Pros:This can be a great machine for those who are picky about their coffee
Cons:Unless paired with an excellent grinder you may be disappointed in the results.
The Bottom Line: In my opinion this is probably the best machine on the market for under $400.00. but don't handicap yourself by trying to use it with an inadequate grinder.
I have owned the Silvia by Rancilio for almost three years now. It is a genuine espresso machine with many commericial grade parts. It is not a "steam toy" by which I mean that it has a pump designed to put hot water under several atmospheres of pressure which is the only way to make true espresso. You are not going to find a true espresso machine for under $200.00 except maybe at a refurb place.
The Silvia is a wonderful machine for those who want to make better coffee at home than they can get at their local espresso shop. But, it does require some experience to get good results. It also requires a good grinder. If you try to grind for this machine with a whirly blade grinder you will never get good results. So, if you are willing to spend some bucks for good home espresso, an adequate (and probably expensive)burr grinder should be your next purchase.
The Silvia does come with a cheap plastic tamper, as noted by the previous reviewer, but I have never found it to be much of a problem. The quality of your grinder and the freshness of you beans will be a much bigger factor in achieving quality espresso. This machine will take some experimenting to get a really good shot. I could write down a bunch of tricks and tips but this information is readily available at many coffee specific sites and in several good books written on the subject. A google search on the Rancilio Silvia will turn up more information than you can digest in a week.
I am trying to think of some negatives on the Sivia but other than the learning curve in making good espresso there are only a few things you should know. First, it is probably not good to keep the machine on all the time even with a full water tank since there is no direct water line keeping the boiler full. However, the machine makes better espresso when it has been on for a while and the portafiller is really hot. A good compromise is to put it on one of those auto timers to come on an hour before you are probably going to use it during those times of the day that you usually want coffee. The other caveat is to keep the Silvia clean especially around the portafiller lip as stray coffee grounds will stick to the gasket that seals the portafiler to the group head and eventually cause leaking. I have not had this gasket replaced yet although I know it is getting to be past time to do so.
If you are a serious coffee/espresso fanatic, do not be put off by the price of the Silvia, your chances of achiving good coffee will approach zero with the fake "espresso machines" sold by Braun and other companies. Gaggia makes some good machines that will do the job for a little less money than the Silvia but these machines generally have way more plastic parts.