TRIED & TESTED / The browning version: The best invention since sliced bread: our panel chooses the winning toaster

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The Independent Culture
Toasters have come a long way since they were first marketed, some now boasting features such as reheat buttons and roll warmers. But is it worth paying more for an upmarket toaster, or will the basic model make the evenly browned toast you like? We selected six toasters from the bottom to the top of the range. As toast is a standby for people trying to save time and money, we asked three groups of medical students to try them out. They put them through their paces as they snatched meal-breaks in between studying for exams.

THE PANEL

Medical students Ben Eddy, Holly Sidwell and Dominic Simon, who each live in shared student houses, tried out the toasters with the help of their flatmates.

THE TEST

The panel was asked to give each model marks out of 10 for how easy to understand the controls were, how evenly it toasted, how useful the features were, whether it was good value for money and how good it looked. Scores were converted into a best-buy rating.

** KRUPS TOASTATRONIC COMFORT

With integrated croissant/roll warmer pounds 36.99. Two long slots

Fair scores

'Super hi-tech, many buttons, pretty lights - will appeal to engineering students,' said Ben Eddy. Other testers identified design faults - controls and crumb trays that were difficult to use. 'The poor button design lets down what is otherwise a fair performer,' said Holly Sidwell. Testers weren't too impressed with the croissant/roll warmer: 'stupid' said Holly Sidwell, Dominic Simon called it 'ridiculous, but a good gimmick'.

* KENWOOD TT100

17.99 pounds. Two single slots Cheap, few fancy features,

scored poorly

Although this very basic toaster was the cheapest of the ones we looked at, testers didn't rate it particularly good value for money. 'Very bad design,' said Holly Sidwell. Testers gave it low ratings on how evenly it toasted the bread. It lacked the features others had, although the controls were easy to understand. The Kenwood TT100, unlike some others, is not a cool wall model; Ben Eddy noted: 'External surfaces became very hot quickly and this could be dangerous.'

***DUALIT COMBI TOASTER

with sandwich toaster pounds 120. Three single slots

Scored well but too expensive

The main feature of this toaster - apart from its price - is its retro design. This model was to Holly Sidwell's taste: 'Chunky design was instantly appealing. Superb machine, although prohibitively expensive. The sandwich toaster worked well and the select switch was useful.' Dominic Simon and his flatmates were also very keen. 'We all loved it. Nice big crumb tray and toasted sarnie maker. It's fab]' But Ben Eddy wasn't so keen on the design, and also thought it wasn't very user-friendly. Testers gave it good scores on everything but value for money.

**** MORPHY RICHARDS WILD BRAMBLE .TX.-24.99 pounds . Single long slot

Testers' favourite - although they didn't all like its looks

The woodland pattern on the front didn't appeal to everyone, but otherwise they liked it a lot. They thought that it toasted evenly, that the controls were easy to understand, that it had useful features and was very good value for money. 'The Ferrari of the toaster world,' said Ben Eddy. 'Great features, excellent even toasting for that all over tan. Can take real doorstep slices,' said Dominic Simon. The testers also liked the cancel button, which saves pushing the plunger up if you change your mind about how brown you want your toast.

***ROWENTA SENSOR ELECTRONIC

39.99 pounds. Two single slots

Scored well all round,

although possible problem with uneven toasting

The Rowenta got top marks for having controls that were simple to understand and for its looks (it's made of chrome). But one of the models we tested fell down badly on how evenly it toasted: 'Cooks one side twice as much as the opposite,' said Ben Eddy. Other testers thought the spring in the plunger felt worn out. But they liked the shiny look, although as Ben Eddy said: 'You can see your face in it, which can put you off your breakfast.'

***TEFAL CLASSIC HI-SPEED

23.99 pounds. Single long slot

Scored well, though features are nothing special

This toaster, it's claimed, browns in half the time others take. Our testers did find it toasted quickly, although Dominic Simon said: 'Intensive toasting doesn't necessarily mean thorough toasting. The inside was a bit doughy.' The toaster scored well on most criteria, although it doesn't have as many useful features as, for example, the Morphy Richards. 'Nice and simple, no-nonsense toaster, easy to use but not particularly even toasting - although by now we are professionals and insist on perfection,' said Dominic Simon.

Next Week: Thermal underwear

(Photographs omitted)

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