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GE Kitchen Hub review: This $1,200, 27-inch Android touchscreen could transform your kitchen

It's also a range hood and dual-camera chatting device.

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Molly Price

Former Editor

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9 min read

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From step-by-step instructions for recipes to timers, video streaming and smart home controls, smart displays make great kitchen assistants. Most fit neatly on your countertop with a small footprint and portable design, but GE has a bigger vision for your smart kitchen. Specifically, a 27-inch Android tablet built into an over-the-range hood vent that costs $1,200.

The Good

You’ll get tablet-level customization with this 27-inch touchscreen, as well as a 600 CFM range hood fan and three LED lights.

The Bad

Voice commands won't do everything for you, and camera angles can be a bit annoying.

The Bottom Line

The GE Kitchen Hub is headed in a really intuitive, helpful direction but it’s expensive and could use some design refinements.
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GE's Kitchen Hub mounts above your range, comes in four colors and costs $1,200.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Stay with me. It might sound ridiculous, and this model might not be quite impressive enough for me to recommend it with the current $1,200 price tag, but I liked it a lot more than I anticipated. GE's vision isn't blurry here, and it won't surprise me when the smart kitchen embraces big screens.

The basics

The Kitchen Hub follows the look of an over-the-range microwave when it comes to design. It's available in four finish options to match your other appliances: stainless steel, black stainless, matte white and matte black.

A 27-inch touchscreen covers the front of the hub and includes two cameras. There's a front-facing lens for capturing images and video of people in your kitchen and a camera mounted beneath the display for overhead footage of what's your stovetop.

The Kitchen Hub is also a range hood, with four speeds up to 600 CFM (cubic feet per minute), a respectable, higher-than-average stat. Three LED light bars illuminate the cooktop and an auto-fan mode turns the fan on medium any time it senses too much heat. It can move air at four different speeds and vent exhaust horizontally or vertically or recirculate if you don't have exhaust ductwork in your walls. 

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LED lights beneath the Kitchen Hub illuminate your workspace.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Range hoods across other brands start at $500 and go well into the $1,500 range, and those are without smarts, just a few LED lights and a clock display, so the specs on the range hood are decent for the higher end of the category, to say the least. 

Installation is as straightforward as installing most over-the-range microwaves, though it's worth noting that a support bracket for the 58-pound Kitchen Hub attaches to studs behind your wall and could require removing or drilling through of backsplash tiles, depending on their placement.  

Smart home controls

Before we dive into the smart home specifics of this device, we need to categorize what exactly the Kitchen Hub is. It's not a smart display, which is to say it lacks the voice-first interface you'll find in products like the Google Nest Hub, Amazon Echo Show, and Lenovo Smart Displays. Instead, it uses the Android Oreo phone operating system, currently version 8.1.0, which scales up nicely on the 27-inch display.

If you've seen the various smart displays and thought "why not just buy a tablet," the Kitchen Hub highlights the trade-offs between a voice-driven smart display and a touch-driven tablet pretty clearly.

The Kitchen Hub presents information the way you'll see it on your Android phone or smaller tablet. It assumes you'll use it primarily as a touchscreen, with all the tapping and swiping that entails. Voice input is a secondary feature in the Kitchen Hub, and what that means it isn't always as responsive or intuitive as its voice-centric, smart display cousins.  

The Kitchen Hub works with Google Assistant, and comes preloaded with Google's suite of apps. It responds to "Hey, Google" commands, though microphone performance in my testing wasn't as good at hearing or understanding my commands as any of the countertop smart displays we've reviewed. 

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A front-facing camera sits just above the touchscreen.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Kitchen Hub also comes with U Plus Connect, GE's smart home platform. It supports voice control for Nest, Philips Hue and GE Appliances. The idea from GE's perspective is U Plus Connect as a central hub for controlling GE's collection of smart large appliances, allowing you to start the dishwasher, pause or extending a dryer cycle or preheating your oven. For any other smart home products, you'll need something else.

That's where the advantage of an Android tablet comes in. The Kitchen Hub comes with the Google Play store, so you can download any Android-compatible app, including the ones for Amazon Alexa, Ring security cameras or August smart locks.

A simpler answer than downloading all those individual apps is to download the Google Home app, connect your account and control all your smart home products from the Home app, just like you would from your phone.

Cooking with cameras

One of the marketing highlights of the Kitchen Hub is its pair of cameras for photos, video calling and social sharing, but those two cameras left me feeling underwhelmed.  

The front-facing camera is mounted at the top of the Kitchen Hub, a sensible and expected place for camera. As I'm 5 feet 4 inches tall, the camera sits much higher than eye level for me, putting the bottom half of my face out of frame while I'm standing near the range.

The camera's wide frame does work well for capturing what's happening in the entire room and keeping you within view while you move around the kitchen. Still, those up close shots aren't the best for video calling when you're standing right at your oven.

The camera mounted beneath the device is there for capturing images and video of your cooktop so you can share what you're working on. It's a great concept. In the increasingly social and shareable smart kitchen, being able to get overhead images and video without using your phone is convenient. 

The interesting quirk about this camera is that it centers on the right side of the range. Anything you do on the left side burners won't be visible at all. 

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Chris Monroe/CNET

When I asked GE about it, here's what Michael Earls, Senior Merchandising Specialist had to say:

That approach might not work for every kitchen layout. Some people don't have a countertop directly to the right of their oven. There could be refrigerators, pantries or open space. A centered camera would be my preference, especially if you'd like to show footage or imagery of the entire cooktop.

Guided recipes

The Kitchen Hub comes with guided cooking from Flavorly, GE's guided-cooking app. It's powered by guided-cooking software SideChef, which also has its own app by the same name. There, you can see step-by-step guides for recipes. A voice command toggle allows you to say "next step" or "go back" to navigate through steps.

The onboard cameras might have angle issues, but they do enable a feature inside Flavorly that I love. You can use the under-mounted camera to capture an image of a handwritten recipe card, saving it to your Flavorly app. I love the idea of incorporating old family recipes into a new piece of tech.

Once you're in the app, guided cooking works well. However, since this isn't a smart display, you won't get the same voice-centric recipe cards you get when you ask Google to show you recipes on the Google Nest Hub and Lenovo Smart Display. You'll get a Google search results page. To access guided cooking on the Kitchen Hub, you'll need to touch the app icon to open it first, whether it's the pre-installed Flavorly or a downloaded cooking app such as Yummly or All Recipes.

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Screenshot by Molly Price/CNET

In the kitchen, that feels like a problem. Hands-free tech is the ideal in this space where hands are frequently busy or messy. Ironically, while I could open Netflix on the Kitchen Hub with just my voice, I couldn't do the same with Flavorly or Yummly.

Guided recipes are a big selling point here, that feature is improved or impaired by your kitchen layout. If looking at the Kitchen Hub's guided steps would require you to walk around your kitchen between your prep area and your oven, then really a countertop smart display makes more sense. The portability of a countertop display also means you can move it if your prep space isn't always in the same spot.

Entertainment

While the smart home side of the Kitchen Hub might be lacking, the streaming entertainment options are strong. It comes preloaded with Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, ESPN, Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video and HBOGo. Of course, since you're on an Android platform, you can download any other streaming service you subscribe to.

Honestly, this felt like the most fun feature of the Kitchen Hub. In my home, my kitchen is a U shape with a breakfast bar that looks directly at our range. So I was able to eat my bran flakes every morning while catching up on my favorite shows. That's not perfect for everyone, and I'm all for screenless family dinners and disconnecting. The Kitchen Hub certainly won't help with that. 

However, if you're a responsible media consumer and have a kitchen layout that makes sense for it, it's not any different than the TVs people have been putting in their kitchens since the '90s. In fact, it's better because it's voice controlled. 

That brings me to my next point. The Kitchen Hub is expensive, and just like with guided recipes, you need to really consider your kitchen's layout and how you will or won't be able to interact with the device or see the screen. For some, there won't be a great line of sight from where they eat or gather to their range, rendering a few of these features impractical.

Durability questions

Hanging a 27-inch touchscreen above a hot, steamy and busy workspace raises questions about durability. While we haven't completed long-term testing, the Kitchen Hub does come with a screen protection system.

The venting system blows a constant, small amount of air over the screen's edges to keep the touchscreen dry and unbothered by steam or condensation. That air stream comes on when the screen is awake and shuts off when the Kitchen Hub is in screensaver mode or completely off. 

GE recommends keeping the screen awake during cooking so this air stream flows. That could be annoying if you don't need guided recipes or any other smart features. Of course, if you leave it off you'll just need to be sure and dry off the screen if any moisture collects. 

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This camera beneath the Kitchen Hub captures everything happening on your cooktop. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

The touchscreen did pick up fingerprints in my testing, and just like an overhead microwave, you'll need to clean it pretty often. A metal grease filter included in the vent will also need to be maintained with regular cleaning either by hand or in a dishwasher. Those are design issues I'd anticipate with any over-the-range product or hood vent with a filter. What I didn't expect was to feel so noticeably short while I using the Kitchen Hub.

As I said, I'm 5 feet 4 inches tall (the national average for women, thank you very much), and in addition to losing half my face below the camera frame, I also found that the continuous airflow blew directly into my eyes while I stood in front of the range. Sure, this won't be a problem for anyone taller than me, but those parts of the Kitchen Hub made me feel like it wasn't designed with everyone in mind.

Is it worth it?

I'd say not yet. At $1,200 the GE Kitchen Hub is expensive, even as range hoods go. You can buy 30-inch, 600 CFM models for $500, and Android tablets run as low as $50, albeit with much smaller screens. This first generation product from GE feels like a good start, but with so much more potential ahead of it.

I wish Google Assistant interaction worked as seamlessly with voice here as it does with Google Assistant-enabled smart displays. I wish the cameras were adjustable or mounted differently. Some of my colleagues even wished the Kitchen Hub was also a microwave, and I can't fault them for that. It takes up the space where many folks keep their microwave ovens and with just as much bulk.

When the smart kitchen began, large and central screens like this felt like the future of a connected space. The debut of the Samsung Family Hub fridge in 2016 was a strong first showing of that concept and GE's Kitchen Hub is another. It's still an idea I think makes sense, but I think GE can do better.

There were things about the Kitchen Hub I really liked. Streaming services are on a big enough screen to really feel like regular TV, and the customization that comes with being able to download any app from Google Play means you can make this display cater to any function you like. Access to an app store is something smart displays don't offer yet. In that respect, the Kitchen Hub almost feels more like a smart TV.

For a device that will likely be a permanent installation in your home and is in the midst of an ever-changing smart home landscape, I'd recommend waiting for options from other brands or a more refined second generation from GE in coming years.

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7.3

GE Kitchen Hub

Score Breakdown

Features 8Usability 8Design 6Performance 7