Whirlpool ACM 868/BA/IXL induction hob

Score

Pros

  • Dual flexi-zones for large pans
  • Excellent Simmer function
  • iXelium treatment cleans well
  • Speedy heating of smaller pans
  • Stylish bevelled glass edges

Cons

  • Slow heat-up with larger pans
  • Features limited to specific burners
  • Accurate pan placement tricky

Key Features

  • Review Price: £469.00
  • 4-zone induction hob
  • iXelium surface treatment
  • Dual flexi-zones
  • Keep Warm function
  • Simmer feature
  • Power boost
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What is the Whirlpool ACM 868/BA/IXL?

Whirlpool’s ACM 868/BA/IXL brings a touch of high style to the kitchen, with subtle zone markings and all-round edge bevelling on the glass. This model gets the iXelium surface treatment to make cleaning easy and to resist scratches, a timer and two flexible-cook zones for larger pans.

Heat-up times are great for small pans but rather sluggish for larger pots, and day-to-day operation is quirky until you get the hang of it. The Keep Warm and Simmer features work extremely well and dual flexi-sones open up your hob-top cooking options. While no speed-chef, the ACM 868/BA/IXL is well featured and good value at under £500.

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Whirlpool ACM 868/BA/IXL – Design and Features

Whirlpool has no shortage of induction hobs in its comprehensive lineup of domestic appliances. Tested here is the relatively affordable ACM 868/BA/IXL, boasting svelte looks, a coated glass surface, and not one but two FlexiCook zones.

The Schott Ceran ceramic glass is already class-leading, but Whirlpool has added to its easy-cleaning abilities and longevity with the addition of an iXelium coating. This nanotechnology treatment gives the surface considerably greater resistance to scratching and corrosion than bare glass. For those prone to throwing around the hot oil, boiling sugar or juggling metal utensils over your hob, this could be a handy addition.

The ACM 868/BA/IXL features an all-round bevelled edge to the glass – a welcome addition at this price point – and a unique take on zone markings. While the hob’s four zones utilise round burners, you don’t get any obvious guide to pan placement – just lines at the front and back and an icon in the middle.

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There’s no arguing that this minimalist take on white lines looks rather stylish, but since misplacing the pan on the burner by just a couple of centimetres will reduce heating power considerably, it perhaps isn’t ideal at a practical level.

Conversely, while the pan markers are understated, the array of bright-white legends, logos and controls along the full width of the front edge are a real mug’s eyeful. Thankfully, the red segment displays and marker LEDs aren’t too bright.

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You get individual controls for each of the four zones, a built-in timer and a child lock. Front and rear burners on both sides can be linked together by pressing the plus and minus buttons simultaneously. This allows the use of two very large pans at the same time – although, since the burners are round, don’t expect super-uniform pan base heating.

This Whirlpool tops its features list with a brace of automatic heating features. The left-hand side burners get a Keep Warm function to keep just-cooked food hot and serving dishes warm. The right-hand side burners get a Simmer function. After bringing a pan to the boil, this feature automatically selects the power to keep the pot simmering.

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Whirlpool ACM 868/BA/IXL – What is it like to use?

The iXelium coating gives this hob a smooth, satin finish and a slightly more tactile feel than a pure polished glass surface. The touch controls are responsive, although as soon as we started using this hob we were researching the manual to see how to turn off the annoyingly loud key beeps. Thankfully, it is possible.

In day-to-day use, there are a couple of operational quirks that you’ll need to get used to. When you first press the controls of any zone, it selects the zone only. You then have to lift your finger off and press again to raise or lower the heating level. That does mean a double-press to get going, but it’s hardly onerous when you get the hang of it.

The second operational oddity is the 6th Sense feature control button. This is pressed to activate the Keep Warm and Simmer features, but if pressed and held for three seconds it engages the child lock. Plenty of room for comedy kitchen chaos there then.

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Power level control for each zone is from 1 to 9. Continuing to press the plus button results in a ‘P’ being displayed and the zone going into power boost mode for more speedy heat-ups.

We tried our usual cooking spillages on the iXelium-coated surface and it shrugged off food and oil with ease. The manual recommends soaking stubborn stains with a damp cloth – and that certainly worked well for dried-on egg, beans and porridge oats. We couldn’t really tell if it was much easier to clean than standard Schott Ceran glass, but the satin finish is lush and any technology that keeps your hob looking good for longer can only be saluted.

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Whirpool ACM 868/BA/IXL – Performance

We discovered that all things are not equal. Or, in fact, that all four burners on the ACM 868/BA/IXL are not equal. The back-left and front-right burners are slightly more powerful than front-left and back-right, and as such better for larger pans. The manual doesn’t’ tell you that; we simply found out through testing.

Starting with a 17cm pan and 1 litre of water, we used the back-right burner to heat the contents up to 90°C on the power boost setting. This Whirlpool didn’t disappoint, delivering 1900W of power to our small pan and reaching the target temperature in just under four minutes. That’s super-quick, and subsequent tests showed similar results for the small pan on any of the four burners. A great result.

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However, heat-up times slowed down as pan size went up. For the mid-sized 19cm pan, the hob delivered 2100W of power, raising our 1.5-litre water sample to 90°C in 5mins 15secs.  That’s an average result for a hob at this price level.

Unfortunately, the burner could deliver only 2200W in power boost mode to our 21cm pan. As a result, its 2 litres of water took a very lengthy 6mins 35secs to reach 90°C. That’s close to the slowest result we’ve ever recorded with this size pan and 2 litres of water. We did try the front-left and rear-right burners, but as the hob only delivered 1950W to the pan in these locations, heat-up times clearly weren’t going to get any quicker.

Linking front and rear burners is as easy as pressing the plus and minus buttons simultaneously. This is one of the few hobs that offers this option on both sides, allowing you to use perhaps a fish skillet on one side and a large frying pan or hob-top casserole pot on the other.

The thermal imaging showed two circular burners heating up our large skillet with a fairly extensive cool ‘waist’ area through the middle of the pan. Using pans and skillets with a very heavy base will ensure a more even temperature across the entire pan.

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Just when our technical test results were looking less than impressive, the ACM 868/BA/IXL came back fighting with the excellent Keep Warm and Simmer functions. The Keep Warm pulsed up to 450W into the pan and kept a cooked porridge sample nicely hot without stewing it over a five-minute test period.

The Simmer feature is perhaps even more useful on a day-to-day basis. As the pan comes to the boil, simply press the 6th Sense button and the water drops back to a steady simmer seamlessly. Unfortunately, it isn’t fully automatic, but it does simplify trying to get the right power level to get your peas simmering nicely.

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Should I buy the Whirlpool ACM 868/BA/IXL?

Well featured, affordable, good-looking and offering a unique easy-to-clean, scratch-resistant coating, Whirlpool’s ACM 868/BA/IXL offers plenty for its relatively humble asking price. While its heat-up times with larger pans are rather sluggish, and its quirky operation takes some getting used to, this hob’s dual flexi-zones certainly open up a number of hob-top cooking possibilities for creative chefs.

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Verdict

A well-featured, good-value induction hob with dual flexi-zones – but it isn’t quick to heat up big pans.

Score

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