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I bought a $600 'smart' ice maker and it's as luxurious as I'd hoped

The GE Opal 2.0 is a premium ice maker that features all the smarts to make it an exceptionally satisfying kitchen appliance.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
GE Opal Ice Maker
Artie Beaty/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The GE Profile Opal 2.0 nugget ice maker is a smart kitchen appliance that sells for $579, though it's been on sale lately at select retailers.
  • If you want those satisfyingly munchable ice pellets often served at fast food restaurants, this machine will do the trick. It's also operable via a mobile app.
  • It's pricey, especially given what it is, but I've found the machine well worth the investment.

Whether you call it the good ice, Sonic ice, nugget ice, or pellet ice, there's no denying that the small, munchable ice pellets found in some fast food restaurants are positively addicting.

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I count myself among the ice-chewing addicted. And while satisfying that craving used to mean a late-night restaurant run, I've found that ice is now available from the comfort of my kitchen with the GE Opal 2.0. And in the month I've had this machine, I've used it nearly every single day. So far, it's surpassed my expectations.

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Like its predecessor, the Opal is a countertop ice maker that promises to deliver munchable nugget ice right into your own home in a sleek, stylish package. But the 2.0 version adds a plethora of smart features to make getting it as easy as possible.

The unit comes in at 16.5" high (meaning it fits under most cabinets), 16" deep, and 13.5" wide (additional waterside tank included). It takes up a hefty footprint on your countertop, but that's true of most devices in this category.

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Setting up the machine was a little cumbersome, but wasn't too terrible for a one-time process. It involved creating an account and password, verifying each, connecting to both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and entering codes from a label on the back of the machine.

While it's running, the Opal 2.0 makes roughly a pound of ice an hour. There's no cooler in the catch bin, so you're making ice as needed, and any ice that melts in the bin is recirculated into the water reservoir below. 

But where the Opal 2.0 shines above its competition is its smart connectivity. 

GE Opal 2.0 app
Artie Beaty/ZDNET

All the smart features for the ice maker live in the Smart HQ app, the current home of all GE smart appliances and products. With the app, you can control the bin light (off, dim, or on), turn on the maker, and set a schedule. 

You'll also receive app alerts when the unit needs cleaning and descaling (a process that just involves removing a filter, running a very diluted bleach solution through the tank, and draining the line), which is about once a month for me, or if the ice bin wasn't properly replaced.

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So far, the smart features have worked flawlessly. I set up a preferred schedule when I first got the device, and for over a month my ice maker has quietly whirred to life at 6 each morning Monday to Friday and the first nuggets have hit the bin just before I wake up at 6:15 a.m. When I turned the schedule off for a week when I was out of town, the ice maker stayed silent.

The on/off feature works as intended, as I can toggle the power button in the app and the machine responds a few moments later. This is an especially useful feature when I'm around town, as I can turn the maker on when I'm headed home and arrive at my favorite ice waiting on me. 

Of course, it's also compatible with Alexa and Google Home. 

Do you need your ice maker to be Alexa-compatible? Well, it's awfully handy at times, like when you're in the living room and you'd like a cold drink. You can simply speak the command and ice is on the way. I'm a sucker for smart home tech, and asking Alexa to "make ice" and hearing the machine begin humming in the next room still makes me smile every time.

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Like a lot of smart home features, I questioned at first whether it would be an option I'd even use, but quickly found it becoming a part of my daily routine. 

GE Opal 2.0 ice maker bin

The ice bin pulls out for easy scooping.

Artie Beaty/ZDNET

There is just one issue with the GE Opal 2.0, and it can be a big one. This is a hefty product, and I don't mean the physical size. The price comes in at nearly $600 (even more with the additional side reservoir), meaning this certainly isn't a cheap ice maker. Yes, there are more affordable options, but none of those provide the smart capabilities of the Opal, which moves the needle quite a bit in my book.

GE doesn't tout the Opal 2.0 nugget ice maker as a budget-friendly option. Bluntly, at more than double the price of less expensive machines, it's quite expensive for what it is, and that price will absolutely be a barrier for some people. 

ZDNET's buying advice

This was a luxury purchase, and I knew that going in. But it's been completely worth the price so far. Beyond performing flawlessly both on the mechanical and technical side, it's become a bit of a conversation piece as well, as everyone who has ever seen it immediately says something along the lines of "Oh, it makes that ice!?"

So if you find yourself craving chewable ice as I do and don't mind splurging a little to get that ice on schedule automatically or at the tap of a phone button (and impress your friends in the process), you won't find a better option. 

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