There are not nearly as many reviews for handheld shower heads as there are for fixed versions. Only a few models show up in professional tests, and most of them don't perform well. However, we found a couple of handheld shower heads that receive outstanding overall ratings from users. The clear standout is the Delta 7-Setting Hand Shower 75700 (Est. $25) , which earns an overall rating of 4.3 stars in nearly 600 reviews at Amazon.com. This inexpensive handheld has seven spray settings, which can be selected with a simple dial that users find easy to turn, even with wet hands. Most owners say it produces a strong stream and is very easy to install. The 6-foot hose attachment is also a plus. Reviewers are split on durability: Some say the Delta is very sturdy, while others complain that the plastic parts are flimsy. However, it's backed by a lifetime warranty that covers both the parts and the finish. The shower head is available in white, chrome and satin nickel finishes.
If what you really want is a multi-spray shower system, but there isn't room for it in your budget, the Ana Bath SS5450 Shower System (Est. $75) is a good compromise. This dual-head shower system combines two five-inch shower heads, one fixed and one handheld. Both heads attach to a single shower arm by means of a three-way diverter mount. Each shower head has five functions: saturating spray, massage spray, bubbling spray and two combination settings. The flow rate is 2.33 gpm per head, or 4.66 gpm if you use both at once. Owners love the versatility of this shower system, and they also find it easy to install.
As with the Delta shower head, however, users are divided over durability. Many reviewers comment on how sturdy the Ana Bath feels, even though its parts are chrome-plated plastic rather than solid metal. Others complain that the diverter mount is defective, making the fixed shower head wobble all over the place. One person who complained to Ana Bath reports receiving a letter in response admitting that about one in 200 buyers encounters this problem. Although the letter said the company was working to correct the problem, the customer was still charged a 20 percent "handling fee" to return the defective shower head, despite the company's supposed lifetime warranty.
The Ana Bath is more versatile, but for top performance, ease of use and good durability -- at about a third of the price -- you can't beat the Delta.