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KitchenAid Pro Line 4-Slice Toaster review: Don't get burned by KitchenAid's $500 toaster

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The Good The KitchenAid Pro Line looks great and automatically reheats your toast when you forget about it.

The Bad It's underpowered and overpriced.

The Bottom Line It might look the part of a $500 machine, but the KitchenAid Pro Line didn't toast any better than the $30 Hamilton Beach Classic Chrome Toaster.

5.4 Overall
  • Performance 3
  • Usability 5
  • Design 9
  • Features 7

For $500, you might believe a toaster could fly. The KitchenAid Pro Line 4-Slice Toaster looks the part. Metallic sliders accent the bulky white exterior. A row of lights that could be running down the aisle of an airplane show you the darkness setting and blink away as the toaster gets closer to finishing its cycle. Put in your bread, and a pleasant ding will sound as the toaster senses it and gets to work, reminding you, perhaps, to fasten your seatbelt for the ride.

Except, with this toaster, you're not in for a pleasant trip. For the $500 MSRP (you can find it for as little as $400, but still), it really is taking you for a ride. It doesn't do anything special. It makes toast, and not all that well. When the cycle ends, you'll hear another ding, and I consistently found this underpowered and ludicrously expensive machine cooked the toast much less than it should have. The only flying it'll actually do, then, would come when you get fed up with paying this much for undercooked toast, and you launch this $500 machine out the window.

Design and features

When you spend more for a toaster, you should expect three things -- great design, high speed and quality toast. The KitchenAid Pro Line delivers soundly on the first one, but downright fails at the other two.

This toaster looks good. It would be right at home in a designer kitchen. It's reminiscent of the old-fashioned KitchenAid Mixer, but at the same time using its lights and dials to whisper of technological prowess and power. It's a statement piece.

Stylish toasting. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Its features, while not going much further than an ordinary toaster in functionality, come with a flair to help you continue showing off beyond the initial visual impact. Put in your toast, and it'll sense the weight and lower it for you with an audibly pleasing ding. Again, it's reminiscent of the tone you'd hear on an airplane.

Set the darkness with a slider that lights a small row of LEDs above it. Above that, the buttons for "Bagel," "Frozen," "A Little Longer," and "Toast/Cancel" gain a backlight when you press them. They all function as you'd expect.

"Bagel" toasts only one side of the slot, so you can get the cut side crispy while gently warming the other. "Frozen" adds time to the cycle for the sake of defrosting. "A Little Longer" tacks on a little extra time while the toasting is in progress. "Toast/Cancel" helps if the toaster starts before you're ready, or if it doesn't sense the weight of your food and you need to start it manually.

The row of LEDS indicate darkness and countdown as the toaster runs. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The only design element that falls short is the width of the slot. From grate to grate, it's only 1 1/4 inch. That's smaller than a number of other toasters we tested, including the cheaper $110 KitchenAid KMT422 4-Slice Manual Toaster with a 1 3/8-inch slot. An eighth of an inch doesn't make a drastic difference, but it's odd that the more expensive model offers less usable space.

The KitchenAid Pro Line 4-Slice Toaster comes in three different colors. We tested the elegant white model. The pictures of the red and black versions look fantastic as well. All retail for $499 and you can purchase them on KitchenAid's website, Amazon, Williams Sonoma and other appliance dealers.

Usability

Looking at the KitchenAid Pro-Line, I could almost understand the logic behind a $500 toaster. Almost. If you want a beautiful appliance to adorn your designer kitchen and get your neighbors talking, mission accomplished. Once you start toasting, the automatic lowering and that ever reassuring ding will keep the mystique flowing.

Except, while it's quite a cool aspect to show off, the automatic lowering turned out to be much better in theory than in practice. I'm particular about my toast, and I want the cycle to start when I say the word. The auto-on feature can't be turned off, and it always made me feel rushed to put both slices in, get them centered, and tweak my presets to where I wanted them before everything got underway.

Get your food set quickly, or it'll start without you. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can adjust settings for a few seconds after the cycle starts, and you can always hit cancel if you're just not ready, but all of this seemed backwards to me. You don't actually gain much in exchange for the annoyance the auto-load causes.

The mechanical lift also makes it quite tedious to deal with stuck bagels or thick bread. You can't just push the lever down to work it unstuck. You also can't use the extra lift afforded by most levers to raise up a shorter slice and remove it from the toaster without burning your fingers. The mechanical lift adds to the coolness of the toaster, but also adds inconvenience to its day-to-day use. Again, the trade-off isn't worth it.

That said, it allows for one unique feature that I found fantastically useful -- automatic reheating. Most toasters include a "reheat" button to give your toast a little extra warmth if you forgot about it and it popped up before you were ready to feast. Initially, I thought the "A Little Longer" button was this KitchenAid Pro's version of that.

Then, I accidentally left my morning bagel in the toaster, and when I came back to it a minute later, I found the toaster had pulled it back down and kept it warm for me. Because of the weight sensor, it knew I hadn't removed the bagel. The KitchenAid Pro will wait 45 seconds after it pops up. Then it will lower and run a continuous warming cycle for up to 3 minutes.

When you return to the toaster, you can hit cancel any time to grab your snack, still pleasantly hot. If you wait the full 3 minutes, the toast will inevitably be a little drier than it would have been if you'd gotten it right away, but I still found this particular feature quite helpful. It's a great, simple touch that I wish more toasters could implement.

Too much longer, and that toast will go back down on its own. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Unfortunately, because the keep warm feature is entirely automatic, if you do return to the toaster, remove your bagel, and then decide you'd like to reheat it a little, there's no way to do it. You'll have to run it through a short cycle and it might end up more browned than you intended.

I expected a few features of this ludicrously expensive toaster to be incontrovertibly useful. Unfortunately, for everything it adds, an accompanying annoyance follows.

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