In the past few years, steam settings for removing odor and wrinkles have become a common feature on many clothes dryers. Most of the best-rated dryers now include this feature, and the difference in price between steam and non-steam dryers has dropped to $200 or so. However, experts are divided over just how essential a steam feature actually is. For example, the editors of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute say it's useful for removing wrinkles, while the editors of ConsumerReports.org conclude it's good for freshening but useless against wrinkles.
If a steam function is tops on your list of must-have features, professionals and consumers alike say the Samsung DV520AEW/XAA (*Est. $950) Samsung WF520ABW/XAA is as good as it gets. Samsung is the best-rated brand in the 2011 J.D. Power and Associates owner satisfaction survey, with more than eight out of 10 owners saying they're happy with their new Samsung dryers. In fact, Samsung is rated No. 1 in five out of six categories: performance, styling, ease of use, features and price.
Though pricey, reviewers say the 7.5-cubic-foot Samsung DV520AEW/XAA offers a lot of features for the money. In addition to its two steam cycles, it has 11 other drying cycles, temperature controls, a moisture sensor and a stainless-steel drum with an interior light. Other features include a door lock, a drying rack, a reversible door (so the dryer can be installed on either side of the washer) and an LCD display. The dryer is available in white or silver (as the DV520AEP/XAA, which costs about $100 more). Either version can be stacked with the matching washer, the front-loading Samsung WF520ABW/XAA (*Est. $1,500) . Samsung's warranty covers the entire dryer for one year and the control board for two years.
The Samsung DV520AEW/XAA performs very well in professional tests. One source gives it top scores for drying performance and capacity, as well as very good scores for convenience and noise level. The editors of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute praise its drying performance and wrinkle removal. They also like the folding lint filter, which they say "traps and empties neatly."
We did not find a large number of user reviews for this dryer; BestBuy.com has about 20 and the Samsung site has another dozen or so. Most owners are happy with this dryer, praising its large capacity, low vibration and multitude of features. Users especially love the steam setting, which they say is great for getting wrinkles out. We did see a few complaints, however. Several users say that bulky items, such as quilts and bedding, have a tendency to ball up in the washer and don't dry thoroughly. A couple of users also note that the sensor settings may leave clothes damp.
We found very few reviews for the gas version of this dryer, the Samsung DV520AGW/XAA (*Est. $1,050) . However, the handful we located at BestBuy.com are uniformly positive. Owners say the machine dries clothes quickly and effectively and is easy to use. They are also find the steam feature handy for wrinkle removal.
Much as users like the Samsung's steam cycle, that doesn't stop them from awarding high marks to dryers that lack this feature. For example, the LG DLE4801W (*Est. $750) is one of the best-rated dryers at three different retail sites: HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com and AJMadison.com. Although this 7.1-cubic-foot dryer doesn't have a steam setting, it does offer plenty of other features that experts recommend. It has a moisture sensor with five dryness settings, 10 preset drying cycles, an interior drum light and a reversible door.
It also includes a clog indicator designed to tell you when the ducts have become blocked by lint; however, experts say this feature isn't particularly reliable and it's best to clean your ducts on a regular schedule. Available only in white, this dryer is the companion to the LG WT4801CW top-loading washer (*Est. $750) , the best-rated top loader in our report on washing machines. It is backed by a standard one-year warranty.
In professional tests, the LG DLE4801W's performance is good but not exceptional. It earns excellent scores for drying performance and very good ratings for ease of use, but testers say it isn't particularly quiet. Users, however, don't appear to find the noise level troublesome, and they are enthusiastic about this dryer's performance and features. Most owners say that the dryer is big enough to hold a comforter easily and gets clothes dry and fluffy, with few wrinkles. A surprising number also express their delight that the LG dryer signals the end of a cycle with a tune rather than an annoying buzz. A few users complain that this dryer takes too long to get clothes dry; one user at HomeDepot.com says a normal load takes nearly an hour, and another complains that the dryer must run through two or three full cycles on its highest setting. However, their experience seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
Reviews for the gas version, the LG DLG4802W (*Est. $800) , are even more enthusiastic. We found about 45 owner comments at retail sites, and most of them give this dryer a perfect score. Owners say this machine dries laundry quickly, thoroughly and quietly, and many note that their clothes come out with very few wrinkles. A couple note that mixed loads -- such as towels washed together with dress shirts -- may not dry fully on the automatic setting, but they do not seem to consider this a serious problem.
The Kenmore 6800 electric dryer (*Est. $800) also lacks a steam setting, but it does feature a moisture sensor, a sanitize cycle, a wrinkle-prevention setting and a capacity of 7.5 cubic feet. One unique feature of this dryer is the heated drying rack, which can speed the drying of items that shouldn't be tumbled, such as shoes, hats and stuffed animals. This dryer is sold only in white and can be paired with the Kenmore 2800 top-loading washer (*Est. $800) . It's backed by a one-year warranty.
In professional tests, the Kenmore 6800's performance is identical to that of the top-rated (and much more expensive) Samsung DV520AEW/XAA. However, reviews from users, though generally positive, are not uniformly enthusiastic. At Sears.com (the only retail site that sells Kenmore appliances), we found about 35 reviews for this dryer, with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5. Users say this machine is quiet and easy to use, with plenty of options. Most owners are also satisfied with its drying performance, although a couple say that clothes still come out damp after two or three cycles. One user claims the fault lies in the moisture sensor, which "assumes that the clothes are dry" if it isn't being hit repeatedly by wet fabric -- something that this user claims will only happen if the dryer is stuffed to the gills.
At the time of this report, the gas version of this dryer, the Kenmore 7800 (*Est. $900) , receives only a handful of reviews, evenly split between positive and negative. Although users like the large capacity, they complain that the automatic setting leaves clothes damp and the end-of-cycle signal is too quiet to be heard outside the laundry room.