Both professional reviewers and home bakers say the Panasonic Automatic Bread Maker with Yeast Dispenser SD-YD250 (*Est. $120) offers great performance and a solid array of features. Editors at BreadInfo.com highlight its sturdy construction and versatility (multiple settings include three loaf sizes; a choice of dough, cake or bread; and a yeast dispenser) allowing for a seemingly endless combination of baked goods. They do consider the lack of a viewing window a negative, but add that most experienced bakers don't really care about this feature.
At Slate.com, writer Mason Currey names this Panasonic model his top pick among the five he tested, noting that it reliably produces nice loaves with a good flavor. The Wall Street Journal's editors say the yeast dispenser makes the mixing process less daunting, but they point out that its basic cycle takes longer than other models, and it can creep across the counter because of vibrations during use.
Users at Amazon.com agree that the SD-YD250 is a sturdy, flexible machine that makes flavorful loaves, and they praise its ease of use and cleanup. Most owners don't seem to care about the lack of a viewing window resulting in a high average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5, based on more than 1,070 posts. Additionally, more than 20 owners posting to Viewpoints.com give the machine an average 92 points out of 100.
Two other well-rated machines fall into the same price range: the T-Fal Emerilware Bread and Baguette Maker (*Est. $125) and the Cuisinart 2-lb. Convection Bread Maker CBK-200 (*Est. $125). The Emerilware model earns the most praise for its baguette function, which editors at BreadInfo.com call "ingenious" and "fun." Other reviewers express satisfaction with its breads and baked goods as well as its ability to make large loaves -- up to 3 pounds. Nevertheless, some Amazon.com users report mechanical problems with the unit and poor customer service, and editors at The Wall Street Journal find the "bulky" plastic exterior and "unmissable" Emeril logo to be major detractors.
The Cuisinart CBK-200 boasts several features not commonly found in bread machines, including a convection fan, an indicator that tells you when to remove the kneading paddle (so it won't make a hole in the bottom of your bread), and an astounding number of cycles including low-carb and gluten-free. However, according to BreadMachineDigest.com, the design of the loaf pan requires you to stop the kneading cycle to scrape down its sides, or else you will end up with loaves that have floured corners. Mason Currey, in a Slate.com review, says his only two "dud" loaves came from the Cuisinart CBK-200, and even the good loaves had tough crusts. He also notes that it is a bit loud.
Among users, the 425 users posting to Amazon.com give the Cuisinart CBK-200 an average rating of 3.3 stars out of 5. We read several reports of breakage, lopsided loaves and burned bread, and owners who like the Cuisinart CBK-200 say it takes some trial and error to produce a good loaf.