Of all the front-loading machines covered in the reviews we read, the clear standout is the Maytag Maxima MHW6000XW (*Est. $1,100). This 4.3-cubic-foot washer qualifies not only for an Energy- Star rating but also for Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) Tier III certification, the strictest efficiency standard for washers. It has 11 wash cycles, including a high-temperature sanitizing cycle and an allergen-removal cycle that Maytag says will remove 95 percent of common allergens such as pet dander.
Other features include a delayed-start option, a detergent dispenser and a "fresh hold" option that keeps laundry tumbling for up to 16 hours after the wash cycle ends. (This feature can also be used to air out the washer after use.) The washer also comes in black (as the MHW600XG) or red (as the MHW600XR), but both these options add about $100 to its price tag. Maytag's warranty covers parts and labor for one year, with an additional nine years of coverage for the motor and stainless-steel wash basket. Matching dryers include the electric MED6000XG (*Est. $1,175) and the gas MGD6000XG (*Est. $1,275).
The Maytag Maxima gets solid overall ratings from professional reviewers. In one comparison test, it earns very good or excellent scores in every category: cleaning performance, efficiency, noise, vibration and gentleness. Reviewers at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute are not quite as enthusiastic: they say that while it's tough on stains, it can also be rough on delicate clothing. The editors praise the machine's ease of use and low vibration, but they say its cleaning performance is uneven, delivering excellent results on some cycles but poor outcomes with the normal wash cycle. Overall, they give the washer a grade of B-plus.
We found about 170 user reviews for this washing machine at HomeDepot.com and Lowes.com, with overall ratings between 4.25 and 4.5 stars. Owners praise the machine's cleaning performance, large capacity and quiet operation. Some users object to its long cycle time (75 minutes for a typical load), but others note that it saves drying time because its fast spin cycle removes water efficiently. However, we did see some complaints that this cycle doesn't always work reliably, especially with small loads. Users who have experienced problems also say that Maytag's customer service can be frustrating. One customer at HomeDepot.com reports that Maytag's online service would only provide help for a fee of $30 per question.
The Samsung WF330ANW/XAA (*Est. $1,090) also gets good overall reviews. Its 3.7-cubic-foot, stainless steel washtub is covered in diamond-shaped indentations, which Samsung says prevent snags and reduce wear and tear on clothing. This Energy-Star-compliant machine has nine wash cycles (including a high-temperature sanitize cycle), four temperature settings and four spin speeds, maxing out at 1,200 rpm. The Samsung washing machine is also available in blue as the WF330ANB/XAA (*Est. $900), but this model is not as widely available. It can be stacked with the matching Samsung DV330AEW/XAA electric dryer (*Est. $1,070) or DV330AGW/XAA gas dryer (*Est. $1,180). The Samsung WF330ANW/XAA has a one-year warranty for parts and labor, but other components are covered for longer: two years for the control board and three years for the stainless-steel tub.
The Samsung WF330ANW/XAA performs well in one professional test, earning very good to excellent marks for its cleaning performance, efficiency, noise, vibration and gentleness. User reviews for the Samsung washer back up this professional evaluation. We found more than 150 comments about this washer at Lowes.com, BestBuy.com and Sears.com, with overall ratings between 4 and 4.5 stars out of 5. Users praise this front-loading machine's quietness, efficiency and low vibration. The most commonly cited problem is the long cycle time, a trade-off that many users describe as "well worth it" because the clothes come out nearly dry after the spin cycle and require less time in the dryer.
Samsung also makes the Samsung WF520ABW/XAA (*Est. $1,500). This washer is larger than the WF330ANW/XAA, with 4.3 cubic feet of capacity, and it also includes a wider variety of cycles and options. One special feature on this machine that contributes to its high price tag is its steam cycle, which Samsung says does a superior job of removing stains and sanitizing linens. It also has an expanded warranty that covers the motor for five years, along with all the other coverage provided for the lower-priced washer. Available in white or stainless platinum (as the WF520ABP/XAA, priced at about $100 more), this washer can be stacked with the DV520AE/XAA electric dryer (*Est. $1,170) or the DV520AG/XAA gas dryer (*Est. $1,250).
Professional testers are impressed with the Samsung WF520ABW/XAA. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute awards it a grade of A-minus, saying the washer "stands out for its intuitive controls and minimal vibration." They are also impressed with its stain-removing performance. In another professional test, the Samsung earns very good to excellent scores for its performance, efficiency, quietness and gentleness to clothes. This washer is not available from as many retail sources as others in our report, so we found only a limited number of reviews from users. The 30-plus comments we did find at BestBuy.com were generally positive, praising the washer's quietness, ease of use and cleaning performance. As with the less expensive Samsung washer, however, we saw complaints about Samsung's service from those who experienced mechanical problems.
Another steam-equipped washer that performs very well in professional reviews is the Whirlpool Duet WFW97HEXW (*Est. $1,390). This 4.3-cubic-foot washer meets CEE Tier III standards and offers 12 wash cycles, six temperature settings and a maximum spin speed of 1,400 rpm. In addition to its deep-cleaning steam cycle, it has a special allergen-removing cycle and an EcoBoost option, which increases tumbling action to get better cleaning with cooler water. The washer's "precision dispense" feature holds up to 36 loads' worth of detergent, eliminating the need to measure detergent for each load. This washer is available in white or silver as the WFW97HEX (*Est. $1,390). Matching dryers include the electric Whirlpool Duet WED97HEXW (*Est. $1,370) and the gas Whirlpool Duet WGD97HEXW (*Est. $1,470). Whirlpool backs this washer with a one-year warranty.
The Whirlpool Duet WFW97HEXW gets outstanding results in professional tests. The Good Housekeeping Institute awards it a grade of A-minus, with praise for its stain-busting power. Reviewers also praise the machine's FanFresh feature, which "tumbles and airs out a load for up to 16 hours to curb mustiness." Reviewers do say it is less gentle on clothes than other washers, however. In another independent test, this washer achieves top scores for cleaning performance and efficiency, with very good scores for gentleness, vibration and noise level.
We did not see a large volume of user reviews to back up these professional test results, but the 10 or so reviews that we pulled from various retail sites were mostly enthusiastic. Users at AJMadison.com and Sears.com love the FanFresh feature, which they say leaves the washer bone dry and prevents odors. The only negative review we found was at ABT.com, where a user says the machine can damage clothing.