With sophisticated sensors and advanced controls, even the simplest kitchen gadget has grown up. We tested four of the latest models by lining them up, loading them to full capacity, and setting them to all levels so we could compare each model's bread for color, consistency, and texture. We also evaluated each model's independent features and build quality. Here are four we liked best, though, like all appliances, each had its drawbacks.
Breville Lift & Look Touch
This five-setting, cool-touch model boasts a pair of large slots that fit four slices of toast or two slices of thickly sliced bread. It's also outfitted with a number of features, from an LED indicator that clearly shows the time until your toast pops up to a toast-ready chime. (There's also a great button called "A Bit More," which gives a quick browning to almost-done bread.) This all comes at a space premium: It's eight inches tall and nearly 15 inches long. The Breville is the best-looking toaster, but not the most consistent browner. [$80; brevilleusa.com]
Credit: Photograph by Levi Brown