Lynx SmartGrill review: This talking luxury grill needs to improve its conversation skills

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The Good The 30-inch freestanding Lynx SmartGrill is downright gorgeous -- and its related Android and iOS apps deliver reliable remote access to a large recipe database and issue prompt notifications that alert you to the status of your food.

The Bad It costs $6,999 and its voice-control feature asked me to repeat myself regularly -- even when I was standing next to the microphone making a concerted effort to project my voice and enunciate clearly.

The Bottom Line Given its price tag and hit-or-miss voice-control performance, it's tough to recommend Lynx's high-end SmartGrill to anyone who doesn't have an uncommonly large budget and a genuine interest in emerging -- occasionally glitchy -- tech.

6.9 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Design 8
  • Performance 7
  • Usability 5

Lynx makes high-end gas grills as well as an assortment of other outdoor-rated appliances like pizza ovens and compact refrigerators. The brand's least expensive freestanding grill -- the 24-inch Sedona -- will set you back $2,399 and the website promotes a "Lynx Outdoor Kitchen Design team" if you want help outfitting your custom backyard oasis. We're talking about a level of premium that essentially negates any true discussion of value unless Lynx grills can also do your shopping, prep your food and cook your entire meal flawlessly and by themselves.

Exceptionally costly products like this can be tricky to review. Still, Lynx piqued our interest at this year's Consumer Electronics Show with its new line of Wi-Fi-enabled SmartGrills, complete with companion Android and iOS apps and voice-control capabilities. So, they sent us one to test -- a $6,999 30-inch model, the least expensive option in the freestanding SmartGrill lineup. (While expected to be sold in the UK in the future, there is no word on Australian availability or international pricing; directly converted, it would be about £4,550 or AU$9,700.)

It's a beautiful product, it cooks great food fast and the iOS app really did help me, a grilling novice, track the status of my meals, including exactly when to flip a nicely charred ear of corn or when to remove a whole chicken from the grill. But, its voice-control feature was unreliable and often asked me to repeat myself even when I was making every effort to speak clearly. Also, it didn't produce significantly better food than the $159 Brinkmann we used for comparison and Lynx's model costs, oh, about 44 times more.

If you have a ton of money to spend on a grill and appreciate innovative applications for emerging technology like voice control (even if they don't work perfectly), the 30-inch freestanding Lynx SmartGrill might be worth your consideration. For the rest of us, we can sleep well knowing we're not missing out on some rarefied tier of grilling nirvana by shopping in a more down-to-earth price range.

The basics

The 30-inch freestanding Lynx SmartGrill is a true design standout. In fact, everything about this grill was designed with luxury in mind. It's wrapped in generous amounts of stainless steel, including stainless steel grates -- it even has a spring that you attach to the inside of the grill to make its hefty stainless steel hood much easier to lift.

It also has an easy-to-remove front-loading drip tray, two folding side shelves if you need to save on storage space, a dedicated storage compartment below so you can hide the propane tank and all of the appliance's smart circuitry as well as keep grilling utensils handy, but out of sight until they're needed next, and a carbon-fiber vinyl cover for keeping it free from dirt and grime when it isn't in use.

It features two main 23,000-BTU gas burners (46,000 BTUs in total), a rotisserie with a dedicated 14,000-BTU burner and motor that can be adjusted to low, medium and high settings and built-in probes that monitor the surface temperature of the grates. You can either directly hook this grill to your home's gas line or enlist a standalone propane tank to power it. (We went with a tank so we could more closely compare its performance to our $159 propane-powered Brinkmann grill, which has three main 12,000-BTU burners -- 36,000 BTUs total -- and a separate side burner, also with 12,000 BTUs).

Unlike traditional grills, the SmartGrill's knobs don't display low, medium, high or any other settings. So, if you just want to cook (without using the app or any of the other connected features), you'll need to turn the burner knob two full rotations for the grill to enter "manual mode." Even then, you'll have to rely on the app to see what your adjustments translate to in terms of temperature settings (since there are no indicators on the grill itself). Over time, you'd likely get used to the sensitivity of the knob so you instinctively know how much to turn it for low, medium and high settings. It does make things a bit more complicated for manual cooks in general, though.

Smart functionality

Beyond the SmartGrill's basic specs, it's also equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity, 64GB of storage and a 1.5GHz Intel processor for accessing the app and voice-control features. After the grill is installed, download the SmartGrill app on your Android or iOS device and follow the instructions to connect it to your local Wi-Fi network.

Similar to setting up a connected camera or even a Wi-Fi-enabled robot vacuum , the Lynx app prompts you to select the brand's dedicated SmartGrill network in your phone's list of available Wi-Fi signals and then enter in the details for your own local network to compete the set-up process.

Configuring the SmartGrill's connected features. Screenshots by CNET

I would like to say that this was straightforward, but the app keeps its explanations to a minimum, which makes certain steps more confusing than necessary.

Hit "confirm" so the in-app timer knows what step you're on. Screenshot by CNET

For instance, the first step required to connect your grill to your Wi-Fi network (pictured above, left) says simply, "To begin, press and hold the SmartGrill power button for 15 seconds." It seemed logical that you'd need to turn on the SmartGrill first and then press and hold the same power button again for 15 seconds. But, this only caused the grill to power down. Instead, you have to press and hold the power button when the grill is off. It seems odd, but that's the only way I got it to work.

Once the grill is connected to Wi-Fi, you can start cooking using voice control and/or the app. The app has a recipe database with dozens of pre-programmed meals, ranging from a 1.5-inch seared Ahi tuna steak to grilled donuts, but you can also tweak existing recipes and add your own.

To start cooking from the app, find a recipe you want to try and hit "Cook Now." It will send the cooking instructions to the grill, including automatically turning the burner to the ideal recipe temperature and alerting you when it's done preheating so you can add the food. It will also alert you to any other instructions during the cooking process -- like flipping or rotating your food so it cooks as evenly as possible -- and finally when it should be removed from the grill.

Push alerts on your phone and verbal cues from the grill will continue to update you along the way, but you also have to "Confirm" that you've completed each step (see above screenshot) or the in-app timer it relies on won't know when you've advanced to the next step. This could prove problematic if you flip an ear of corn after hearing the verbal prompt from the grill, but don't confirm that you've completed that step in the app.

You can also use voice commands to interact with the grill. Keep in mind this isn't a function that operates through Siri or Google Now -- it's a built-in speaker and microphone on the grill itself, so you have to be standing near the grill to interact with it this way.

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