I've been using an entry level ($300) espresso machine for years. This machine makes a far superior product. By controlling 3 of the variables for you, it really lets you dial in your shots. PID keeps the temperature perfect, the timer takes care of the pull length, and the pressure gauge tells you if you're getting a good extraction. The cappuccinos I'm serving while we work in the office are blowing people away. I've had better luck with the pressurized portafilter, but I'm upgrading my grinder to get the most out of this machine. Worth the investment on both fronts for the flavor we're getting.
Very easy to use, produces excellent quality shots and steamed milk.