You don't need to pay this much for crispy french fries at home.
Despite my best efforts and roughly 30 minutes of cooking time, I couldn't make good Buffalo wings in the Philips Viva Collection Airfryer. I'll never forgive it for that. I'm not a great cook, but I did work at a wings place in high school, and part of the appeal of air fryers is accessibility. In its defense, the Philips Airfryer is quite easy to use and mostly easy to clean.
A newly popular category of cooker, air fryers generally promise to help you whip up delicious snack food quickly. They're countertop cookers that you can use like a mini-oven, and they occasionally come close to replicating food from a deep fryer with minimal oil. While some reasonably priced air fryers impressed us enough with crispy french fries to warrant consideration, the $250 Philips Viva Collection Airfryer is too expensive and underpowered to be worth your while.
I can imagine a few circumstances where you'd want an air fryer: If you have a basement bar and frequently crave wings while you're watching a game, if you have a teen that frequently wants snacks like pizza rolls and you don't want to turn on the oven every time he or she gets hungry or even if you just really like making homemade fries.
If those examples sound like you, you can buy an appliance like the Philips Viva Collection Airfryer for $250. You can find it on the company's site, as well as Amazon, Best Buy and Kohl's. It's also available in the UK on Amazon for £130 (it normally costs £180). The US price converts to AU$330.
Even if your home is a perfect fit for an air fryer, $250 is still a lot given that you can find similarly powered machines for less than half the price of this Philips model. The $95 Krups Fry Delight has more wattage than this machine with 1450 versus 1425.
Put the price and competition aside, and the Philips Viva Airfryer is a competent machine. Assembly only takes moments. You snap a grate into the bottom of the cooking basket, click the cooking basket into the pan that forms the lower half of the fryer, then slide the pan into place.
You can lift and move the whole pan by the handle on the front and click a button on the top of the handle to remove the basket. The latter function is convenient when you're ready to dump a fresh basket of fries onto a waiting plate. You can put the bottom pan, basket and grate into the dishwasher to clean up, and it's easy enough to disassemble the main pieces and wash them by hand as well.
Get everything into place, and you'll turn a dial on top of the machine to set the temp, then set a timer on the front to start cooking. Keep the instructions for your first couple of batches of food, as it has recommended serving sizes and cook times. A few decals on the top of the machine can help you remember the proper setting for common air fryer food. You can also check the accompanying app for more advanced recipes.
The Philips Viva doesn't need to preheat, so you can toss in your food and turn on the timer. There's no actual on or off button -- the timer is what tells the machine to kick into action. If you set it for too much time, you can turn it counterclockwise to reduce or cancel the time remaining, but doing so takes a lot of force.
Once it's heating, the Philips Viva Airfryer functions much like a convection oven. The heated coil sits above the cook pan and a fan helps circulate the hot air. Don't expect to be able to multitask like you can with an Instant Pot and don't expect the food to actually taste like it came from a deep fryer.
Fresh foods tended to taste like they came out of an oven, albeit in less time because the air fryer can heat its smaller cavity more quickly. The Viva's quite good at rapidly heating up frozen snacks like pizza rolls and mozzarella sticks, but so was every other air fryer we tested.
To test the Philips Viva, I cooked frozen fries, fresh cut fries, burgers, chicken wings (from raw chicken, not frozen), pizza rolls and mozzarella sticks. The Viva successfully cooked everything I threw at it, but its relatively small capacity and low power meant it tended to take longer than other models we tested. It took 25 minutes to cook a pair of burgers, and the $70 Simple Chef Air Fryer completed the same test in 20.
In general, if you're cooking near the upper end of the manual's listed capacity, you'll need to allow more cooking time than the manual suggests. I cooked 23 ounces of frozen fries for 25 minutes (the upper limit in the manual) and they were just starting to crisp.
I could never get the chicken wings crispy. I even let a handful of wings sit in the fryer for 32 minutes -- 10 minutes past the recommended upper limit for drumsticks -- and they still weren't crispy. I was really looking forward to those wings, and this machine couldn't come close to replicating the taste of deep fried chicken.
Though it produced edible and sometimes tasty food in all of my tests, the $250 Philips Viva Collection Airfryer didn't do any snack more competently than the crowd of less expensive models we tested alongside it. It's nicely compact and it's easy to use, but it's just too expensive given its lack of any extras like a stirring arm.
I wouldn't really recommend any air fryer to an aspiring home cook. They don't do anything you can't replicate in an ordinary oven. If you want a more compact cooker, look to a toaster oven or a more multi-purpose machine like the Instant Pot. If you like the idea of a single function machine aimed at snack foods, the $70 Simple Chef Air Fryer offers a nice value. The Philips Viva Collection doesn't have enough power to be worth the price.
Are you curious about all the other air fryers we tested out? Check out our air fryer roundup here.