Top-loading washers -- both standard-efficiency (generally with an agitator) and high-efficiency (generally agitator-free) -- do not fare as well in reviews as front loaders. However, we did find one top loader that gets very good ratings from both pros and consumers alike: the LG WT4801CW (*Est. $750). This Energy-Star-rated washer has a capacity of 3.7 cubic feet, as well as nine wash programs, a see-through lid and a maximum spin speed of 1,000 rpm. Instead of a traditional agitator, it uses a high-pressure water jet to loosen soils and stains during rinse cycles. The washer has a one-year warranty, but the motor is covered for a full 10 years and the stainless-steel drum for life. Available in white only, the LG WT4801CW can be paired with the electric LG DLE4801W (*Est. $750) or gas LG DLG4802W (*Est. $850) dryers.
The LG WT4801CW does very well in professional reviews. In one test, it outperforms all other top-loading washers, earning top marks for its cleaning performance, low water use and lack of vibration. Like many high-efficiency top loaders, the LG can be rough on clothing. In reviews, a number of owners say clothes can become tangled and wrinkled in this machine. Despite this, the LG earns average ratings of 4 stars out of 5 or higher from hundreds of reviewers at the retail sites BestBuy.com, AJMadison.com and HomeDepot.com. Its cleaning performance, quietness, efficiency and ease of use are all singled out for praise.
The most common complaint we saw about this washer concerns its reliability. One particular problem crops up multiple times in reports: anywhere from 5 days to 6 weeks after purchase, the washer quits without warning in mid-cycle. This is a serious problem, since it leaves the clothes and water locked in the machine until a repair person can come out to fix it, a process that users say may take several weeks. Thus, while most users are very pleased with this washer, those who dislike it are generally not merely dissatisfied but thoroughly disgusted.
We also found generally good reviews for the Samsung WA5451ANW/XAA (*Est. $1,000). This washer is larger than the LG, with 4.7 cubic feet of capacity, and has a maximum spin speed of 1,100 rpm. It is not only Energy-Star-rated but meets the Tier III requirements of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), the strictest standards for water and energy use in the country. It has 11 wash cycles, including a "quick wash" for small loads and a high-temperature sanitize cycle for items such as sheets.
Other features include a stainless-steel drum, a built-in heater and a delayed-start feature that allows you to program the washer to start any time within 24 hours. Samsung's warranty covers parts and labor for one year, the control board for two, the washtub for three and the motor for 10. This washing machine comes in white only; matching dryers include the electric DV5451AEW/XAA (*Est. $1,000) and the gas DV5451AGW/XAA (*Est. $1,100).
The Samsung WA5451ANW/XAA does nearly as well in professional tests as the LG. Although its washing performance is not quite as good, it is gentler on clothes and more energy efficient. We found nearly 200 reviews for this washer at BestBuy.com and Lowes.com, with overall ratings of around 4.2 stars out of 5. Users generally praise the washer's large capacity, quietness and easy-to-use controls. However, some say that its cleaning performance did not live up to their expectations, a problem many attribute to its stingy water use. One user at BestBuy.com complains that the low water level forces you to "split your loads in half," doing twice as many loads and possibly using more electricity in the long run. We also saw some complaints about reliability, often related to control panel failures.
Two Maytag top-loaders, the Maytag Bravos X MVWX500XW (*Est. $700) and the Maytag Bravos X MVWX700XW (*Est. $750), earn good recommendations from users. Instead of a central agitator, these two washers use an impeller that twists to create turbulence and swirl clothes through the water. This design also leaves more wash-basket space available for laundry, effectively boosting the machines' capacity. Both washers offer 3.6 cubic feet of space, have a maximum spin speed of 800 rpm and meet CEE Tier III efficiency standards, which are more stringent than Energy Star criteria.
The main difference between them is that the MVWX700XW has three additional wash settings (for a total of 11), including a special allergen cycle that Maytag claims will remove 95 percent of common allergens such as dust mites and pet dander. Also, the MVWX500XW comes in white only, while the MVWX700XW is also available in a "liquid silver" finish (as the MVWX500XL) for an additional $100 or so. Both machines are covered by a one-year warranty, with the wash basket and motor covered for 10 years. Either washer can be paired with the electric Maytag Bravos X MEDX500XW (*Est. $725) and the gas Maytag Bravos X MGDX500XW (*Est. $825) dryer. Maytag also offers a pricier electric dryer, the MEDX700XW (*Est. $800) that goes with the MVWX700XW, but this dryer does not come in a gas version.
The two Maytag washers get mixed ratings in professional tests. Their cleaning performance is very good, and vibration is minimal. However, they are somewhat noisy, and they are rougher on clothes than most top-loaders. We found more than 125 reviews for the Maytag Bravos X MVWX500XW from users at HomeDepot.com and Sears.com, with overall ratings of around 4 stars out of 5. Users say they love its capacity, efficiency and quietness, but we read many complaints that its actual cleaning performance is subpar.