Saeco is definitely the best brand coffee maker - you can pick up a non-automatic one for around $549 called Via Venezia. Gaggia is also a very good brand - their cheapest one is around $349 I think. Best to stick to Italian machines, since they know how to make espresso best!
The higher the bar pump the better coffee you will get(17 bar is excellent, wouldn't go less than 15 bars).
Most places selling a big range will go through the pros and cons with you and explain everything. Saeco is the only brand that has a stainless steel interior.
Good luck, coffee machines are great to have!