When we bought our Opera (Morphy Richards) jug we baulked and laughed at the attached ribbon card on the handle stating that the kettle had been painstakingly painted by hand which then creates an individual and collectable kettle impression! Oh whatever. Yet I have been wrong to mock this following this latest purchase for myself when I started University last August. I couldnt afford another Opera jug (it was around £25 and EBay offerings were still around the £20) but I definitely wanted something as quick and easy to use. Looks wise this model by Kenwood looks nearly identical to our better made and thought out Morphy Richards Opera jug - but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Kenwood's JK406 jug kettle seems to have used Morphy Richards' Opera Jug kettle as its basis for just about everything. But before you get excited (and I know you will since this is a mere kettle review!) there are several problems when trying to copy a successful design...
** Prices and Availability **
Because whilst being unable to buy or find Moulinex's excellent Ovea kettle model from Argos, at £9-99 from Makro this seemed to be a better idea, if not cheaper against the £17-00 priced Moulinex which was the first aspect I looked at when trying to find a cheap 3kw powered kettle. I looked at a lot of high street places such as Comet and Currys but aside from a model from Asda which doesn't feature visible outward water gauges; this Kenwood model from Makro seemed to be the cheapest basic jug kettle, even against other models on sale at Argos and Comet. All I'm after is something that shows the amount of water I put in, boil it up fast, do it quietly and I'm happy. Is that too much to ask for?
At £9-99 after VAT charges from Makro, there aren't very many kettles from a large mass produced company name at the price which offer up basics in modern day jug kettles. Forget 2000 watts or 2.2kw because that is slow compared to a 3kw or more powered kettle and it's a lot faster to boil up water even when filled to the top. Forget bare elements too which leave them open to impurities which can get "baked" on after boiling too. A concealed element covers the boiling element but at the same time it is also easier to clean when general dirt in tap water in time doesn't flow through the filter.
Kenwood responded by sending me a letter to confirm that the JK406 isn't actually available through the high street because it is not a UK model. That seems a bit strange for the fact that it's on sale at Makro.It is also currently on sale at Currys (2007) at £14-99 Whatever, Kenwood UK!
** Nars Quick Skip Product Review Spec **
3kw rapid heating element; its very quick and quiet.
1.5 litre jug capacity with twin legible water gauges.
Permanent pick out water filter; but its a cheap plastic weak mesh filter.
2m power cord with wrap around storage facility
Silver finish with LED power On switch; the LED is at the base of the handle, the finish is sadly cheap plastic.
Light weight easy to carry and to fill straight from the tap through the spout.
Additional light up feature
Price from Makro: £6-99, after tax: £9-99.
Price from Currys: £14-99
** Quality **
Remember the sincerity of copying Morphy Richards? Well its not good news for this Kenwood. On the upside first of all it is a compact 1.5 litre jug kettle which looks okay on any work surface but rather bland with cheap greyish glittered plastic designed to emulate the same model by Morphy Richards. But however curvy and organic it looks the JK406 looks cheap because of the plastic used to create a budget kettle; If you are looking for a stylish kettle, then you may well have to give this model a thumbs down. Why? The problem with the Kenwood is that joins and seals come through the paint, the quality of plastic is largely thin and unyielding and despite the silver glittery look similar to the Opera jug, the Kenwood does try and look professional despite the cheap joins and seals, and it will work well if you are not interested in style but prefer function over form. From a distance the silvery grey kettle looks classy but close up it is really easy to see the cheap plastic quality.
** Using It **
In use, the Kenwood JK406 is easy in terms of achieving a fast boil up time. In less than a minute it is possible to have all of 1.5 litres of hot water and thereafter fill the kettle according to need. I have found though with the same capacity in our family, that the Morphy Richard's own capacity is not sufficient for all three of us in one go. Blame it on the fact that many consumers today worry about emissions and energy drains from small appliances but I've often favoured bigger capacity kettles which can take 1.7 litres or 2.0 litres of water to retain the original amount instead of boiling fresh or re-filling. Here it is no different with the 1.5 capacity on the Kenwood. Although it will fill three average mugs of water, the kettle has to be filled again if you want more hot water, particularly if you have friends around!
Noise wise, in use the kettle is quiet in start up and general use which is a bonus compared to our louder (but older) Opera jug.
The biggest flaw that the JK406 has in my opinion is the water chamber itself. Against the Opera jug which has a flip up locked lid and flips over out of the way, the Kenwood's same copied lock lid action only goes so far. At least if you switch the Morphy Richards on by accident when filling from a tap, the nature of the lid flicks the button back to Off. The Kenwood's switch is located on the handle at the bottom further down and it therefore doesn't have this safety feature.
Filling it straight from a tap can take time and patience, because the actual diameter of the jug at the top is small and difficult to get. Miss the water filling area and hit the spout means filling from a tap is okay but in hard water areas it defeats the purpose of that filter retaining impurities if you are going to boil the water, because the first thing which will flow out from the spout via the filter are the impurities that remained there when you first filled up!! Filled up the normal way means that water impurities get stuck to the proper other side of the washable pick out filter but like the rest of the kettle, this slide out water mesh filter is bonded on the poorest plastic around; bendable and already cracked at one side, the filter does do the job its intended to do, but made of nasty weak plastic.
** Poor Manual Instructions Fail to Spot Features **
The instruction which comes with the JK406 mirror a lot of Kenwood's manuals these days in the sense that it's written on environmentally safe and recycled paper, but the drawings and diagrams of the kettle are average as are the points to how you use and how you don't use the kettle. Much as I know how to use a kettle, I can't believe that Kenwood have missed out on an all important feature which doesn't even get a mention in the manual; the additional light up feature!
Because whilst I was using the kettle late at night, I noticed that whilst the on button lights up, the kettle also has an internal light set inside which changes the original silver pearlescent finish into an almost opaque look aided by a sea blue hue. Infact, what the JK406 does become when used at night, is a cool and stylish looking kettle in poorly lit areas. The blue hue lights up the whole kettle apart from the concealed element and shows the bubbles as well as soon as the kettle reaches the top temperature and switches off automatically. Unfortunately, it also highlights just how thin the plastic is on this kettle at the same time and this means seals and joins will also be revealed in the dark when the kettle is switched on.
** Any other Info? **
Yes. When it is finished boiling, the body of the kettle is extremely hot to hold, and the only way of carrying the kettle is by its handle which has been insulated. Other than that at least the JK406 model is a lot lighter from other kettles I have used, including the Opera jug by Morphy Richards and the Moulinex Ovea jug kettle I bought earlier for the use in an old office job I used to do.
Another small downside is that although twin gauges and a power on switch have been designed to be symmetrical which appeals to both consumers who are left and right handed, the litres symbols are missing from the gauges which is useless if like me you like to cook with water!! I'd have preferred to see litre graduations rather than cup sizes - I don't know anyone these days who uses cups other than mugs and if its for the Americans, well they dont even get to buy this kettle in the U.S so Im clueless as to who the cup graduations are actually for!
Naturally the 2 metre power cord can be wound up and stored under the base and its good that Kenwood have double insulated the cord for this task. The cord however feels better made than the whole kettle!
** Conclusion **
The JK406 is a cheap kettle and it is apparent from the way it has been built. It boils well, quietly and quickly and has an additional water filter which can be picked out and washed in lemon juice and vinegar (the lemon juice tip is from me!) to remove limescale and other impurities. It takes time to get to know the kettle though, from its blue hue internal opaque look, light weightness and difficult to fill water chamber procedures. The general feel however if buying in a shop or inspecting from a box looks like it is made of good quality thick plastic but in use it is just too hot to handle, unless literally you use the handle all the time to pour and fill up with water.
The JK406 however is very cheap to look at, and if you are looking for a stylish kettle which doesn't reveal its cheap build quality I would look elsewhere. One upside of its all plastic design is that it is far easier to clean than fangled stainless steel kettles (use toothpaste to clean them!).
For this returning student however, it has great appeal as it does what it is designed for and adds in a blue tint to my kitchen in dark lighting which offers up the term very cool, from visitors on the late midnight burning oil study sessions. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007
Short name: Kenwood JK406