I imagine there’s an entire community of “line-dry” enthusiast somewhere in the world — people dedicated to the benefits of line-drying all their clothing after washing. The way some people eat gluten-free or sustainable chocolate bars. Like a lot of things, it’s a nice idea, but not an option for everyone.
Fortunately, GE hasn’t abandoned the rest of us to a world where we walk around in damp clothes following overcast, sunless weekends. The GE GTDS820EDWS is a front-loading 7.8-cubic-foot dryer (a sibling to the GTWS8650DWS washer) with a neat steam feature, but ultimately not enough to set it apart.
From the outset, the GTDS820EDWS gives the impression of a better-than-average dryer, especially in the looks department, thanks to a broad glass panel on the door letting you look into your dryer while it’s active.
A flurry of smartphones and tablets (and internet refrigerators) has led me to expect LCD panels on everything, including appliances you might tuck away in a mudroom. The panel GE offers here isn’t one of them, unfortunately. It does have indicator LEDs everywhere, and a two-digit, seven-segment digital display to provide a few status messages. This isn’t bad (or even necessary), but it does end up making the dryer feel a tad dated – it reminded me of using your 7th-grade calculator to spell out hELL0.
The control panel is nonetheless well thought out, if somewhat low-tech. The panel features a power button (which functions more as a “wake up” button) and a start button, as well as selection buttons for temperature, time, and dryness. These three values affect how the dryer runs, and each steps through four or five values.
A selection knob toggles among the dryer’s presets. The GTDS820EDWS has 13 in all, including the presets you’d expect with a few specialty settings for good measure. A setting for Towels/Sheets is nice. Jeans? It makes sense, but do people really dry them separately? Settings like Bulky Items, Steam Refresh, and Steam Dewrinkle hint at the dryer’s versatility too.
GE provides flexibility from the presets as well: You can use the buttons to adjust any of the three settings (temperature, time, or dryness) to leave your clothes in longer and dry at a cooler temperature, for example. The Level button adjusts how dry you want the load to be and relies on the dryer’s internal sensors to determine the moisture left in your garments. (Not all cycles use this sensor, however; Jeans does, others do not.)
Temperature also has four options, from extra-low to high. GE recommends using high on cotton, and most of your washables will have a care tag that recommends what heat level to use.
The dryer receives water from a cold water line and adds a spritz as your garments tumble to gently steam them.
The panel also offers an “eDry” display, a five-segment light bar telling you how environmentally responsible your drying is. The planet thanks you for adjusting your use accordingly.
The Dryer’s beeping was not unpleasant, but after going through several settings I ended up turning it down. There’s also an option to turn it off completely.
There’s a classic trick among college students who need to get out wrinkles in a hurry: Sprinkle a bit of water on a shirt or a pair of slacks and throw them in the dryer for about 15 minutes. It doesn’t always go smoothly, however — too much water and you have damp pant legs, too little and your wrinkles are only slightly less visible (and you’re 15 minutes late).
GE and other manufacturers have turned this old trick into a nice feature. The dryer receives water from a cold water line and adds a spritz as your garments tumble to gently steam the clothing, reducing wrinkles. There are two modes: Steam Refresh handles one shirt or a couple garments, while Steam Dewrinkle is best for when you need to de-wrinkle all of your office attire in one go.
The feature does require hooking up a water hose to the dryer, and GE suggests using a Y-connector on the cold water line going to your (hopefully close) washing machine.
Testing the tumble
Like its matched-pair washer, this dryer suffers from the familiar 21st-century bane: plastic. Plastic is everywhere and this dryer is no exception. The main body is stainless steel, which I love, but the control panel, knob, door frame, and handle are all wrapped in mildly-flexible plastic. If you’ve ever laid your hand on a beautiful, chrome plate to find it’s just a piece of plastic, you’ll appreciate why this drives me up the wall.
I found the door to the dryer to be excessively difficult. Dryer doors need to offer just the right amount of resistance: Too hard for a toddler to open, yet easy enough to whack closed. This door needed an extra “oomf” to pull open, and there’s no hope of closing it without putting at least a little weight into it.
More significant, the capacity didn’t feel sufficient. Other folks in the Digital Trends office expressed a similar feeling: There’s plenty of room in the dryer, but it doesn’t feel like it’s well suited to the companion washing machine. And this is a pair that features a “CleanSpeak Communication System,” essentially Ethernet ports on the back of the machines to let them communicate about load size.
How does it dry?
During testing, most clothes dried just fine, although my socks did remain damp in the toes. I had used the Dry setting, which is second only to More Dry in duration. I didn’t experience any other kind of dampness or wetness in any other articles of clothing. And the dryer did a wonderful job getting workout clothes and towels completely dry. Still, it was mildly disappointing.
Drying times range from 40 minutes to more than 75. More so than with the washer, the dryer’s number provided little more than an estimate. When telling my wife that I’d be headed out in about 10 minutes, I found myself seeing the dryer estimate 15 and finish in 7. Drying isn’t an exact science, of course, yet I found the updated value towards the end of the cycle less reliable than the initial estimates. When using the sensor-based cycles, the dryer does its best to determine if your load has dried to the cycle you’ve set; this means that as your clothes are tumbling around in there the estimate is going to flex up and down depending on what it’s seeing.
I found the noise level comparable to other dryers I’ve used and owned; you’ll hear the same blower noise and tumble sounds from the GTDS820EDWS as you’ll get with any model. I watched television in another room with the door open from about 30 feet away and could comfortably ignore the noise. Had it been behind a closed door — or more important in a laundry room or out in the garage — I suspect it would be imperceptible.
How does it match up?
The Manufacturer’s price for the GTDS820EDWS is $1,099. But you can find it for $200 less than that without much work — even just at your local appliance store. (Take note: GE offers a discount program for purchasing a washer/dryer pair together.) Unlike its sibling washer, this dryer comes only in white, so if you want a charcoal-colored dryer you’ll need to step up to a different model.
GE has competition at this price with similar features. LG, Samsung, and Whirlpool all offer similarly sized dryers, with similar features and even similar control panels. LG’s DLEY1701V at about the same price, with all push-button controls and a slightly smaller capacity and Whirlpool’s WED8500BC is a very similar dryer available in more colors. The washer half of this pair really impressed us with its feature set and performance; I was disappointed when I didn’t see new and surprising things in the dryer as well.
But at the end of the day, the goal is to dry clothes. And the GE does get the job done – just with less flair than I hoped to see.
- Controls are nice to use
- Lots of options for drying
- Steam refresh gets out wrinkles in a rush
- Plastic everywhere
- Capacity doesn’t match its sibling washer