There aren't many modern home appliances as humble as your ordinary kitchen toaster. But if ever there was a product that stood a chance of transcending basic bread-heating, it's the Alessi SG68. Priced at $230 this toast-maker doesn't come cheap, but with a metal body sculpted in high Italian industrial design it strives to reach the heady realm of luxury goods and premium fashion accessories.
Unfortunately, while this toaster is lovely to look at and makes toast quickly, it's not very intuitive to operate and thick slices often get stuck in its slot. If you must spend for an upper-end toaster, a much more affordable and easy-to-use alternative is the $100.
Design, features and usability
Gazing upon the Alessi SG68 for the first time, chances are good you'll be at least intrigued by its gentle curves, polished metal frame and sleek lines. You may not even immediately recognize this machine's primary purpose - to toast your daily bread. That's because appliance maker Alessi tapped Italian designer Stefano Giovannoni to help bring this kitchen gadget to life. And with the SG68, Mr. Giovannoni and his Milan-based industrial design firm say they've created not just a functional object (a toaster) but something of inescapable desire.
Lofty aesthetic claims aside, looking something akin to an aircraft wing or abstract modern art, the Alessi SG68 looks like no other toaster I've ever used. It flaunts a very unconventional oval shape that's much wider than it is deep, spanning a full 16.25 inches across (when viewed from the front), yet it's just 4.5 inches from front to back. Also strange is how Alessi chose to split the toaster's controls into two regions, half on the left edge and half on the right. It may not sound like much of a distinction but all the toasters I've tested keep their dials, knobs, buttons and switches constrained to their front panel, and for good reason.
Unfortunately, having toaster controls in separate sections means you have to set it down on countertops long-ways forward. Otherwise you won't be able to reach half of the SG68's primary functions, let alone see them. And these side panels don't house superfluous toaster features, either.
The left edge contains a sliding lever that can set the degree of toasting (from light to dark) as well as kick the gadget into reheat mode. During the toasting process, pressing this lever down fully causes a light below it to turn on as the lever audibly clicks into place. Both actions communicate that reheating is under way.
Underneath the toast selection lever sits a small bagel mode button, which is easy to overlook, especially since it's labelled with a cryptic hieroglyph rather than actual text. I presume Alessi's use of symbols instead of written words here and across the entire toaster is an effort to keep the SG68 both geographically and linguistically neutral. In addition to the United States, the machine is sold across multiple countries in Europe and in the UK.
The toaster's right edge contains a conventional lift mechanism lever that you pull down all the way to fire up the SG68's heating elements. Underneath this paddle-ended slider sits a big cancel button that glows bright orange when the appliance is active and dispensing heat. Punching the key will abort toasting and trigger the spring-loaded lift lever to rise.