I was distraught when my semi-automatic espresso machine of 6 years died on me. Having researched the marketplace I opted for this Gaggia and I'm so pleased I did.
Although the entry level machine, the unit uses the same "engine" as most of the Gaggia domestic range. The main difference and reason for lower cost is the lack of electronic displays and switches, larger body size, relatively flimsy build.
It is simplicity itself to operate. My only slight moan is the two lids over the water tank and bean hopper which could be made easier to remove.
The brewing options are excellent for dosing, grind and water volume. There is even a manual bypass but this could be better designed to avoid double dosing.
Anyway, the coffee quality is superb. There is a perfect crema that gratifies to the last drop.
The machines comes with a 3 year guarantee that can be extended by 2 years for around £70. I bought my machine in July and have only bought a couple of Starbucks since. It is used 5 -10 times a day without a problem and is especially good for dinner party conversation.
No, it is not the best looking machine and it takes up quite a bit of room but I see no reason why you should spend another £500 when this excellent machine is available.