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Firstbuild Opal Nugget Ice review: Nugget ice fans meet your new dream machine

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The Good The Opal Nugget Ice makes lots of chewable ice right on your countertop, and it doesn't need a dedicated water line.

The Bad While it costs much less than luxury ice makers, the Opal Nugget Ice is still expensive. It needs regular cleaning, it's loud, and can't store the ice for extended time periods.

The Bottom Line For chewable pellet ice addicts the Firstbuild Opal Nugget Ice is a dream come true, but regular shoppers should pass on this pricey specialty appliance.

8.2 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Design 7
  • Performance 9
  • Usability 8

All ice isn't created equal, just ask a fan of nugget ice. Also known as compressed or pellet ice, nugget ice enjoys a fervent following and is highly praised for its soft, crunchy texture, and slow melt time. Unfortunately nugget ice is hard to find, only sold at select restaurant chains and gas stations, and home nugget ice makers have traditionally been luxury devices with multi-thousand dollar price tags. Chewable ice addicts now have a reason to celebrate. The $499 Firstbuild Opal Nugget Ice has arrived, and with it the ability to churn out pounds of nugget ice in just hours right from your kitchen countertop.

Of course that's still a lot of money to spend on a single-function small appliance. Even so, for those who absolutely must have access to nugget ice in their homes, the Opal is a game changer. It's the first and only approachable option for mainstream consumers to make this frozen novelty for themselves.

Design and features

Standing 17.25 inches high and measuring 10.5 inches wide by 15.5 inches deep, the Opal Nugget Ice is larger than your typical home kitchen appliance. It dwarfs even the biggest drip coffee makers and is closer in size to a mini refrigerator or even toaster oven (set on its side). Tipping the scales at a hefty 44 pounds, it's no lightweight either.

In spite of its size and heft, the aesthetic of the Opal is pleasingly minimal. With smooth stainless steel running across its flat surfaces and rectangular chassis, you likely won't notice just how massive the Opal actually is. It also has just one, circular button surrounded by a slick-looking LED ring. This LED ring glows in different colors to communicate the Opal's status.

The clear ice tray doubles as a window.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The bin itself functions as a square window to view ice production as it happens. When you pull on the corners of the clear bin, it slides out to reveal a cube-shaped container, You can either let the bin hang down at an angle for quick ice access, or remove it entirely.

You can leave the tray open to scoop some ice.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Inside and directly under the ice bin is the Opal's water reservoir. Since the Opal lacks a dedicated water line input, you must supply this tank with fresh water from your sink. One tank load of water will let the Opal fill its bin to its full 3 pound capacity, which takes about 3 hours.

You can even link the Opal Nugget Ice to your phone or tablet (via Bluetooth) and control it using a mobile app. Unfortunately the software doesn't actually do much. Opal has numerous sensors which detect when the ice bin is full, or when you have removed it. Likewise they notice if the water tank is empty. I wish if the app could alert me with notifications for when I need to refill the tank water, empty the tray, or that it's due for a cleaning.

Currently the app only displays the Opal's current status but can't send alerts. What you can do within the application is tell the Opal to stop and start making ice , dim or brighten its LED ring, and place ice creation on a schedule.

The LEDs which surround the Opal's button glow in different colors to communicate the ice maker's status.

Chris Monroe/CNET

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