Those who want a solid, durable toaster at a decent price will be well-served by the Krups KH732D (Est. $50). Owners say it's attractive, easy to use, and boasts a good number of features, and experts say it performs admirably for the price. It comes in just one finish -- a mix of brushed and chrome stainless steel -- but most reviewers say it's attractive and modern-looking.
Settings on the Krups include defrost, reheat and bagel functions, as well as six browning levels. The slots are plenty wide, handling even large bagels with ease, reviewers say. The extra lift lever also gets kudos because it lifts bread above the slot – no need to stick your fingers or a utensil in to dig it out. However, the feature that gets the most love is the Krups' speed. Both experts and owners say it toasts bread remarkably quickly.
Those who keep the Krups in a cupboard between uses like that it has a place to store the cord. The crumb tray is removable for easy cleaning. We did see a few complaints that this Krups toaster is so lightweight that it slides around the counter when you operate it. Others say it toasts unevenly -- that's a complaint we see with all toasters, however, and this one has few enough that it still makes it into our top spot. It's backed by a two-year warranty.
For a slight step up in features and price, plenty of owners are pleased with the Cuisinart CPT-420 Touch to Toast (Est. $65). This toaster is lever-free, instead relying on sleek push-button controls. It's available in either brushed stainless steel or chrome, and experts give it very good marks across the board for performance and ease of use.
Like the Krups KH723D, the Cuisinart has bagel, reheat and defrost functions. It also has seven browning levels -- one more than the Krups -- and a backlit LCD display. A motorized lift smoothly lowers and raises bread and ensures owners don't have to dig into the slots to retrieve their toast. The wide, 1.5-inch slots are equal to those on the Krups and will accommodate most bagels and thick breads. Some reviewers say it isn't the fastest toaster, however.
The Cuisinart has a removable crumb tray for easy cleanup and a cord wrap for neater storage. There are some complaints of uneven toasting, and some say toaster pastries get stuck in it. It's backed by a three-year warranty.
If you want something a little easier on the wallet, the Oster Jelly Bean 2-Slice Toaster (Est. $30) is a cute little number that also does very well in expert and owner reviews. In tests by TheSweethome.com, the Oster performs nearly as well as high-end models in terms of browning evenness and consistency. It's available in gray and a vibrant purple (Est. $30) that is a particular customer favorite.
The Oster has extra-wide slots that accommodate bagels or thicker cuts of bread, testers say. In addition to a bagel setting, it has toast, frozen and warm options. You can select from seven different darkness settings. Unlike some toasters, this one doesn't wobble on the counter during use. Tests by YourBestDigs.com found that it was fairly speedy as well, producing medium-brown toast in just two minutes.
As for staying cool, the Oster gets mixed results: Tests by TheSweethome.com found that it was still fine to touch during operation, while YourBestDigs.com testers say it became unacceptably hot. Some reviewers also say the bagel setting functions too much like the toast setting, leaving their bagels too crispy on the round side. There is also no cord wrap for storage, but it does have a removable crumb tray. It is backed by a one-year warranty.
If you want to spend the bare minimum on a toaster that you won't be using all the time, the Hamilton Beach Cool Wall (Est. $15) is a well-reviewed option for an almost unbelievably low price. Available in either red as the 22623 or black with chrome accents as the Hamilton Beach 22614Z (Est. $15), most owners say it's a solid performer, especially for the money.
Features are limited on the budget-friendly Hamilton Beach. There are seven brownness settings and simple lever-and-dial controls, but you won't find separate settings for bagels, reheating, defrosting or the like. It does have slots that are wide enough to accommodate wider breads and bagels, however. As its name suggests, the toaster's sides are designed to stay cool during operation, but some reviewers warn that the top still gets hot.
The Hamilton Beach has cord storage and is lightweight enough to stow easily between uses, reviewers say. But some warn that it's so light that it feels flimsy and is too easy to move on the counter. The toaster has a removable crumb tray for easy cleanup. It's backed by a one-year warranty.