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Should you ever, under any circumstances, pay $100 for a toaster? Cuisinart thinks so -- especially if it's the CPT-440, one of the most expensive toasters the brand offers.
The CPT-440 offers a classy-looking stainless-steel build and leverless, "touch-to-toast" design for a toasting experience that truly does feel high-end. That, coupled with consistent performance in our tests, makes the CPT-440 a very good toaster -- but that doesn't make it a very good value, not with so many cheaper alternatives out there that offer similar features, decent designs of their own and strong reviews from people who just want their toaster to, you know, toast things.
The CPT-440 looks and feels luxurious, and as toasters go, it does a great job. But, it's still just a toaster. It toasts. Whether or not you actually care to upgrade your "toasting experience" is up to you, but should you give in to the urge to splurge, you can at least rest assured that the CPT-440 will yield satisfying results.
All in all, I think Cuisinart's got a good-looking toaster here. The brushed stainless-steel build feels appropriately high end, and the combination of blue, backlit LCD screens and a leverless design give it a classy, futuristic sheen.
Make no bones about it, though, this is still a toaster. You'll still drop bread in and wait for toast to come out. You've still got the same tried-and-true wired heating element inside. If you're hoping your money will buy you something new and exciting, you'll be disappointed -- Cuisinart isn't re-inventing the wheel.
The CPT-440 lets you select the level of doneness on a seven-point scale, and also comes with the usual presets: bagels, frozen items, and a reheat function. You'll still be able to set the desired level of doneness for each preset, too.
With your settings locked in, the leverless design will have you press the "toast" button to start toasting. As your food toasts, a series of bars on the LCD screen will gradually disappear to give you a visual cue as to how much longer the cycle needs to run.
That leverless bit is really the only feature that even comes close to setting this toaster apart from its cheaper competitors. When you press the button, the CPT-440 will gently lower whatever you're toasting down into the toaster, a bit like Han Solo getting lowered down into his carbonite bath. At the end of the cycle, the toast will gently rise back up. It's a silly thing, but it definitely had us oohing and aahing a little bit the first few times we tested it out.
The practical benefit of this approach is that there's no spring-loaded mechanism to break, and also no getting startled at the end of a toast cycle. One downside, though: without a lever, there's no way to give your toast that extra little lift to help you grab it out at the end. For the most part, I didn't have any trouble snatching stuff out without burning my fingers, but still, it's one of those little things you might end up missing.
If you aren't sold on the leverless design, you should know that Cuisinart sells the same toaster with levers (and without the toast elevator) for a little less. If you don't have many mouths to feed, there are 2-slice versions of both designs that will also save you some money.
The Cuisinart CPT-440 shines when it comes to usability, which isn't at all surprising given that this is a toaster we're talking about. You put the bread in, you press a button, you get toast. You won't have any difficulty using a preset or changing the doneness, and emptying the dual crumb trays in the back is easy, too.
I give Cuisinart an especially high usability score, though, because of how predictable it proved to be. In all of my tests, I never saw a surprising result. Despite the brawny 1,560 watts powering it (more than any other toaster in this roundup), the CPT-440 never overcooked anything, nor did it undercook anything. It never failed to operate exactly as expected, yielding consistent results in repeated tests. If I left it on my preferred settings, I feel confident that I'd enjoy ideal toast every day.
This held true even when we asked the Cuisinart to do two things at once. In one test, I set the left slots to toast frozen Eggo waffles to a well-done six out of seven. At the same time, I set the right slots to heat a pair of Pop-Tarts to a lightly toasted two out of seven. The waffles came out crispy and slightly browned, while the Pop-Tarts came out hot but only lightly toasted -- exactly what I wanted.
In general, I was also impressed with how evenly the Cuisinart toasted things. This was true within each slot, with mostly uniform browning on each side of each piece of bread, and also true across all four slots, with multiple slices coming out toasted to the same level. The one exception was the bagel preset. It's designed to toast only the insides of your bagel, and while that's just what it did when I tried it out, I can't say that it toasted them all that evenly. It's a minor quibble, though, and not one that stopped me from eating the test results for breakfast.
Another strong result is that I was able to distinguish each of the seven doneness settings from one another. With some toasters, anything toasted to a five or above is going to come out well-done, with only slight differences in the amount of blackness. With Cuisinart, I felt that I had seven distinct doneness settings, all of which yielded predictable and satisfying results. That's a better result than we saw with cheaper models like the Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster , which tended to overcook just a bit, and also a better result than the ultra-high-end KitchenAid Pro Line Toaster , which left things slightly undertoasted in my opinion.
The chart above shows how each toaster we tested performed across three settings: the lowest doneness setting, the middle doneness setting, and the highest doneness setting. For my tastes, the Cuisinart's spread looks the best to me, with even results on all three settings and nice, golden-brown toast in the middle. The darkest setting is probably blacker than you'd ever want, but the extra oomph of toasting to a seven might come in handy if you're ever toasting bread straight out of the fridge.
One last factor worth considering is toast time. Averaging out our tests, the CPT-440 came out on the speedier side of things, bested only by the Alessi Electric Toaster , which costs more than twice as much. The slowest toaster we tested was the Frigidaire Professional -- a direct competitor of the CPT-440 with an equivalent price point.
Faster toast isn't necessarily better toast, but I was nonetheless impressed with the CPT-440's combination of speed and consistency. It never seemed to toast too fast for its own good, nor did it ever take too long to deliver a simple piece of well-toasted bread. If there's a sweet spot for toaster performance, I think the CPT-440 hits it, or at least comes close.
The $100 Cuisinart CPT-440 is a very good toaster, and one that I'd be happy to have sitting on my kitchen counter in the morning. In all of our tests, it handled everything we threw at it, and never produced a result that I would characterize as disappointing. As toasters go, it's about as steady and dependable as they come, and it looks good, too.
Still, hop on Amazon, and you'll find dozens of toasters that cost half as much, or less. That includes models with unique, eye-catching designs, heavily favorable user reviews, room for four slices, and the same general capabilities as you'll find with the CPT-440, which has never sold on Amazon for less than $70. I wouldn't blame you for choosing one of those cheaper alternatives -- I know I probably would. That said, as splurges go, the CPT-440 is one that gets the job done, and you could certainly do a lot worse.