Any garage door opener that doesn't use a chain, belt or screw drive can be called a direct-drive model, making it difficult to achieve consensus among reviewers. However, there is one clear standout among sources we consulted: the Sommer Synoris Garage Door Opener (*Est. $230). Unlike other types of garage door opener that employ a stationary motor that powers a chain or belt, the Sommer's spring-tensioned chain is stationary, and the motor travels along the chain.
One thing is clear, based on the reviews we read: Owners love how quiet the Sommer Synoris Garage Door Opener is. Several reviewers who used to have a chain- or belt-driven opener say the Synoris is the quietest model they have owned.
The Sommer Synoris Garage Door Opener is easy to install, most owners say, taking between two to five hours. Most users say the instructions are well-written, well-laid-out and easy to follow. They also say the drive rail is a snap to extend to the correct length. There's no fiddling with fussy or possibly dangerous force and limit adjustments; the opener self-corrects for a soft start and stop. And finally, it can handle up to an 8-foot-tall garage door without an adapter.
That said, owners also have a wish list of items that could be fixed or improved. As with most garage door openers, owners have to buy their own angle iron or mounting brackets for the Sommer. It includes flat plastic mounting brackets to support the rail, but many users recommend buying angle brackets instead.
The worst that most owners say about their Sommer Synoris Garage Door Opener is that it's slow. Others don't seem to mind, though, saying it's really not that much slower than other models. They're also very happy with its power: the 3/4-horsepower Sommer Synoris is rated for lifting doors up to 550 pounds, and it can easily handle a 16-foot-wide solid-wood door or an 18-foot-wide insulated door with windows. The soft start/stop eases your garage door into place without jerking.
Despite the many positive reviews it receives, the Sommer Direct Drive isn't perfect. A wireless keypad (*Est. $50) costs extra, and some customers say it's difficult to program. We also read a number of complaints saying the remotes are too large to fit in a pocket comfortably. Some owners also struggle to get the Synoris working with HomeLink, a common problem with almost every garage door opener we reviewed. But many say Sommer's customer service representatives made troubleshooting easy.
The Sommer Synoris' usual retail price of $350 might give some shoppers pause, but it's often on sale for about the same price as belt-drive models like the Chamberlain Whisper Drive WD822KD or Genie's SilentMax 1000. Even though each of these belt-driven models gets excellent reviews, the Sommer Synoris remains the gold standard. It pops up in reviews of other models, where the occasional disgruntled customer says that in retrospect, it would have been better to pay a little more for a Sommer. As one Lowes.com reviewer explains, "You get what you pay for -- and with the Sommer unit -- it is worth every penny."