Until now I have been hand kneading my dough, but recently my wife bought me a KA Artisan mixer. I'm very excited to have a mixer, but the moment I saw it I was concerned because I've read mostly bad things about it on this forum. I've gone back and read every post that mentions the Artisan and it seems the consensus is it's cheaply built and will wear out soon.
What I'm wondering is, is it really that bad? Or is it that many of the people posting here are using their mixers to a level that a normal consumer wouldn't? If you look at the reviews on Amazon it has 1580 5 star reviews vs. 192/45/30/63 for 4 star through 1 star. And of 59 reviews that mention pizza dough only three are 3 star or worse. So if you go by that, it sounds like a great mixer.
Right now my normal use for it would be making 1 pizza a week (or less since usually I make a couple week's worth at a time and freeze it). I'll try to make bread or other things eventually too, but probably not too often. For pizza I try different recipes from here or in books, so I would expect some of the dough to be stiffer than others.
Am I destined for machine failure? If so, what fails and how? Does the motor fry or just the plastic gear strip out? If just the gear I read you can get a replacement for ~$10 and fix yourself. If something else is suspect, how much would that run for parts and/or for someone to fix it? How much life can I expect out of it?
I have wondering whether I should trade up to the Pro 600 series, the added power, metal gears, and the spiral hook sound good. But then I read some reviews that say it's loud, still gets bogged down by large batches, and that it doesn't handle small batches very well (which is often what I do). Unfortunately my wife bought the Artisan from Amazon, so to return I'd have to pay to ship it back. I could maybe see if a store that carried both would give me store credit to exchange for the 600. I'm not interested in spending more than that, for as much as I'd use it I don't need a $500 to $1200 mixer.
What should I do?