Gday Linzoid, and welcome.
Since you asked for a machine thats highly regarded, I can certainly recommend the Rancilio Silvia as the choice of machine that gives a strong sense of value due to its strong construction and a reliability that can go up to 10 years or beyond.
Its a machine that has a cult following worldwide.
If you want to add a PID later as an accessory, it may still come within budget. :)
Im very happy with mine.
Gary at G