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Steam Iron Performance (continued)

Ease of Use.

Generally speaking, irons are uncomplicated appliances. Indeed, the basic, no-frills, "old-school" styling and features of the Black & Decker F67E Classic account for much of its appeal.
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But some of the 21st century bells and whistles found on other models win over plenty of consumers. The catch is, sometimes these features turn out not to be so user-friendly. The cordless option on the Smartek ST2000, for example, is a welcome convenience, according to reviews of the best irons at Walmart, and Amazon, but the allure wanes due to problems with the docking mechanism on the power base and the frequent need to reheat the iron; consumers also grouse about its weight and bulkiness when using the power cord. And the "intelligent" temperature control on the Shark Professional Rapido G1468 might just as well be dumb, say steam irons reviews on Target, because the location of the settings function makes it all too easy to accidentally hit and change it; a similar complaint is lodged against the Panasonic NI-S300TR. One user notes that she bought the T-Fal Ultraglide Easycord partly because of the retractable cord but then struggled to figure out how to use it. And the fabric guide on the T-Fal Prima FVB3056 uses a dot code that requires the owner's manual to decipher. And we read a number of steam iron reviews for the Panasonic NI-S300TR that respond to users' grousing about leaking water by stressing the importance of first reading the manual: the iron apparently won't leak if you switch on the steam after the water reaches maximum heat.

For our top picks, these are minor issues that don't deter most users. In fact, consumers say the models on our list of favorites make ironing less of a chore and one that's completed in record time. They tell of ironing a man's shirt 20% faster with the Panasonic NI-S300TR and a chiffon blouse in less than 60 seconds with the Black & Decker F67E Classic. Best iron reviews extol the virtues of the T-Fal Ultraglide, noting that the cord doesn't get in your way, the water tank is easy to fill, the iron feels solid and is stable when resting on its heel. Consumers like the heft of the aluminum housing on the Black & Decker F67E Classic, according to steam iron reviews on the Macy's website, and the general ease of handling. Reviews of the best irons say the Panasonic NI-S300TR doesn't require frequent refilling and the curved titanium soleplate with its sharp point makes quick work of creases and pleats. And the T-Fal Prima FV3056 wins points for its evenly distributed weight, wide heel that keeps it from wobbling while resting on the board, and a cord that's lefty-friendly.

Iron Durability.

Irons take an amazing amount of abuse. Steam iron reviews refer to their being knocked over by 20-pound cats, flying out of RV cabinets, tugged at by children, toppling off the ironing board, and so on. Users seem perfectly willing to take the fall for their iron's demise due to such mishaps, but they get cranky when an iron -- even a cheap iron -- gives out in a matter of months, let alone days.

Review continues below

Our top picks seem to suffer few problems with durability. The Black & Decker F67E Classic benefits from its all-metal construction, say consumers, many of whom tell of having used one for years and buying a new model when the old finally gave out. The reasonably-priced T-Fal Ultraglide FV4379 holds up better than bottom-of-the-line models, assert steam irons reviews, although a few note some leaking and say the steam can be erratic at times. We found a few scattered comments about leaking with the T-Fal Prima FV3056 and Panasonic NI-S300TR, with a couple reporting early flame-out of the latter but also accounts of having used this model for several years. Compared to the other irons we researched, build quality issues afflict the Shark Rapido G1468; users report issues like a short in the cord, flaking chrome, inaccurate timing on the auto-shutoff, stuck steam buttons, and units that quit in a matter of weeks. The Smartek ST2000 also takes a few hits for its flimsy construction and design.

by Elizabeth Sheer (Google+ Profile)

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