Most sensible people have one, perhaps two, kettles in their households... I've got four - although in fairness, I only use one at a time - the other three are kept in the cupboard, and only brought out when the need arises. My favourite is the Philips HD 4600 - an elegantly designed and efficient water-boiler that does the job perfectly. That said, it's let down by the fact that it isn't a cordless model - something which my Kenwood SK630 most definitely is. The kettle is of the traditional design, with a stainless steel chromed finish on its outside, and a black plastic handle, base, and inner lid. Unlike the Philips, the Kenwood has remained relatively untarnished over the years, and is still pretty much as shiny as the day it was bought. Cost wise, the SK630 can currently be purchased for £26.99 from amazon.co.uk, or for slightly cheaper if you're willing to buy from eBay.
As I previously mentioned, the Kettle is cordless, and fits easily onto a large black plastic base. It doesn't matter how you place the kettle onto its power-providing station, as the appliance can be rotated three-hundred-and-sixty degrees. The handle is made from plastic, and loops elegantly over the top of the device. It's easy to grip, and overall the kettle is pretty light - even when full of water. The small lid is *fairly* easy to put on and take off (via a raised black plastic handle) - although it is important to make sure that it's fully pushed down before you boil, otherwise the auto cut-off function may not work properly. Taking a look inside shows us that the kettle has a flat heating element incorporated into its base, and a small plastic gauze filter in front of the spout. The filter ensures that any nasties aren't poured into your cup when making a drink, although the kettle will work perfectly well without it.
The capacity of the kettle is 1.7litres (three pints), which is equivalent to around five medium-sized mugs, or eight cups - there's actually a small gauge at the rear of the device which shows you exactly how much water is in the appliance, as well as markers for the minimum and maximum amounts of water.
Turning the kettle on is done via a white lever protruding from the rear of the device which illuminates with an orange glow when the kettle is in use - it actually looks pretty cool. That said, I would have preferred the light to be at the side of the kettle (as in the case of the Philips), as it's much more difficult to see whether the kettle is actually on or not with what is essentially a 'tail light'.
In terms of its boil time, the Kenwood is no slouch - in fact I ran a quick test to compare it to my other kettles. Filling both the (freshy descaled) Kenwood and the Philips with the same amount of water, the Kenwood was consistency faster, and as such should be applauded for its performance.
Now, on to the downsides, and there's a couple of significant ones which really mar my assessment of the product as a whole. The first is a slight metallic taste to the water which has been boiled in the device - It isn't massively noticeable, but it's slightly off putting, and it isn't just me that has noticed it. I've tried descaling, and cleaning with bicarb and vinegar (thanks Nar2!), but the unusual taste still remains. I'm willing to accept that this may be a specific issue with my particular kettle, as other reviews for the device haven't mentioned the problem. The metallic taste does actually decrease as the limescale builds up, although it's not something which is especially reassuring.
The second issue that I have with the kettle is the fact that if you refill it after it has boiled, your hands are likely to get burnt. Removing the lid even two or three minutes after the initial boil releases a massive amount of steam upwards to the exact spot where the handle is - ouch! You may think that this is a generic problem for this type of retro style kettle, but actually, with my similarly designed Philips it isn't a problem.
Overall then, The Kenwood SK630 is a beautiful looking and fast boiling appliance, which is let down by a couple of significant disadvantages. The slight metallic taste isn't particularly appealing, and the potential scalding issues ensure that the kettle will remain in the cupboard for longer than it will sit in the kitchen.
When it comes to kettles these days I often stick with products that match my needs and through work in various schools I've learnt to use kettles kindly that are either 1980s in design and have lasted a long time and endured user abuse. I say this because most teachers by the end of the morning tend to treat their kettles with stress, desperate to get the water boiled for their cup of salvation. Most school kettles either look tatty, bases have cracked by constant plonking once the water is filled to the brim and the buttons lack their auto stop function because teachers are too impatient to wait for the final boil. Oh how I can relate to that! A kettle is therefore a lifesaver for the cup of Cha in many schools and many teachers in their own staff base would be lost without a couple of kettles stored away in case one breaks down.
In the case of the Kenwood SKA630 "round and retro," with its curvy sloping handle, we've had the same kettle for three years and has been utterly reliable without complaint. My colleague who is about to leave the school for example purchased it and it cost £24-99 from John Lewis initially whilst Amazon are currently selling it nigh of £28. Kenwood have done well here when it comes to its general design although I'm not a fan of this rounded looking kettle to my personal taste, preferring a much more practical and safer approach. It boils away quite happily on its black plastic base whilst its stainless steel /chrome body has endured a few bumps here and there due to it being nicked and knocked by several other service professionals. A quick wipe down gives it a nice looking sheen to its stainless steel chrome mix body although the bumps have been harder to push out! The Kenwood is a quick boiler thanks to its 3kw/3000 watt element that is concealed and flat based inside the kettle which aids for cleaning needs - not that our kettle gets a chance to be cleaned much. The Kenwood also has a much-appreciated large 1.7 litre capacity and for 7 staff members in our little staff room, the Kenwood SKA630 is constantly being filled half way to full three or four times a day and only takes less than a minute to boil; a minute and a few seconds more when filled to the top. It has a thermal cut out function and of its design highlights apart from its rounded retro shape I appreciate the orange lit neon power switch location; Kenwood have put it where the cord on 1970's kettles would have gone and still makes an audible click, two years on when bought new.
Sadly, being traditional in design means Kenwood haven't heat insulated the metal body so it does get hot to the touch. Because of its sloping handle and being located at the top, the SKA630 and associated "A" model suffers from poor heat insulation when steam comes off the lid when the kettle needs to be refilled. The good to hold handle gets warm once the kettle has boiled and unless you fill the water through the spout, when most go to fill the water again just after the Kenwood has boiled by taking off the lid, you'll get an instant burn when the steam lifts up. The lid itself does have a nice feel to it; the knob on it feels like it will be there forever and it is made of the same PVC plastic that adorns the handle. Despite the traditional look it is good that Kenwood haven't added a heat dispersal hole on the lid like other traditional kettle brands.
The spout is by far one of the best designs on the kettle itself though; it doesn't splash, leak or trickle when being poured and it has a good wide aperture to it that fills most needs, especially hot water bottles when our heating has gone down! There's less than a metre of power cord which doesn't sound like very much but appreciated of the fact that it can be stored in the black PVC plastic base with 360° rotational access. Frankly I wouldn't have it any other way! If I want hot water for a cup of tea or coffee, I want it in the quickest way possible and I don't generally take heed of how the kettle is placed back on the base.
To avoid being burnt when someone else has just emptied the last of the boiled water, I can fill the kettle from tap to spout instantly without it gurgling. Spout filling however has its downsides. In terms of the Kenwood's capacity, there is a view window located at the back above the on switch. Having the window down one side in the middle means it can be seen on either side if the kettle is plonked down either direction. Marked in white and sadly in cup gradients (we drink out of mugs, us teachers!) the Kenwood is easy to see how much water can be filled. However there is a downside to this; if the kettle is filled from the spout and then placed back on its base, water tends to leak out the back window as the water levels out when put back on the base. Perhaps Kenwood did this as a safety measure because no water leaks out if you fill it once the central lid is taken off or filled through the spout if the kettle is balanced and level at the time of filling. A mesh filter by the spout inside the kettle means most impurities are caught when the water is poured.
Thanks to an infestation of ants we had in our dept one day, we had to constantly check the kettle as they seemed to be hiding in the Kenwood made viewable by the plastic slideable mesh filter located just inside the kettle by the spout. Every time the kettle was filled we'd see an unusual haze of black shinning off the water. Then we pulled out the handy slide out water mesh filter to reveal ants sticking in the filter. However constant checking before the terminators arrived to put down "human safe," traps and powder eventually rendered the mesh coming off the plastic grid due to constant cleaning and scraping. Still, it goes to prove in this rather unusual scenario that the mesh filter does work and lasting for 3 years in this respect; not that anyone in the department fancied a cup of tea made with ant-boiled water!! When it comes to cleaning, the opening at the top is big enough for a swirly brush or wash brush to clean the insides. I've since contacted Kenwood for a replacement filter and at a cost of £4-45 I don't think this is too expensive for something that is going to benefit in the long run.
Kenwood's SKA630 retro kettle is a good-looking and fast boiling kettle with some good design input in my opinion. It isn't perfect due to its hot metal body and filling aspect though - but this is for buyers who adore retro design wrapped in more modern design features. The leaking incident happens IF the kettle is filled through the spout at an angle and if the kettle is over-filled. Personally if it were me I'd have gone for a jug kettle because that's the vital difference where safety and steam are concerned. However I wouldn't get the visual appeal that retro design often employs. Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2010