get to the tank, but the tank is easy to remove and clean. I'm still learning how to use it. We'll have to see if I want to go with a different portafilter on it. Like I said, I tend to make lattes and the subtle differences in the espresso itself tend to be lost on me.
Wow, I had a lot of fun. I went to a new neghborhood Starbucks and they had no idea what was going on. They didn't have any in stock except for the display in black. According to the shift supervisor I talked to, all stores only had a black display and would have to order a unit for me.
I wanted a stainless steel finish and didn't feel like she knew what she was saying, so I politely left and went to another Starbucks. At the second location, the guy at the counter was helpful and knowledgeable (he owns an Estro Profi). However, they didn't have any machines at his store except for a white demo unit and a stainless unit that was missing parts. ARGH!
However, there was another store directly across the street (yay for Starbucks in Houston!). He called them and they had several black and stainless units in stock.
So, I wandred across the street (both stores stay very busy actually) and went to buy my Barista. However, it rang up at $100 more. They claimed that a sale had just ended and that the guy at the second store was wrong about the price. I was a bit adamant though, as I had seen signage indicating the lower price at both the first and second stores.
After a bit of talking to the manager, they agreed to sell the unit at the sale price, but they would have to transfer one machine from their stock to the stock of the second store.
No big deal, we walked over to the second store with the machine and the guy who demo'ed the machine sold it at the sale price minus 10% and with a pound of espresso roast for my trouble.
I suspect that all of this wasn't normal though...
Three Month Followup
Actually, I ended up returning this machine to Starbucks as I was able to get a Silvia for about $50 more. I have to say that steaming is significantly better on the Silvia (espresso is definitely better too).