The NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker is a great idea marred by a pretty dismal execution. When it’s working, this machine makes delightfully soft ice pellets at a rapid pace.
You can’t count on it to stay working for long, though. The durability issues that plague this device make it hard to justify its hefty price, and it’s noisier than the competition to boot.
NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
2.5 / 5
- Ice quality is good
- Convenient top-loading design
- Fast operation
- Somewhat noisy
- No automatic refill
- Breaks easily
“Loud, can't enjoy being in the kitchen with this thing running. Ours lasted a month to the day when it sprung a leak and wouldn't make ice anymore. Called the company, got a replacement - even though the part that was broken was a plastic piece and easily replaced, we had to replace the entire unit. It makes great ice, just made entirely of plastic and hot glue.”
Our 2 Cents
This appears to be a budget-quality machine sold at a premium price. It works fast and makes great nugget ice, but it has fewer features than many of its less expensive competitors.
More importantly, it’s got a disappointingly short lifespan, often failing completely after just a few months.
What We Liked
1) High-Quality Nugget Ice
Anyone who’s fallen in love with nugget ice knows how hard it can be to find the real thing. It needs to be crispy enough to crunch between your teeth, but soft enough that you can chomp it without straining your jaw. The NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker nails this balancing act. The machine circulates water while chilling it slowly, producing a steady trickle of chewy, compact pellets.
The ice you’ll get from this machine won’t look exactly like the kind you’d get at Sonic. Several users noted that the pellets were slightly smaller and more hexagonal than the smooth cylinders they were used to. But the appeal of nugget ice isn’t in the shape - it’s in the texture and consistency, and on those metrics, this machine succeeds admirably. The slightly smaller size of the pellets just makes them easier to pop in your mouth.
Even most of the customers who left negative reviews had nothing but good things to say about the ice itself. It’s quite striking to see words like “great," “fantastic," and even “perfect” appear in so many one-and-two-star reviews. When it comes to the quality of its ice, the NewAir model gets high marks.
2) Top-Loading Design
Many countertop nugget ice makers are hampered by an unfortunate design choice: the bins that hold their ice tilt forward and out to open. As a result, the condensation that forms on the glass drips down to the counter. Even more water spills out when you open the machine to get ice. You can reduce the impact of this issue by placing your device on a drip tray or a towel, but it’s still a bit of a nuisance.
And, as the NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker demonstrates, this problem is totally avoidable. This machine sidesteps the dripping issue entirely by opening from the top.
The basket that sits inside the bin is removable, with a couple of convenient handles above the fill line so that you can lift it out and dump the ice into a separate bowl or bucket. It also has a handy slot where you can holster the plastic scoop that’s included with the machine. The water reservoir sits right below this basket, so to refill the device, you just pour fresh water into the same central compartment where you get your ice.
3) Fast Operation
Speed matters for any kitchen appliance. The less time you spend waiting around for your coffee to brew or your toast to pop up, the more time you have for everything else. And a short wait time is especially important with nugget ice, since you can’t store it over the long term - freezing temperatures cause it to harden and lose its chewable softness.
The NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker is one of the faster models out there. This machine begins dispensing ice 5-7 minutes after you activate it, and within 15-20 minutes you'll have enough to fill your cup. The manufacturer specs claim it can produce 40 pounds of ice in a day, which may be a bit of a stretch, but you can definitely churn out a respectable amount if you’re emptying and reloading the machine after each batch is complete.
What We Didn't Like
1) Somewhat Noisy
So far, no one has managed to design a whisper-quiet nugget ice maker. The process of creating and dispensing those delicious, flaky chunks requires more moving parts than you need when freezing ordinary ice cubes. However, even by the standards of nugget ice machines, the NewAir Countertop is loud.
When the machine is running, it produces a steady, high-pitched hum at a volume somewhere between a dishwasher and a blender. You don’t exactly have to shout to be heard over it, but if you’re standing in the same room with it, you’ll never be able to forget that it’s on.
We’re just talking about the noise level this device produces when it’s working normally, of course. If you start hearing a loud banshee scream, a repetitive knocking sound, or a grinding noise, that’s a sign that your machine needs a cleaning or to be repaired.
2) No Automatic Refill
Because you can’t keep nugget ice frozen for long, the machines that make it usually refill their bins continuously. They’ll catch the melting water and cycle it back through until it pops out as brand-new ice. If you leave one of those devices running, you’ll have ice on hand any time you open the tray.
Sadly, the NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker can’t do this. It will automatically stop producing ice once it senses that it’s full, and you’ll have to power it off and on again to get a fresh batch going. This may not be a dealbreaker on its own, but it does make it more likely that you’ll run out of ice in the middle of a party.
In theory, this problem should be offset by the insulated ice chamber. The manufacturer claims it will provide "unmatched ice retention" and keep those crunchy nuggets "ready to enjoy when you are." In practice, many customers report that the ice still seems to melt fairly quickly. It’s hard to tell whether there’s any significant increase in ice storage time compared to the competition.
3) Breaks Easily
And now we come to our biggest problem with the NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker: it just doesn’t seem to have much staying power. Amazon has as many 1-star ratings for this device as it does 4-star and 5-star ratings combined. Many of those critical reviewers have stories of receiving and returning two or three machines in a row because they all stopped working in a matter of weeks. Some report that they could never get their unit to work, others say they got four or five batches out of it before it quit on them.
There’s not just one failure mode, either. Some of these machines couldn’t recognize when they’d been refilled; some of them leaked everywhere; some of them started making horrible squealing or popping sounds. One or two users reported that their ice was filled with little bits of metal or plastic, which is very concerning in something you’re planning to chew on.
The feedback on the company’s website is better, but that appears to be mostly because NewAir provides better customer service than Amazon’s third-party seller. Many of the five-star reviews still mention that their ice makers failed after a few months - the only reason for the high ratings is that customers are happy with the speed with which their replacements arrived. This doesn’t exactly inspire confidence about the device’s durability.
All of the problems above are made worse by the fact that this appliance costs more than $500 (over $600 on Amazon) and that’s if you don’t purchase any kind of warranty beyond NewAir’s 30-day return option. It’s about as pricy as our top-recommended nugget ice maker, the GE Profile Opal, which sports features like Bluetooth connectivity and automated refill - not to mention a longer working lifespan.
Home nugget ice makers are a relatively new technology, so it’s understandable that they’re somewhat expensive. However, this machine simply doesn’t seem to belong in the same price tier as the Opal or the KBIce Self Dispensing Countertop models.
Suggestions Before You Buy
Overall Product Rating
Although the NewAir Nugget Ice Maker produces quality nugget ice at a fast pace, we are truly disappointed by the rate at which these machines break down. With the high price tag and poor warranty period, this ice maker definitely wouldn't be our first choice, but it might fit a small niche of buyers out there.
It’s hard to recommend the NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker considering its combination of high cost, short lifespan, and limited feature set.
Unless you’re so charmed by its high speed and top-loading design that you’re willing to overlook the considerable risk of breakage, you should probably give this one a pass.
Founder of Robust Kitchen