Pros: Super-fast, portable, auto shut-off, heat-resistant handles, drip-free spout, no annoying whistle.
Cons: Smaller capacity than some stovetop kettles, expels steam at the end of heating cycle.
My husband is a loose tea fanatic, having switched from java about a year ago when coffee began to give him heartburn. He used to heat up his water using a stylish Chantal kettle we received as a wedding present. The old kettle looked pretty and worked fine, but had a few major drawbacks: the handle got flaming hot, it took several minutes to heat to boiling, it took up space on our rangetop and would get splattered by cooking food, and most annoying, had an extremely loud, harmonica-like whistle. Since my husband's an early riser and I'm not, I got sick of being awakened from a sound sleep by what sounded like train coming through our kitchen and recently purchased the Chef's Choice Cordless Electric Teakettle 685 for him.
The 685 is shiny, stainless steel, rounded, and also stylish. It's a comparable size to a traditional kettle at about 8" high and 9" in diameter. It has a black plastic heat-resistant handle on the side and another on top of the lid, so you can grab it with an unprotected hand even when the kettle has been heated to boiling. The kettle sits on a black plastic base that contains the heating element. The kettle itself has no cord; it simply lifts off the base and can be carried anywhere to pour, just like a standard heat-on-the-stove kettle. However "cordless" is a semi-misnomer here because the base itself has a cord that you plug into an outlet. This was sort of confusing to me when I was shopping online for the kettle because some stores' pictures of the 685 didn't show the cord. Since the kettle was called "cordless" I wondered if it was battery-powered or something, but that's not the case. Anyway, if you really don't want to see the cord, it does wrap up in the bottom of the base for storage.
My husband's favorite feature of the Chef's Choice is its speed. It heats a full kettle of water to boiling in about 2 minutes. Less than a full kettle takes only about a minute. This is a huge improvement over our old stovetop kettle, which took at least 5 minutes. Since the kettle is metal it retains heat nicely, which is one of the reasons I chose it over a plastic kettle.
Not being a huge boiler of water myself (my a.m. poison is neither tea nor coffee, but Diet Coke), I figured that a kettle is a kettle is a kettle, but I've found that the 685 has many ergonomic features that make it better than its competitors. In addition to being heat-resistant, the handle is positioned on the side of the kettle, out of the way of the fill hole (compare this with the Chantal enamel kettle or Cuisinart's kettles, whose handles are directly over the fill hole). The pour spout is also virtually drip-free. The kettle can be positioned in any place on the base and rotates 360 degrees around the base. Also, the base itself has non-skid feet. The plastic lever that turns the kettle on is large and easily switched (very important when you're in your pre-morning-beverage fog!).
The kettle turns off by itself about two minutes after the water boils, which is a major advantage over standard stovetop kettles. This prevents you from boiling the kettle dry and ruining it, as my husband came close to doing with our stovetop kettle on several occasions. And, it doesn't whistle. Might some people who wander off after turning the kettle on consider this a disadvantage? Perhaps, but we find that the water heats so quickly you'll probably still be next to the kettle preparing your cup, cream and sugar when the water is ready. There's an indicator light that turns off with the kettle, and the on/off switch also clicks audibly to let you know it's done.
We've only owned the 685 for a short time, so I can't tell you exactly how durable it is. However, one feature that attracted me to it in the first place is that the heating element is hidden and never in contact with water. I understand that mineral buildup on the heating element is one reason that electric kettles fail, so I expect we'll get more life out of this one than a competitor whose element is in the kettle itself. The kettle is also easy to maintain. It wipes clean and can be shined up brilliantly with a little Windex. The manufacturer does recommend boiling a white vinegar solution in it from time to time to prevent mineral buildup inside the kettle. This is pretty standard procedure for coffee pots and other appliances that heat water, so it's no surprise that it's necessary for the 685.
There are only two minor drawbacks to the Chef's Choice 685. First, it expels steam from the pour spout at the end of the heating cycle. We keep it on our countertop under wood cabinetry, so I'd prefer that it not do so for fear of warping our cabinets. However, this would be easily remedied by moving the kettle, something we're too lazy to do because it's currently in a convenient spot. Second, it holds less water (1 3/4 quarts) than our old kettle (2 1/2 quarts). 99% of the time this isn't an issue for us, but it could be if you're fixing beverages for an entire household.
Nevertheless, these minor cons wouldn't deter me from buying the Chef's Choice 685 for other tea-loving friends or relatives. It's a fast, functional, and stylish way to boil water.