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GE PHB920SJSS review: This GE induction range lets Alexa be the boss

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You're oiling down your Thanksgiving turkey, and the recipe you're using calls for you to adjust the oven temperature right before you put the turkey in. This salmonella-laden scenario typically means you'll have to stop what you're doing and wash your hands to make the adjustment. But what if you could just yell at a virtual assistant to preheat your oven without a pause in turkey prep? It's possible with the GE PHB920SJSS induction range.

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8.2

GE PHB920SJSS

Pricing Not Available

The Good

You can use voice control to operate some parts of the Wi-Fi-enabled $2,000 GE PHB920SJSS induction range thanks to compatibility with the Amazon Alexa digital assistant. The induction cooktop cooks food fast, and the oven bakes and roasts evenly.

The Bad

The voice commands can get convoluted, and the wrong wording choice throws off Alexa.

The Bottom Line

The GE PHB920SJSS is a good oven on its own, and its Wi-Fi connectivity and integration with Alexa make this appliance a great choice, especially if you're interested in smart home technology.
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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

This $2,000 stove is one of GE Appliances' Wi-Fi-enabled products that works with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant. Thanks to a new Alexa "Skill," you can tell Alexa what you want your oven to do, and she'll handle the rest. For the most part, Alexa followed my voice commands and controlled the GE PHB920SJSS. The stove's integration with Alexa did create some frustrating moments, though. You have to be very specific with your voice commands; variations of the same statement can leave the virtual assistant stumped. Alexa can't control certain parts of the oven, such as the broiler or cooktop burners. And you have to hit a "Remote Enable" button on the oven's control panel before you use voice commands, which undercuts some of the hands-free appeal.

Fortunately, the GE PHB920SJSS is a great stove, even without the flashy Wi-Fi features. The induction burners can boil water quickly and the oven circulates heat evenly. At $2,000, it's one of the least expensive induction ranges we've tested (the $1,700 Kenmore 95073 takes top honor for lowest-cost induction range).

If you're in search of an electric range, buy the GE PHB920SJSS. GE's integration with Alexa is a useful addition that helps rather than hinders (as we've seen with some smart stoves and ovens). But most importantly, this stove's cooking performance borders on flawless.

GE and Alexa live happily ever after in this induction range

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GE loads this oven up with useful features

The GE PHB920SJSS is a humble-looking oven that's more powerful than it appears at first glance. Its profile is pretty standard: 30 inches wide, stainless-steel finish, freestanding, smooth glass cooktop. But its specs are impressive.

The GE PHB920SJSS's Wi-Fi and integration with Alexa is, by far, the most notable part of this range. The oven works with a GE app where you can set and monitor its temperature without any help from Alexa. But if you want to voice control the range, you have to use an Alexa "Skill" (sort of like an app for Alexa that connects the platform's voice capabilities to smart devices and apps) called Geneva.

To do so, you'll first connect your oven to your home's Wi-Fi network (the company's app walks you through the simple process). Then, you have to download the Geneva Skill from the Alexa app and enter your GE online log-in information. I had to attempt this several times before my accounts linked. After you complete set-up, you hit the "Remote Enable" button on the stove's control panel. If you have an Alexa-enabled device such as an Echo smart speaker, you'll be able to tell Alexa to tell Geneva to complete a task or provide you with a status update. So, if you want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, you'd say, "Alexa, tell Geneva to preheat the oven to 350."

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I used this Amazon Echo Dot to test the oven's compatibility with Alexa.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I used an Echo Dot to test the Alexa/GE integration. The Skill was helpful during testing, especially when my hands were full or coated in chicken juice. During my cooking tests, I yelled for Alexa to preheat the oven while I arranged biscuit dough on a baking sheet. I asked her what the oven's temperature was as I trussed a chicken. But Alexa and Geneva can be pretty picky about how you give them commands. To that end, GE offers a list of the commands to which Alexa and Geneva will respond. When I deviated from the exact wording, it would often confuse Alexa, and she'd tell me she hadn't learned how to do that task yet. And the digital tag team can only do so much: Alexa and Geneva can't control the oven's broiler or the cooktop.

GE and Amazon need to stay on top of updating and improving this Skill, but as it currently stands, it's still a useful addition to the kitchen. It's not tech for tech's sake, as we've seen with the Dacor DYRP36D, an oven with a built-in but outdated Android tablet, or LG's superfluous inclusion of near-field communication on its ovens. Geneva is helpful, and alleviates a real problem rather than creating new ones.

Wi-Fi aside, this oven knows how to cook

Thee range's cooktop has a warming zone and four induction burners that use electromagnetism to cook food without any flames or direct heat. This type of cooktop is efficient and fast; it took an average of 5.93 minutes to bring 112 ounces of water to a boil. That performance is comparable to other induction cooktops we've tested and nearly three minutes faster than the speediest electric cooktop without induction (8.68 minutes on the Kenmore 97723).

Large Burner Boil Test (Induction and Electric Models)

Kenmore 95073 5.33Electrolux EW30IS80RS 5.68GE PHB920SJSS 5.93GE PHS920SFSS 5.96Samsung NE58H9970WS 7.4Kenmore 97723 8.68
Notes: Time to achieve rolling boil, in minutes

The oven also handled food well. The convection fan that circulates heat more evenly in the oven was effective and efficient in producing golden, roasted chicken and turkey that had crisp skin and moist meat. The same even circulation was evident when I baked two pans of biscuits. We tend to see one pan of biscuits cook lighter than the other, but the GHB920SJSS evenly browned both racks.

The broiler wasn't as swoon-worthy as the other parts of the GHB920SJSS's cooking performance. It took an average of 14.33 minutes to cook six hamburger patties, a time that's respectable, but not nearly the fastest.

Hamburger Broiling Test (Electric Models)

Samsung NE59J7850WS 12.32LG LDE4415ST 13.03KitchenAid KSEG950ESS 13.6Kenmore 92583 13.75GE PHB920SJSS 14.33Electrolux EW30IS80RS 15.33Kenmore 95073 17.17
Notes: Time to achieve 145 degrees F, in minutes

Final thoughts

I'd like this oven even if it didn't have Wi-Fi. Its induction cooktop is fast and efficient at cooking foods. Its oven evenly bakes and roasts. And its $2,000 price is comparable (if not better) than other induction ranges like it. Add in the Wi-Fi and integration with Alexa, and you're looking at a very solid choice for the tech-savvy kitchen, albeit one with a couple of snags that GE and Amazon should address.

ge-phb920sjss-oven-product-photos-8.jpg
8.2

GE PHB920SJSS

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Usability 8Performance 9