Buying a pricey new dishwasher probably won't light up your life, but the Thermador DWHD651JFP, $2,200, gets an A for effort. Its sapphire-blue LEDs beam upon the dishwasher's contents when you open the door, and a set of white lights projects the cycle status on the floor in front of the dishwasher. It's also the only newly tested model to make our recommended list since last July.
You can spend a lot for a dishwasher but in our dishwasher tests we found that you can also get fine results for $700 or less, although some budget models were disappointing. Fortunately, there were some mid-range models that did well enough and now include some high-end features worth considering.
Turbo zone. In our past tests of dishwasher turbo cycles, the added oomph to one part of the compartment resulted in lackluster cleaning for items in other areas. But in limited tests of a new, improved version of that feature on the Kenmore 15693, $1,000, the bowls with baked-on brownie mix we placed in the turbo zone indeed came out cleaner compared with dishes at the front of the rack—with no effect on other items. The rub: using the cycle added 70 minutes to the already 130-minute normal cycle, with about 15 percent more energy used. The model narrowly missed making our recommended list.
Arms race. Can different kinds of spray arms make a difference in cleaning? The Gallery FGBD2435N[W], $400, has a traditional-looking spray arm. The Gallery FGBD2445N[F], $550, has a spray arm that looks like a spinning capital T and comes with claims of better cleaning. The Gallery FGHD2465N[F], $600, departs further with a spinning circular spray outlet with a claim of "four times better water coverage." In our tests, though, the trio had similar wash performance. Mediocre noise or convenience scores kept them off our recommended list.
Hidden symbols. Hiding controls on the top of the dishwasher door isn't new, but the Dacor Renaissance RDW24S, $1,700, takes it to a new level by replacing cycle names with symbols. We found them mostly indecipherable without consulting the manual. The included stick-on guide would have helped—but it wasn't in English. Washing was top-notch, but about two dozen less-expensive models did better overall. Plus the pricey model lacked convenience features available on much less expensive models. And mediocre noise scores kept it off our recommended list.
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