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As front-loading washing machines have gained in popularity in the U.S. over the past few years, they've raised the bar for overall washing-machine performance. Front-loaders, which tumble clothes much like dryers do, have generally outshone top-loaders by combining excellent cleaning ability with unmatched gentleness and efficiency in both water and energy usage. Then late in 2000, Sears introduced the Kenmore Elite Calypso, a top-loader with an innovative wash technology that claimed to do all a front-loader could and then some, because it was large enough to wash comforters, pillows, even 20 bath towels in one load.
For this Update, we tested the Kenmore Elite Calypso 2106 and six other top-loaders introduced too late for our full report last August. (Carryover models are also listed in the Ratings.) Our initial tests indicated that the Calypso lives up to its claims--its performance places it among the best washing machines we've ever put through the wringer. But, it's worth noting that the repair history for this model may differ from that of other Kenmore washers since it uses new technology. Also, at $1,250, the Calypso costs even more than some front-loaders and twice as much as many top-loaders.
If your budget doesn't stretch that far, you should be able to find a less expensive washer you'll be happy with among the 15 other machines in our Ratings. Among those with interesting innovations are two new models, the Fisher & Paykel GWL10 and the Whirlpool Gold GSX9885J, and one carryover from our August report, the Kenmore 2005. All three are top performers that have taken a cue from the front-loaders to improve their performance.
TESTS AND RESULTS
Washing ability. Both top-loaders and front-loaders did a fine job cleaning our test load of soiled cotton swatches, with most machines scoring excellent. We saw more of a difference in gentleness between the two types. The top-loaders as a group were harder on the laundry than the front-loaders, fraying the edges of the test swatches. The exception was the Kenmore Elite Calypso. Like the front-loaders, this top-loader was both gentle and extremely effective at removing dirt.
That's probably because the Calypso doesn't agitate laundry like a typical top-loader does. Rather, its wash plate (which looks like a giant juicer; see photo below) lightly bounces clothes while a relatively small amount of soap-saturated water continuously showers them. Note that the Calypso earned its excellent washing score when used with a front-loader detergent, which tends to cost more than the top-loader type. When tested with top-loader detergent (a smaller amount than normally used with a top-loader), its washing score was a notch lower, very good.