Refrigerators, dishwashers, and deadbolts: CNET's new high-tech appliance reviews

We're launching brand-new coverage of the world of appliances and smart home devices. Come check it out.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Nine months ago, I got the call to move from New York to Kentucky and start up a new review team to write about the coming onslaught of smart home appliances -- connected refrigerators, robot vacuums, Wi-Fi light bulbs, and the like.

And here we are. Here's our new page. I couldn't be more excited.

Welcome, then, to CNET's brand-new appliance review section, which I alluded to earlier this summer . We are indeed diving into the world of the connected kitchen. And the connected laundry room. And the connected porch light.

Call it the "Internet of things" if you like. To me that term implies an abstract, machines-only back-channel. It obscures the human element. What we're here to find out is why you, the consumer, might care about a notification from your dishwasher.

One of the best parts about this undertaking is that we're launching just as the connected home is becoming a reality. Appliance makers ranging from GE, to Samsung, to LG, to Whirlpool, to Dacor have all announced connected appliances in the last 12 months. In that same time we've also seen dozens of new smart home products hit the market or rake in the crowdfunding dollars, from Bluetooth-powered deadbolts, to learning thermostats, to LED light bulbs you control from your phone.

The large manufacturers are still acting cautiously with their smart tech experiments, putting them in the highest-end, highest-margin products. The average smart appliance today is a $3,500 refrigerator, a $1,500 washing machine. It's new ground for these companies, but hopefully prices will come down before too long.

Beyond becoming cheaper, connected appliances will also need outside help to catch on. Sticking a bar code or RFID reader in a refrigerator for inventory tracking probably isn't too technically challenging or cost-prohibitive. Convincing a critical mass of grocery retailers to change their back-end systems to support that kind of tracking? We'll be following those developments, too.

What else will we be doing here in Louisville? Our first mandate is product reviews. We'll be reviewing everything that looks like a smart appliance or a smart home device. We'll even take a look at traditional appliances to maintain our frame of reference. No amount of connectedness can elevate an oven or a refrigerator if it falls down on its core features. To make those comparisons, we'll need to understand each category as a whole.

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of writing about appliances large and small is testing them. We're developing first-class testing methodologies and and each time we launch a new set of reviews on a new product type, we'll share our methodologies with you, too. We'll start with a handful of connected oven reviews. Look for them in the next few weeks, with more to follow.

We'll also bring hands-on reporting and first looks to cover the smart functions for large appliances and small appliances alike. We'll bring you the news from connected home trade shows (check out some of our coverage from IFA last week), and we'll show you, in detailed buying guides, the best way to make decisions when you go shopping for appliances.

And as excited as I am to show-off our new content, I also can't wait for our new review team to get their names and faces out there. We've brought on three agile, insightful writers, Ry Crist, Katie Pilkington, and Megan Wollerton, the sharp-eyed Colin McDonald behind our still and video cameras, and the hilariously multitalented Steve Conaway to run the show on our test floor. I hope you come to appreciate their work as much as I have.

I'll end by encouraging you to dig through our new appliance coverage. You'll find everything on the section home page. I hope you'll let us know what you think, and what you'd like to see us write about.

Click here for CNET's brand-new Appliance Reviews section.

 

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