GE's new smart ovens break free from the wall (hands-on)

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GE is doing its part to help connected appliances become more prevalent. Today, company reps showed off a new line of free-standing, Wi-Fi enabled ranges during a tour of the GE''s appliance park. Previously, GE only offered the convenience of app-controlled ovens on some of its most expensive built-in doubles. Adding Wi-Fi connectivity to more typical consumer models brings the feature in range of more casual cooks.

These ranges will be part of GE's Profile series, and will be available in gas, electric, or a dual-fuel combination. The cost will vary from $1,600 to $2,000 and they'll be available starting in September.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

After a demonstration, I had the opportunity to play around with one of these ovens, as well as the Brillion app that makes it smart. I really enjoyed both the enhanced functionality and the remote customization it offers, and I appreciated the smart safety features in place to prevent the added technology from causing a hazard.

Increasing intelligence

The Brillion app itself isn't new. It's available now for both iOS and Android, and you can use it and its many features to control ovens such as the high-end GE Profile Built-In Double Convection Wall Oven PT9550SFSS. That retails for $3,699, so you'll probably need more than a passing interest in connectivity to justify getting one.

At $1,600 to $2,000 these connected ranges will still be costly, but not much more so than LG's $1,400 connected Smart ThinQ. When we reviewed the Built-In Double in March, we enjoyed using the Brillion app more than the comparable LG ThinQ one.

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The Brillion App. Colin West McDonald

With these more accessible ranges, GE might also be gaining an advantage over one of its newest appliance rivals. Samsung, well known for mobile technology, has yet to release a truly connected oven. The last Samsung range we tested was impressive, but retails for $2,300 without smarts. GE's announcement positions it to put reasonably affordable connected ranges on the market before Samsung.

Features

As for whether or not GE is gaining a head start in useful functionality, after trying it out today, I can attest that oven control via Brillion, at least on the model version, was intuitive and seamless. For starters, you can preheat the oven from your phone on the drive home. Similarly to the Built-In Double, the new GE Profile oven has a button you'll need to press on the machine first in order to make this possible, but I appreciated the safety feature.

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The Remote Enable button acts as a smart safety feature. Colin West McDonald/CNET

You'll need to plan ahead and press the button before you leave on days when you want advanced preheating, but it prevents family miscommunication. As a less than avid cook, I'll admit to occasionally using the space in my oven for storage. The button turns off if you open the door before the preheating starts. So if you leave for work and someone in your family puts something in the oven without your knowledge, you won't be able to turn on the heat.

I found this a thoughtful feature, and a good compromise between safety and the advantage of remote control. Once the oven is running, GE assumes there's no further need for the safety lock, so you can then make changes from your phone whether the button is on or not.

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Turn your oven off from anywhere. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Which means that it doesn't matter how many times a family member wants to take a peek at the chicken, you can still control the temperature without getting up from the couch. And it brings additional peace of mind, because if you leave home and can't quite remember if you turned off the oven, you can just pull out your phone and check. If it turns out you forgot, you can turn it off right there from the phone, no physical button presses required.

The app does more than just change the temperature. You can set timers for alerts, or to automatically shut off your oven after a set cooking time. You can even dive into the more detailed settings of your machine such as whether it's using regular or convection heat.

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Brillion offers lots of customization. Colin West McDonald/CNET

I never got to see the promised push notifications in action, and I didn't see the current temperature displayed on the app. It shows you the temperature the oven is aiming for, and the display above the stove shows you its progress, but I'd like this in the app as well. Hopefully GE will add this soon, or put it somewhere easier to find. Finally, I'd like to be able to control the stove remotely as well, but that might bring up too many safety concerns at the moment to be feasible.

All of this technology would prove cool but useless if slapped on a less than capable machine. Fortunately, under the bells and whistles, GE packed in quite a bit of cooking power. That $1,600-to-$2,000 price range gets even more appealing when you consider the oven uses true convection, meaning a heating element directly feeds the circulated air to keep your food cooking evenly. The stove top boasts burners you can adjust in size to fit your pan. It even offers a temperature probe for meat, a warming drawer, and a notification light. GE hasn't indicated yet whether or not you can check the temperature of that meat probe remotely, but here's hoping.

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Under the smarts, you'll find a highly capable range. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Further committing to the accessibility of the smart kitchen, GE will even release kits to retrofit newer non-connected machines with this Internet capability. These kits will plug into a connection port that GE has started putting on all of its appliances. Down the road, GE not only wants to connect all of your appliances so they can communicate with each other, but hopes to enable those appliances to reach out for service when they need it, and tell the technician exactly what's wrong via that port.

Looking forward

The goal of a fully connected kitchen is ambitious, but GE is taking active steps to make the convenience this technology can offer more available. Step 1 -- More affordable ranges with built-in Wi-Fi capability. Step 2 -- Making a cross-appliance connection port to allow easier retrofitting and information gathering down the road. Step 3 -- The company will soon open up control of its ovens beyond its own Brillion app.

For starters, GE plans to allow compatibility with Quirky's Wink app. Quirky and GE have partnered on several smart-home products. If Wink can control your oven, getting the lamp you have plugged in to the Quirky Pivot Power Genius to flip off when it's time to take out the croissants isn't too far away.

Eventually, GE says it hopes to open this compatibility to a variety of apps once there's a safe standard. That, along with a perfect, fully communicating kitchen, might still be a ways off, but it's good to know GE is pushing forward. Come September, I'll be quite eager to get my hands on a retail version of one of these freestanding connected ovens to check on their progress with a full review.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Cooktop Features cast iron grates
    reversible griddle/grill
  • Exterior Color stainless steel/gray
  • Energy Type Gas