Just how much money is it worth to you?

Mar 9, 2011 (Updated Mar 9, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Features, cooking performance, powerful exhaust, interface

Cons:Serviceability, quality, Whirlpool support when out of warranty, price

The Bottom Line: Looking for unparalleled features and powerful exhaust?  Look no further, but be willing to open your wallet.  Purchase an extended service agreement!

We purchased this unit mostly because of the excellent CFM rating of the exhaust fan. We do use the fan from time to time, but we quickly fell in love with its features and performance.

And then the fun began.

How well does it work?
Cooking performance is the best we have ever experienced in a microwave. This is probably due to the way it controls power output. Most microwave ovens duty cycle the magnetron, but the VELOS has an inverted transformer power supply to actually reduce the cooking energy output. The results are far superior to the standard duty cycling method. Try heating milk or softening butter in a standard microwave oven and you'll see the difference.

We have steamed vegetables with the provided steamer bowl and we regularly soften butter and reheat slices of pizza better than we ever could with our old microwave oven. The built-in sensing does a great job of boiling water or reheating leftovers. The sensing is based on steam production from evaporation, so sometimes you must remove the food before it actually finishes, especially if it is something that by nature does not have much water content. By the way, I've never cooked a poached egg as well as the VELOS does automatically ("Breakfast food, Eggs, Poached").

Most of the pre-programmed items tend to cook a little longer than necessary. For example, "Reheat, Dinner Plate" defaults to much hotter than necessary; you can change the default, however, so that all future times that particular function is used it remembers what you chose for the "Doneness" level. Unfortunately, any customizations of these things are lost during a power outage.

We used the convection cycle more frequently during the first year to cook frozen pizzas. It definitely cooks better than simple microwaving, but is comparable to using a standard oven. Of course, it is faster and uses less engergy than a standard electric oven. No complaints with the convecting other than the left side of the unit definitely gets hot. But this is typical for convecting.

This unit also has the ability to grill, using toaster-oven-type heating elements. We have never used it as I cannot imagine grilling a greasy burger in a microwave. I'd rather not clean up that mess. Maybe someday I'll try browning some english muffins...

Do you like using it?
The interface is fantastic. The touch screen buttons work well, are logically laid out, and have never failed us. The standard buttons for the light, fan, and night light also work fine. Not sure why Whirlpool didn't just integrate them into the touch panel.  The various built-in cooking functions actually work well.  There are categories for virtually everything from Breakfast Foods to Frozen Foods ("Burrito", for example), Pizza Slices (you choose the number of slices and it does the rest), and Casseroles.  About the only thing it can't do is slice vegetables for you.  We frequently use the multi-stage cooking function, especially to defrost and then cook frozen product (think instant breakfast sandwiches, for example). Set a first stage for 2 minutes at 30% power, and then a second stage for 50 seconds at full power.  Press Start and in three minutes you have a perfectly defrosted and cooked snack.  There are many other things the VELOS can do, several of which we have yet to explore.

The three level light/night light is very bright for lighting up the stove top, and the four speed exhaust fan is as powerful as advertised. Obviously, no microwave hood will ever exhaust as much as a true exhaust hood, but if you want an over-the-stove combination unit like this, this is as good as it comes. We find it exhausts the back two burners as good as any standard hood and exhausts the front two burners better than other microwave combination units. We chose to exhaust our unit using ducting to an outside vent to keep from having to purchase charcoal filters. The unit also has a timer function. We use this far more often than the older style timer on our stove.  It is completely independent from the Microwave or Convection cooking. It is just a small thing, but a very useful one.

When reheating dinner plates, you can do two plates simultaneously. The VELOS automatically stops the carousel, knowing two plates cannot be rotated at the same time. Slick. Of course, they won't cook quite as well, because everyone knows the carousel function helps with cooking things more evenly.

How well is it built?
The fit and finish are as they should be - excellent for a product in this price range. The door opens and closes well, and the inside light is a long lasting LED bulb. The unit physically is substantially larger than most and will stick out from the wall further than you expect. The intake and exhaust are on ports on the top of the unit, rather than on the front above the door as most others. It will sit a few inches out away from the front of the cabinets above the unit where things could fall into the intake and exhaust if you allowed. 

Now for the fun part. We purchased our unit in March of 2009, installed in June. We noticed a couple of weird things happen about a year later, but nothing concrete until September or October of 2010 - of course, after the 1 year warranty was expired. By late October, things really went downhill. The unit would completely power off as soon as the door was opened. No errors, no warnings, no functions from any button - not even the night light. If we unplugged it and left it unplugged for a brief period of time, then plugged it back in, we could get it to work. That process got progressively worse until by February we were lucky to get the unit to work at all.

During that time, we contacted Whirlpool to request assistance of any kind and the response was a cheerful "you're out of warranty, we don't know you and don't care what product you have" situation. I started doing more research on the web and have found many people communicate problems with this line of microwave. Whirlpool simply ignores this.

Long story short - Sears (several) and fixya.com (two) technicians all agreed that these units are a nightmare to troubleshoot and repair due to the many different electronic control boards, wiring, transformers and sensors. To quote a famous engineer, "the more complicated the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."

Here's the bottom line. This unit is as awesome as everyone who has one will tell you. But it comes at a price. Not only the initial, substantial cost, but also on either repairs (we spent over $275 to repair it including parts and labor) or on extended warranties. When Sears finally finished fixing ours after four visits, we purchased a five year extended warranty for another $225. So we paid the price of a new "average" unit, but have our VELOS with a five year warranty instead. I'm okay with this arrangement, and I hope I can buy another warranty five years from now.

Would you buy one again? 
If you want to buy one, get an extended warranty.  Make sure you don't have the unit installed in such a permanent way that it is difficult to remove for servicing, because the odds are you will have to have it fixed at least once during its life.  I have removed mine from the wall three times at this point.

Yes, I would buy one again, but I would get an extended service agreement at the point of purchase and negotiate a discount for that agreement.  This is an expensive unit that will probably need repairs.

It isn't totally made in China, but all of the control boards, sensors, and other internals are.  I had to get three replacement boards for one of the suspected faults before I got one that was not broken out of the box.  The first two literally had components with missing or broken solder joints.  You have been warned.

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