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Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster review: Yep, it's a toaster

This unexceptional appliance does nothing to offend, but nothing to stand out.

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Ry Crist
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Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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I got the below response when I polled my colleagues to ask how I should go about putting a $30 toaster into context. The man makes a good point. Breakfast foods don't get much more ubiquitous than toast -- and that makes toasters relevant to just about all of us. And yet, who spends time thinking about toasters? I mean...they're toasters. They toast.

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6.4

Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster

The Good

The Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster did an acceptable job in our tests, showing no major weaknesses. As cheap toasters go, it's one that gets the job done.

The Bad

The Classic Chrome tended to overcook slightly at medium settings. Also, the design left us unimpressed.

The Bottom Line

Even if you don't expect much from your toaster, you can do better than this.

Maybe that's the point, though. Nobody wants to waste time thinking about toasters, but that doesn't mean we don't want one that works well sitting on our kitchen counter. To that end, the CNET Appliances team is here to help. We spent a good work week with these things, and we've got plenty of toasty insight to share, all in the name of a better balanced breakfast.

In that spirit, let me tell you that you can do a lot better than the Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster. At 30 bucks, and with no distinguishing features to speak of, it's about as ho-hum as toasters come. I'd characterize the performance as "good enough," which really just isn't good enough given how many well-reviewed, equally inexpensive alternatives there are out there, including ones that look a lot less dated, and that put more effort into punching above their price class. Shop around -- there's better bang for your breakfast buck.

A shiny little toaster from Hamilton Beach (pictures)

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Design and features

The Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster sports a shiny, chrome-bodied build and a fair amount of classic appeal. Points for truth in advertising.

That classic appeal only gets you so far, though, and gets undercut by ugly, black plastic trim and cheap red LEDs. It isn't "classic" in the 1950s sense, as some might hope (KitchenAid does a much better job of capturing that period's design aesthetic). Instead, it looks like a cheap countertop appliance from the 1980s, the kind of toaster Marty McFly might have used to make a quick breakfast before zipping off to class on his skateboard.

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Ry Crist/CNET

Also classic: your choice of presets. You'll get the usual suspects here, with a button for bagels, a button for frozen items, and a button for reheating things. Pressing a button before depressing the lever won't do anything -- they'll only turn on after a toast cycle has begun. That seems a bit backwards to me.

For manual toasting, you get a smooth-turning doneness dial arbitrarily marked with nine settings. Other toasters might offer less -- the $100 Cuisinart CPT-440 offers just seven, for instance. If you're wondering if this gives Hamilton Beach an advantage, consider that nine settings doesn't necessarily mean nine distinct, usable settings. More on that in the next section.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

That, as you might expect, is about it. No toaster is going to wow you with its features, not this $30 Hamilton Beach, nor even a $500 model like the KitchenAid Pro Line Toaster . At the end of the day, it's just going to toast your bread, which doesn't leave much room for a feature-rich experience.

If anything, that puts a stronger emphasis on design, and indeed, you'll find toasters of every size, shape, and color trying their best to stand out from the crowd. A well-designed toaster should make your kitchen look a little classier, or perhaps a little cooler. Despite a slight degree of Brave Little Toaster-esque charm, I can't say that the Classic Chrome does it for me.

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Ry Crist/CNET

Performance and usability

There really isn't a whole lot to say about the usability of this toaster. You put the bread in, you select the desired doneness, you press the lever down, you wait a minute or two. Appliances don't get much more usable than that. For what it's worth, the lever mechanism never stuck or gave me any difficulty throughout dozens of tests, and the crumb tray was cooperative, too.

I wondered if the chrome build would get especially hot while in use. Sleek, perfectly flat metals tend to cause burns easier than coarse, brushed metal builds. Fortunately, the Hamilton Beach keeps things at a reasonable temperature. The top third or so definitely gets hot enough to burn (it is a toaster, after all), but I was still able to touch the body of the appliance without scalding myself.

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Ry Crist/CNET

Fingertips intact, I started taking a closer look at the toast I was making. At a glance, it looked fine as far as toast goes, but compared to what the other models in this roundup were making, it seemed to skew towards dark if set to medium or above. Additionally, I wasn't getting even results on both sides of my bread -- certainly not a deal-breaker for a $30 device, but something to consider if you're splitting hairs.

Additionally, the nine "settings" on the rotary dial didn't produce nine distinct levels of doneness. I could get light toast at the lowest few settings, golden-brown toast right below medium, dark toast right above medium, and burnt toast at the highest settings. In theory, the smooth selector dial should let you hone in on any preferred level of doneness, but the Hamilton Beach just wasn't consistent enough for that sort of exacting control.

Ry Crist/CNET

All that said, toast is toast. Most people will just be happy if theirs isn't burnt. If that sounds like you, then you'll probably be perfectly happy with what your thirty bucks gets you here, performance-wise.

The same can be said for Hamilton Beach in terms of bagels, frozen waffles, and Pop-Tarts. I tested them all out, and came away more or less satisfied with the results. Nothing was ever totally even, but it wasn't ever badly overtoasted or undertoasted, either. As toasters go, the Classic Chrome is perfectly average -- and maybe that's all you want or need.

Toast Times (seconds)

Alessi Electric Toaster 82 132 166Cuisinart Leverless 4-Slice Toaster 78 155 225Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster 82 165 217KitchenAid Pro Line 4-Slice Toaster 80 160 247KitchenAid KMT422 90 195 300Frigidaire Professional 4-Slice Toaster 110 219 330
  • Average Low Time
  • Average Medium Time
  • Average High Time
Note: Shorter bars indicate faster performance

Hamilton Beach lands in the middle when it comes to toast time, too. With the medium setting averaging out to two minutes and forty-five seconds, it wasn't the fastest toaster we tested (that'd be the Alessi Electric Toaster ), but it also wasn't anywhere near our slowest toaster, the Frigidaire Professional , which took a minute longer than Hamilton Beach to toast bread at the medium setting.

The Classic Chrome doesn't really excel at anything -- but it doesn't have any notable weak spots, either. That sort of middling performance actually makes it a safe bet, but not one that's easy to get excited about.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

The Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster is tricky to criticize. Sure, on the one hand, it's nothing special -- but what are you really expecting from a $30 toaster? So long as it isn't a horrendous failure, it's tough not to be more or less happy with the thing. In that sense, the Classic Chrome actually delivers.

Still, there's too much competition out there at the lower end of the price scale. Even if you like the Classic Chrome's design, you'll find no shortage of decent, affordable alternatives -- both classic-looking and chrome-bodied -- that likely look better. The Classic Chrome is a perfectly acceptable toaster, but it doesn't do much of anything to stand out from the crowd. I say shop around.

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6.4

Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome 2-Slice Toaster

Score Breakdown

Performance 6Usability 7Design 6Features 7
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