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Dishwashers Performance

The unsurprising revelation in dishwasher reviews is that washing/cleaning excellence is consumers' top priority. Many are thrilled that prerinsing is usually no longer necessary (scrape off the scraps before loading, though), which saves time and water.

Performance expectations also include quiet, trouble-free operation. Our research found that the best budget models deliver, for the most part, on all three counts.

Dishwasher Cleaning Performance.

The four top picks earn mostly commendations in dishwasher reviews for cleaning ability. A small number of dissenting comments are littered throughout, expressing disappointment with leftover tea and coffee stains, oily residues, crusty remnants, and otherwise uneven results. A relatively larger proportion of negative assessments attaches to the very entry-level Frigidaire FBD2400K (starting at $233).

Sparkling clean dishes, glasses, and cutlery is the consensus opinion of the Whirlpool Gold Top Control WDT710PAY (starting at $445). Although a handful of dishwasher reviewers demur, claiming the appliance fails the thoroughness test, the vast majority of posts at Sears proclaim the Whirlpool Gold cleans anything you throw at it, including notoriously sticky eggs and cheese. Similar appraisals of the Maytag Jetclean Plus MDB4709PA (starting at $404) show up at AJ Madison, where reviews attest to its cleaning chops even as a few note the occasional failure to clean off every last baked-on crumb.

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Two other models in the budget category also pass muster with users. Dishwasher reviews at sites such as Abt generally laud the cleaning action -- even with dried-on food -- of the GE GDF520PGD (starting at $359) which is helped along by the unusual inclusion (among low-price offerings) of a third spray arm. Users grouse, however, that utensils don't get fully clean when the cutlery basket sits on the door and caution that the soap dispenser may not open properly when, in an alternative location, it sits on the front of the lower rack. Experience with the Bosch Ascenta SHE3AR56UC (starting at $490) is positive overall. We found strong support for cleaning performance in most dishwasher reviews, but some at Amazon stress the need to scrape carefully and prerinse thoroughly to ensure acceptable results.

Failure to follow those practices prior to loading the Frigidaire FBD2400K guarantees disappointing results, according to comments posted at AJ Madison and Abt. One user writes that unless dishes are washed first they come out the same way they went in -- an observation seconded by some others -- although a few report clean results. This is the only model we researched with a tower wash system (rises up through the center of the tub during the wash cycle) rather than a second spray arm mounted under the top rack (and occasionally a third that would sit at the very top of the machine).

Dishwashers Noise.

Next on the list of user concerns is the noise level. Reviews indicate that users assign high priority to quiet operation, hardly a surprise given the open floor plan in many homes or the kitchen's location close by dens, living rooms, and sometimes even bedrooms. Noise level partly depends on the quality of the insulation packed around the machine when it's installed, but also on its engineering. Fortunately, many manufacturers have been adding features such as sound-absorbing washtubs, vibration absorbers, and low-noise pumps to minimize the din. Their efforts are paying off: Dishwasher reviews indicate that many people who have recently replaced older models are surprised by the quietness of the new appliances.

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Indeed, our top four picks win kudos on this score. Although a few dishwasher reviews grouse that the model of choice proved to be louder than expected, most describe them as extremely quiet; some users even tell of putting ear to door to make sure it's actually running. Bosch dishwashers, in particular, are known for an almost complete absence of noise, and this is the performance attribute that garners the most glowing commentary in reviews of the Ascenta SHE3AR56UC.

Decibel levels for the best budget models range from a very low 50dBA on the Bosch Ascenta up to 57dBA on the Maytag Jetclean Plus MDB4709PA. The Frigidaire FBD2400K, on the other hand, is roundly dinged in several dishwasher reviews for its 62dBA roar. One post at H.H. Gregg tells of recycling the insulation blanket from the previous dishwasher to help dampen the racket.

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