Pros: Easy, delicious. Minimal clean up.
Cons: Storing unit; bread dries out quickly and has a thicker crust.
This is my first experience with a bread machine. I wanted homemade bread, but didn't want to make five loaves at a time. A bread machine seemed like a good way to bake just the amount we would eat as we needed it. I did a fair amount of research before deciding on the Zojirushi, and though it was a bit more pricey, I think it was worth it. I'm very happy and would buy it again.
It literally takes five minutes to put the ingredients in the pan, then just walk away and in a few hours you get a heavenly loaf of bread -- couldn't be easier.
I use the basic and wheat cycles most often and love the "delay" cycle which allows you to have the bread fresh out of the oven exactly when you want it. The "dough" cycle is great for things like rolls, pizza dough, sweetrolls, french bread, etc.
Cleanup is virtually effortless. There is a little "crust" around the paddles, which removes easily with a quick soak in water, but otherwise, just wipe out the inside of the machine from time to time with a wet cloth to remove any flour dust, etc.
The Zojirushi does take up a fair amount of counter space, so probably not the best choice for a small kitchen.
With practice fine-tuning recipes I am getting closer to the "perfect loaf" and the taste and texture are always awesome. The paddles do leave small holes in the bottom(just as any breadmachine will), however, this does not affect the quality. If you are planning to give the bread as a gift, I'd recommend using the "dough" cycle and bake in a traditional oven.
I would also recommend investing in a good "bread machine" book. Zojirushi provides a few recipes, but I've been more pleased with those I've found in other books (I like the Betty Crocker one best so far).
You will probably find some basic recipes you'll love and use over and over, others may take a bit of experimenting -- you'll quickly learn how to make minor adjusts for your own altitude, humidity, etc. I've had one or two failures when trying a recipe for the first time, but found that if I check the dough during the kneading cycle to see if it is too wet, too dry -- I have an opportunity to make adjustments before the bread is finished. (The viewing window comes in handy for checking your bread without opening the lid -- love that feature!)
Update (10/16/02): I've had my bread machine for about 8 months now, so I wanted to update my opinion. One downside of bread machine bread is that the crust is thicker. Not a problem if you polish the loaf off the same day. Day old bread, however, is pretty dry and the pan side of the crust is a bit tough. After a lot of use, I have turned to making bread the traditional way. I make 3-5 loaves at a time and freeze them until I'm ready to use. It stays fresher much longer and the quality is a bit better.
I ended up taking my bread machine to our second home. It is handy for that single loaf or sweet rolls, etc. when I need just enough to last the weekend. I find myself using the dough cycle only, however, and baking it in the oven more often to avoid the dry loaf.
In retrospect, a bread machine is probably something I could have lived without -- live and learn! I actually have found that I enjoy making bread from scratch, and I do it less often since I can freeze the extra loaves. A bread machine is a handy if you don't mind burning a few dollars and storing the unit when not in use, but it can also become a dust collector.