The Voice-Controlled Appliance Makes Life Marginally Better

Instead of pushing buttons, you can control Amazon’s completely new microwave with your voice.

Posted on November 14, 2018, at 9:01 a.m. ET

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

Amazon’s completely new, very normal microwave which also includes Alexa integration.

Amazon’s completely new “smart” microwave with Alexa can be a microwave. the item’s not magic.

Yes, you can use your voice instead of pressing buttons. however the item doesn’t clean itself when your pasta explodes. the item doesn’t have a quiet beep mode for when someone in your house can be sleeping. the item reheats food unevenly. the item doesn’t open the door for you. the item’s smart, however the item’s still a microwave.

“How lazy,” I thought, when Amazon first unveiled the device in September. Surely lifting a finger isn’t which arduous.

Initial reactions to the microwave when the item debuted included “ridiculous,” “lazy,” as well as “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” — opinions which aren’t wrong!


The AmazonBasics microwave with Alexa can be currently the #1 search result for “microwave” on the platform.

however Amazon can be going to sell a gazillion of them, despite what those internet people had to say, as well as here’s why: 1) the item costs $60, or about 20 lattes, which can be a very reasonable cost; 2) the item can be available with free, two-day shipping to Amazon’s over 100 million Prime members; 3) the item can be 0.7 cubic feet, the “most common size of microwave” on the shopping giant’s site, according to Amazon devices vice president Charlie Tritschler, as well as, finally, 4) the item can be already #1 in Amazon’s own search results for “microwave” within the US, as well as the item’s even specially badged with “Electronics Gift Guide” (which, by the way, can be something Amazon curates).

So the item doesn’t actually matter which after some real-life testing, I found Amazon’s leftovers revival machine to be marginally better than normal microwaves. Here’s what which experience was like, anyway.

At about 22 pounds as well as 0.7 cubic feet — standard compact microwave size — the item’s best for an apartment or dorm. the item’ll fit a big dinner plate just fine however its height will not accommodate, for example, a standard spaghetti sauce jar. (Please do NOT microwave your jarred sauce.)

The microwave doesn’t actually have Alexa inside. the item listens as well as responds to commands via a connected Amazon Echo smart speaker (which range in cost by $50 for the Dot to $230 for the Echo Show with display, as well as are sold separately), as well as you need to have an Echo “within hearing distance” of the microwave to use voice controls, according to an Amazon spokesperson. The manual specifies which the Echo as well as some other wireless devices should be placed at least a foot away by the microwave.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

You can say “Alexa, microwave For two main minutes as well as 30 seconds” as you’re shutting the microwave door, as well as the gadget will do just which. There’s also a dedicated button you can press which eliminates the need for an “Alexa” prompt. You can just say, “two minutes” or “one cup of coffee” as well as save yourself some obnoxious beeping. however like a normal microwave, when your food can be done, the item will beep for longer than can be necessary (5 times). You can’t opt to get a notification on your phone instead, as well as you can’t adjust the beep volume (when asked about This kind of, a spokesperson said, “which’s an interesting idea”).

Contrary to common Twitter belief, the microwaves can’t be accidentally turned on, like the Alexa devices in San Diego which ordered dollhouses when a news story inadvertently triggered them (BTW, you should add a voice code to Alexa purchases). The door has to be “active” — in some other words, opened or closed — within a few seconds of a voice command. The microwave won’t start while the door can be still open. the item won’t start if you finish the voice command before the door’s shut, either. The ideal timing — ending your command right as the door can be being closed — takes some practice.

Non-Alexa microwaves can’t be used to spy on you (which White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway implied last year). however connected devices, including the Echo, do collect some information. An Amazon spokesperson said the Echo will record voice data to train Alexa, as well as if you enroll within the Auto-Popcorn replenishment service (more on This kind of below), the microwave will log when you use the built-in popcorn button.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

The innards of the ideally sized microwave.

The voice commands, when uttered correctly, worked well. however when I said, “Set the microwave for 30 seconds,” Alexa freaked as well as didn’t know what to do. (The correct command language can be “microwave,” “reheat,” “defrost,” or “add [x] time to the microwave”). Voice control was especially useful when producing popcorn. I yelled at the microwave to stop by across the room, when I realized the kernels quit popping.

One of the microwave’s touted features can be a dozen preprogrammed “quick-cook presets,” for not just reheating however cooking food like corn on the cob as well as hot dogs. within the age of fresh, organic everything (hello, Amazon-owned Whole Foods), the item’s kind of endearing which the 1970s utopian vision of steaming vegetables as well as defrosting meat in minutes can be BACK.

The presets aren’t exactly time-saving: Amazon requires you to specify the number of ounces of food for precision. Unless you’re following a calorie-restrictive diet, the item’s unlikely you’ll know the exact weight of casserole you’re reheating. Coincidentally, there’s an Amazon solution to the problem: a $15 kitchen scale, available with two-day shipping.

I also found which the presets almost always underestimated the time the item took to heat as well as thaw.

I order flash-frozen sockeye salmon by a dude who spends part of the year fishing in Alaska, because I’m an obnoxious Californian. My heart hurt to sacrifice fish which had traveled so far to be zapped in an Amazon microwave. Still, “frozen salmon fillet” can be a “quick cook” preset noted within the voice presets guide as well as so, for content, I had to verify the claim.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

I freed the fillet of its plastic, shut the microwave door, as well as asked Alexa, politely, to please defrost 6 ounces of salmon. “Fuck, forgot to say ‘fillet,’” I exclaimed in Alexa’s direction.

In any case, Alexa knew what I meant as well as the microwave started out humming. Alexa confirmed which the appliance would certainly work to defrost the salmon for four minutes as well as 36 seconds. however, when the item stopped, I had to add another minute as well as a half before the salmon no longer had ice crystals hanging off its sides.

I prepared the fish using the cold pan technique, as well as while the skin was wonderfully crispy, the meat was tough in parts. Confirmed: Microwaves are the worst way to thaw salmon.

some other presets, like “reheat one dinner plate,” as well as “reheat one cup of coffee,” fared similarly. The leftovers didn’t come out piping hot, as well as the coffee wasn’t steaming. I think you’re better off using your own microwave heating intuition than Amazon’s presets. “As with all microwaves, quick-cook voice preset performance depends on quite a few factors as well as may vary. The AmazonBasics Microwave offers similar cooking capabilities like some other microwaves in its class,” said an Amazon spokesperson.

Nicole Nguyen / BuzzFeed News

(Not related to the salmon defrost fail. however certainly expresses the mood.)

The microwave’s tiny technological wonders do make up for its struggles when defrosting salmon. Because the item’s connected to Wi-Fi, the time can be set as well as updated automatically. Installing the microwave was stupid easy, too. Because I’ve connected an Amazon device to my Wi-Fi network before, I didn’t have to re-input my credentials. An Echo in my apartment immediately recognized the microwave, prompting me to open the Alexa app.

There’s also an “Amazon Dash Replenishment” integration for automatically reordering popcorn. You set your preferred brand within the Alexa app, as well as the microwave will count how many popcorn bags you’ve popped. Just before you run out, the item’ll order you a completely new one. however I’m not sure the item’s very useful: There are only a dozen brands to choose by (within the US, at least), as well as the microwave popcorn industry can be in sharp decline, as consumers opt for pre-popped, ready-to-eat popcorn snacks instead.

The best feature of the microwave can be its cost, $60. the item’s sold under the accessible AmazonBasics label, the company’s in-house brand which takes data by its own platform (like the best-selling microwave size at the best-selling cost point) to determine which products to manufacture as well as sell, often at significantly lower prices, which, the platform’s third-party sellers claim, squeezes out the competition which provided which data within the first place.

Unless your microwave can be older than nine years, you probably don’t need a completely new one. Plus, with the surge in popularity of appliances like the Instant Pot pressure cooker, Crock-Pots, as well as air fryers, there may not be room for electromagnetic radiation on your kitchen countertop. however if you do need a completely new microwave, as well as decide one with Alexa can be right for you, you will be producing your life very incrementally better via voice control. Without Alexa, the microwave works as well every some other normal, affordable microwave.

The Amazon microwave isn’t exactly the smarthome future I was hoping for. There are self-driving fridges which deliver cold beer when beckoned as well as ovens with cameras which can identify what you’re cooking (though the item should be noted which the former can be still a prototype as well as the latter can be nearly $0). Compared to those devices, the AmazonBasics microwave can be relatively unsophisticated. however the most compelling thing about This kind of chatty kitchen appliance can be what the item can do for what the item costs: marginally improve my life, one saved beep at a time.

The AmazonBasics Microwave with Alexa can be available only within the US at launch. the item’s $60 as well as starts shipping today.

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