The GE Smart Countertop Microwave with Scan-to-Cook Technology wants to make it easier than ever to cook a quick snack or a frozen dinner. With the GE Appliances Kitchen app, you can scan the barcode on your prepackaged food of choice. If the food is in GE's database, the app will send the proper cooking times and settings to your microwave so you can simply toss in your food and hit Start.
GE's smart microwave also works with Amazon's digital assistant Alexa, so if you have a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo ($100 at Amazon), you can say something like "Alexa, add 30 seconds to the microwave" and it'll work. Unlike Whirlpool's microwaves with a , which cost $640 and up, GE's microwave packages in all of its smarts for a reasonable $140. You can find plenty of higher-end "dumb" microwaves for roughly the same price.
While I love the idea of the "scan-to-cook" feature in theory, in practice, it won't actually save you much trouble. The feature won't convert a recipe's cooking time if it's recommended for a different wattage than this microwave. GE claims that it has 3,000 meals in its database, but I still found lots of frozen meals from big brands that didn't work. As a whole, the feature and the app still feel as though they're in beta. The Alexa skill works well, but even though this microwave is reasonably priced, I'd wait to make a purchase until GE has a little more time to develop its primary feature.
I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting, but when I took the GE Smart Countertop Microwave with Scan-to-Cook Technology out of its box, I was a little disappointed at how ordinary it looked. At a glance, it won't stand out from any other microwave you'd find at the store.
Similarly, in my mind, I pictured something impossible for the scan-to-cook feature. I wanted to toss in a bag of popcorn and find every kernel popped when I came back. I wanted to take a meal out of the box and toss it in, then return a few minutes later to a perfectly cooked dinner. I suppose, in my imagination, this microwave stirred the food for me and took care of initial steps like puncturing the film. Hell, maybe it even plated it for me.
Obviously, this GE microwave won't do any of that. The scan-to-cook feature essentially means you won't have to punch the cook time into your microwave, but you'll still need to read the directions and get involved on any intermediary steps.
The smarts of this microwave stand out in more subtle ways. If you need to heat a meal on defrost or medium heat, scan-to-cook will make that adjustment for you. You can see the status of your microwave on your phone, and you'll get a push notification when it's done cooking. Plus, you can use your phone to add 30 seconds to your cooking time if your popcorn doesn't quite sound fully popped.
You can do the same with a voice command to Amazon's assistant, Alexa. The Alexa skill for this microwave is great. With a voice command to any Alexa-enabled device, you can pause or stop the microwave, add time to your current countdown, start cooking for a specified amount of time, or even activate one of the microwave's presets such as "beverage."
Better yet, you don't have to use any invocation words like "ask GE" that were previously customary for controlling GE appliances with Alexa. Link your GE account with your Amazon account via the Alexa app, and then you can say something simple and intuitive like "Alexa, microwave on high for one minute," and it'll work responsively.
If you're interested in a microwave that has an app, works with Alexa and can scan your meals and set times on its own, you can buy the GE Smart Countertop Microwave with Scan-to-Cook Technology now for $140. Use the company's site to find retailers in your area. The product is only available in the US for now.
Smarts aside, GE's machine fared well enough on our ordinary microwave tests. It's a little small and underpowered for the price, with 900 watts of cooking power and 0.9-cubic-foot of usable space. Other 900-watt countertop microwaves from big brands cost as little as $55, and you can easily get 1,100 to 1,200 watts of power for the same price as this GE microwave, so you are paying some premium for the smarts even if it's not an exorbitant one.
The button presets generally don't kick on with a single press, but ask for a bit more information. You can find them all decoded on a sticker on the upper rim of the interior. For example, press popcorn and you'll need to specify if you're cooking a 1.75-, 3.0- or 3.5-ounce bag before hitting Start. Keep pressing the popcorn button to toggle through the options.