Regarding foam I have a Gaggia Baby at home with Silvia steam wand and PID and a Gaggia Carezza at work with standard black wand tip.
I find i can get more silky foam from my work machine, think the actual steam hole may be smaller, but the Silvia steam wand being longer and further out is easier to use.
I also have not been able to do latte art, but maybe my technique wrong.
Gaggia are great as they warm up quickly and with a PID to set temperature give excellent results.
regarding wet puck, knock out after you steam the milk, I find doing this allows the puck to dry out more.
fresh beans = good crema.