GE Profile Opal 2.0 Ultra Nugget Ice Maker review: The coolest new smart kitchen gadget

Some smart home gadgets can be considered essential. A smart thermostat can save you money, and a smart door lock can keep you from getting locked out. But unlike those gadgets, it’s hard to argue that you should need the smart GE Profile Opal Ultra 2.0 Nugget Ice Maker ($579, or $629 with the side tank). However, you can want to this gadget — because it makes The Good Ice.

Nugget Ice is a hill where many will die – my family included

Yes, $630 is lots of money for any countertop gadget, let alone one that just freezes water. Spending that much on a connected gadget whose intelligence is largely limited to scheduling and asking Alexa to make more ice feels like an even bigger challenge. But nugget ice is a hill many will die over — my family included. It just makes drinks taste better, they cry. Anything that encourages my kids to stay hydrated is a big win in my book.

If you’re not familiar with nugget ice (also known as chewable ice, Sonic ice, pellet ice, or as my family calls it, “the good ice”), it’s actually small chunks of ice made from layers of ice flakes that are frozen together. It’s seriously addictive and goes well with everything from a tall glass of water to iced tea to lemonade. It’s practically mandatory if you’re making Tiki cocktails.

Nugget ice can turn a room temperature drink into a cold drink in seconds and doesn’t melt as quickly as crushed ice. It’s also really fun to chew on. My daughter loves eating a glass full of ice.

Unfortunately, there is no refrigerator that can make true nugget ice. Samsung makes one that makes “ice bites,” small ice cubes, but apparently that’s not the same thing. So, go to the counter or the drive-thru.


The Ultra is an updated version of the already pretty great GE Profile Opal 2.0, which claims to make cleaning less of a chore by adding new features like a filter to handle mineral buildup.

In the week that I’ve had the Opal on my counter, it’s become my family’s favorite kitchen gadget. They love to scoop the nuggets into a tall glass of lemonade or fill their Tervis cup before braving the summer heat.

The Opal is super easy to set up, simple to use, and makes ice really fast — up to 38 pounds per day. It doesn’t require any plumbing, just electricity, but you’ll need the optional water tank if you want a steady stream of ice. We only have to refill it every other day on average, and it’s more than enough for the four of us.

The Opal is my family’s favorite kitchen gadget

The biggest drawback so far is that the Opal Ultra is noisy. The hose makes a high-pitched whining noise as the water filters through it, and the ice production clumps slightly. But here’s where the smarts come in: you can schedule when it makes ice in the Smart HQ app to avoid disrupting movie time, or you can just tell Alexa or Google to turn it off.

First launched in 2015, the Opal is the fourth iteration of GE Profile’s popular nugget ice maker. It comes with a number of behind-the-scenes improvements to make cleaning the machine easier. These include a new scale-resistant water filter, a reusable air filter, and notifications that let you know when it’s time to sanitize or descale (on the machine and in the app).

All of these improvements should theoretically extend the time between cleaning/descaling and keep your ice cream tasting better for longer. (The good news for current Opal owners is that the new water filter is compatible with existing models.)

Upgrades for the Ultra include a magnetic scoop holder and a stainless steel scoop.

The cleaning/descaling process is lengthy. It requires a special solution (or vinegar, if you prefer) and up to a day of downtime while it does its work. And you have to keep up with it if you want the machine to keep making fresh ice. In the short time I tested the machine, I didn’t get a descaling warning, but I did get the sanitizing warning, which comes up after 25 hours of making ice.

The sanitizing process was largely painless and took about 30 minutes. However, combined with descaling, which you’ll need to do every 2 weeks to 4 months depending on the hardness of your water, this unit does require a lot of maintenance. (GE Profile notes that if you use distilled water in your Opal, you probably don’t need to descale it, but you should still sanitize and clean the unit.)

The Ultra is available in new colours and with a magnetic scoop holder and a stainless steel scoop

Other updates with the Ultra from the current Opal 2.0 model include new colors (white or black in addition to stainless steel) and an improved touchscreen for powering on/off, connecting to Wi-Fi and checking status. Plus, there’s now a magnetic scoop holder and stainless steel scoop — making it easier to store the scoop on the side of the unit and should help with cleanliness.

If you can get the Opal 2.0 on sale, it’s probably your best bet. Overall, the upgrades to the Ultra feel like aesthetic and quality improvements. You’ll still have to clean the machine manually, though perhaps less often. Additionally, starting in August, you can buy the new water filter and scoop and holder separately and use them with the Opal 2.0, though that could negate most of your savings.

The Opal 2.0 Ultra is very expensive, requires a lot of maintenance, and takes up a huge chunk of my countertop. But it does an excellent job of producing fresh, chewy, crunchy ice that makes any drink taste better. It’s also one of the few smart gadgets I’ve brought into my home that everyone in my family loves — and that’s saying something.

If you also crave delicious ice cream and you know that you have to do a lot to get it, then you will be very satisfied with this device.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy/The Verge

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