Reviews for this gadget seem to be a fairly even split between those who've found it the best thing since sliced bread (excuse the pun), and those wishing they'd never bought it for one reason or another. I'm happy to report I'm very much in the former group, and having read the negative reviews and used the toaster myself, I would tentatively suggest some of the problems people have had with this device may be down to simple user error, or that they've just been plain unlucky with the build quality of one or two units.
It's very simple to operate: one dial with three heat settings, and two lights; red to indicate the unit is on, green to indicate it is up to cooking temperature and ready to use. It's compact, well designed, and feels of sturdy build. It couldn't be easier to clean, simply press a catch at the side of each plate to release it, and it just pops out. Stick them in the sink or dish washer. Cooking grease or melted cheese shouldn't leak out excessively during operation, and if any should happen to get under the plates, it's fine as the components underneath are sealed with just the heating element visible, so a wipe with a damp cloth when cool is all that is needed. The plates are stated as being deep fill, though I'd argue that really they're just what they should be to serve their purpose, and most rival machines' plates are ridiculously shallow. They have generous dimensions too.
A couple of people have mentioned the flimsy plastic clip that joins the two handles together during cooking. It's true, this does feel a bit out of sync with the otherwise sturdy, metal materials used in the construction. But this relates to my earlier comment on user error: you can't easily close the lid when you first put a sandwich in to cook, especially one with thick bread and different fillings, so rather than trying to force it and putting stress on the weak point (the handle), just drop the lid down and leave it to cook for 30 secs to a minute. After that the sandwich will have reduced in size and you should be able to close the lid fully and lock it in place without a problem.
**UPDATE** I've used this sandwich toaster numerous times now. I've had no issues with the non-stick coating coming off, the clip breaking, or anything else going wrong. It makes awesome toasties. And it's still a doddle to clean. I'm yet to try the other recipes suggested (apple turnovers etc.) although I doubt I ever will to be honest, so I can't comment on the machine's versitility. Regarding it's longevity, I am quietly confident. Cuisinart is a quality brand. I've had the Cuisinart Professional Ice Cream Maker for four years now and that has also been used A LOT without a problem. As a toasted sandwich lover, I am very pleased with this product - 10/10.
Tip: Use butter on the outside of your sandwich, NOT oil based 'spread'. The former ensures easy removal once cooked. The latter will stick, requiring careful use of a knife to extract the food (probably in several pieces) and likely damaging the cooking plates in the process.