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

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:

The lower camera is designed to focus on the front, right burner -- which is the most often used cooking spot on the range. A standard kitchen layout would have a countertop to the right of the cooktop, which gives the owner a chance to showcase their creations on the burner, or on a baking sheet or even stage an insta-shot of their perfected dish using extra counter surface to the right.

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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