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We've updated our tests to better reflect improvements in today's washers and changes in the way you use them. (See page 91 for more details.) As a result of these changes, overall scores for washing performance are lower than in the past. While excellent washing performance is harder to come by with our more demanding tests, many of the tested models did a very good job and should satisfy most users.
As the Ratings show, top-loaders priced as low as $350 got very good washing scores, as did front-loaders selling for $1,000 or more. Models differed more in energy and water efficiency, gentleness, capacity, and noise. The higher-priced models were more likely to score well on all counts.
Some of the new high-efficiency top-loaders were outstanding, but we don't yet know how reliable they'll be. There are issues besides reliability. The Maytag Neptune FAV9800A[WW] (1) set a new standard for excellent washing performance--besting even the front-loaders in the group--but it was tougher on clothes than other models. The Kenmore (Sears) Elite Calypso 2408 (2), which has scored among the best top-loaders since we began testing these models three years ago, tangles and wrinkles clothing. In addition, our repair data for this and the Whirlpool Calypso indicate a higher-than-average need for repairs in recent years.
Guide to the Ratings
Overall score is based mostly on performance, capacity, energy efficiency, and noise. Water efficiency and gentleness are also considered. Washing performance indicates how well each machine removed soil in the most-aggressive normal cycle, for both an 8-pound load and a maximum load. Energy efficiency is based on the energy needed to run the washer and to heat the water for a warm wash, and the amount of water extracted in the final spin (which reduces time in the dryer). Water efficiency reflects how much water per pound of laundry it took to do an 8-pound load and each machine's maximum load. Capacity measures how large a load each machine could handle effectively. Models with lower scores for gentleness are more likely to cause wear and tear to clothing. Panelists gauged noise during the fill, agitation, drain, and spin cycles. Cycle time is for the normal cycle, rounded to the nearest 5 minutes. Price is approximate retail. Under brand & model, bracketed letters or numbers indicate a color code.
Fine performance at a modest price:
4 Maytag $480, CR Best Buy
13 Whirlpool $380
Of these two conventional top-loaders, the Maytag (4) did somewhat better in overall washing performance.
Outstanding but pricey front-loaders:
30 Whirlpool $1,000
31 Kenmore $1,100
32 LG $1,030