Samsung WA8700 top-loading washer review

Futuristic, or old school? This Samsung washer with a hand-washing sink is both

Samsung’s built-in Activewash sink is a brilliant feature for stubborn stains and delicates.
Samsung’s built-in Activewash sink is a brilliant feature for stubborn stains and delicates.
Samsung’s built-in Activewash sink is a brilliant feature for stubborn stains and delicates.

Highs

  • Unique utility
  • Excellent capacity
  • Low price point
  • Competitive warranty

Lows

  • Basin obstructs access to detergent tray
  • Long wash times
  • The machine functions while the detergent tray is open

If there is a museum of laundry technology, perhaps it’s not as mundane as one might expect. From possers and mangles to washboards and soap graters, there are as many fascinating old appliances as there are modern methods to clean your dirty duds.

One future highlight of such a museum could very well be the Samsung Activewash, whose built-in basin is as novel as it is distinctive. The model possesses some unique utility, but it compromises a few conveniences as a result. Still, with a price of $1,199 and on sale for as low as $749, you may find that this top-loader is the right one for you.

Hidden surprises

At first glance, the Activewash doesn’t offer too many surprises. It comes in two fairly typical shades: classic white and a dark gray color that will cost on average about $50 extra. The cabinet construction is steel, with the control panel situated on top at the back.

Samsung-WA52J8700A-washbasin
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

What sets this model apart can actually be found right on top. Depressing a distinctive latch at the corner of the lid reveals the main feature of Samsung’s patented Activewash system: a corrugated basin designed to facilitate pretreatment of your laundry load. Coupled with an ancillary jet, you’ll should be well equipped to meet your laundry’s most particular needs all without having to run back to a sink.

Capacity with a compromise

The lid design is peculiarly layered to accommodate the Activewash system, but that construction is also somewhat obstructive. There is a channel cut from the back of the basin to permit access to the sliding detergent tray, but the bezel and hinge for the lid overhang enough to deny access to the tray. Awkwardly, when the basin is in the up position, its convex shape makes pouring detergent cumbersome, too. Some users made note that if you normally make a habit of adding detergent to the dispenser straight from the bottle’s spout, you may be unable to do so at all with this washer. Also, you have to make sure you close the dispenser tray, as the machine will still run if you accidentally leave it open. It’s a small thing, but it’d be nice if the machine sounded a little chime to remind you that you’re about to run a load without any soap.

The drum’s 5.2-cubic-foot capacity handled large loads (and big blankets) well.

The basin itself is a tinted acrylic and forms an asymmetrical shape to accommodate the bleach tray in the front-left corner. As stated, it has corrugations like an old-fashioned washboard to pre-scrub the most stubborn stains on the most delicate garments. The sink fills from a motorized jet at the back-left corner of basin, which sometimes seems to pump a bit too hard, causing some overspray. Tipping the basin back dumps the water and garments into the drum below.

The drum’s 5.2-cubic-foot capacity is competitive with similarly priced and equipped LG models, most of which sport a slightly smaller 5.0 cubic feet. Everyone who used it commented on its cavernous interior —there’s room to do so much laundry! As is commonly the case with this style of machine, some shorter users may have a hard time reaching the last few errant items at the bottom of the basket, but it does mean that you’ll be able to wash more clothes in a single load — always a good thing when efficiency is one’s aim.

A pleasing interface

The primary control interface is the cycle indicator — a large radial dial at the center of the panel — that offers 15 independent settings, including normal, heavy duty, permanent press, sanitize, bedding, deep steam, active wear, delicates and hand wash, quick wash, rinse and spin, spin only, colors and dark, super speed, and brilliant whites. The dial is intuitive and has a pleasant snap and light to accompany each settings’ detent.

As if that weren’t enough options, to the right of the dial is a touch-control panel with an LCD that features an icy blue light and offers clear, readable feedback. This bank offers options for AquaJet deep clean, extra rinse, eco plus, fabric softener, the custom “My Cycle”, delay end, self-clean, and presoak. A central bank of controls offers touch toggles for custom temperature, spin, or soil levels. Above the LCD, a series of arrow-shaped indicators blinks during each cycle to indicate the progression from wash, to rinse, to spin, to end. It’s a nice touch, and resembling of some archaic, mind-numbing Atari game.

Samsung-WA52J8700A-washer-panel2
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Removed from the rest of the controls and settled at the front right corner of the cabinet, an independent touch key starts and stops the flow of water from the Activewash jet. Disappointingly, there is no option to adjust the temperature of the water from this source, so you’ll be forced to pre-treat with a lukewarm stream. The pump’s touch control also feels a bit laggy due to the fact that it relies on a the pumps mechanism to spin up before water can run forth.

Slow, but steady

The Activewash offers an admirable, but not especially timely performance. Unless a specific wash time is manually selected, each cycle’s duration is variable based on an individual load’s detection. With a small load, the estimated runtime of 52 minutes on a normal wash was shortened to about 10 minutes shy of that. A full load using the “superspeed” wash came in a bit slow at 43 minutes, but the settings that we’d selected indicated it’d be done about 5 minutes faster. When we ran a full load through normal cycle with fabric softener it added about 20 minutes to the stated runtime of 1 hour and 26 minutes. On the bright side, each load emerged from the wash admirably clean.

Each load emerged from the wash admirably clean.

Since the hatch lock engages during the machine’s normal runtime, the wash cycle must be paused to use the Activewash feature. This hopefully shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering most washer’s won’t allow the lid to be raised in the midst of a cycle, and the basin is mechanically linked directly to the lid’s main hinge.

The average noise level during normal operation is around 60 decibels, and normal agitation produces a pleasant slosh, which some users likened to a soothing tide. The spinning during the rinse cycle was a bit shaky, and produced a noticeable vibration even with a small load set to the “normal” setting. This could have simply been the result of an unbalanced load, but we did notice that that it occurred more than once.

As is often the case with newer washers and dryers, there’s a happy little chime to notify the user of the end of the cycle. Strangely, this machine goes on just a bit long, not unlike some children’s’ show tune that’s pleasant enough until it overstays its welcome by a few extra measures.

Warranty

Samsung’s warranty is fairly generous, with one year for parts and labor, two years for control board parts, three years for the stainless steel tub, and ten years for the direct drive motor. Comparatively, LG’s standard warranty offers one year of parts and labor coverage, 10 years for the motor, and a lifetime for the drum.

Conclusion

The usefulness of the chief gimmick is entirely contingent on your washing machine’s proximity to a sink. If you’re just a pivot or a turn away from a utility faucet and basin, there are other comparably priced washers that may indeed be a better choice for you. If, however, your laundry niche is in some otherwise remote hallway, you may be glad to avoid dribbling from a bundle of wet clothes as you trek from the bathroom sink to the washing machine.

All told, the Samsung Activewash top-loader offers a noteworthy clean at a somewhat stilted pace, but it does come up against a few design oversights as a result of its otherwise thoughtful and unique features. Perhaps future design iterations will tell if it deserves a place among the marvels of the museum of laundry technology.

Highs

  • Unique utility
  • Excellent capacity
  • Low price point
  • Competitive warranty

Lows

  • Basin obstructs access to detergent tray
  • Long wash times
  • The machine functions while the detergent tray is open
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