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Bosch SHS63VL5UC review: A frustrating dishwasher that comes through in the clutch

Bosch's $800 dishwasher frustrates in a lot of ways, but it aces its central task.

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Andrew Gebhart
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Andrew Gebhart

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Andrew loves writing about cool, futuristic technology. He's reviewed everything from vacuum cleaners to beer brewing robots in pursuit of the perfect smart home. He wants the smart home to make him feel powerful, and it's getting there.

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I have a love-hate relationship with the $800 Bosch SHS63VL5UC. With only a few cycle options and no extras such as a third rack, there isn't much about this dishwasher's feature list to lure you in. The adjustable height and fold down tines of the top rack are a plus, but you get no other flexibility, making it hard to fit any large or oddly shaped dishes. Plus, the plain color pallette and push buttons on the dishwasher's upper lip make it look outdated, so forget about a cutting-edge design.

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7.2

Bosch SHS63VL5UC

The Good

This $800 Bosch dishwasher has the best cleaning rating of any machine we've tested so far, including some $1,200 models. It tops that off with great drying performance that limits water spots. Your dishes will actually come out shiny, no matter what's covering them when they go in.

The Bad

$800 isn't cheap for a dishwasher, yet the Bosch has minimal features and a plain design. Inflexible racks also make it a pain to use.

The Bottom Line

You can throw anything you want at the $800 Bosch SHS63VL5UC as long as you can find a place where it fits. If you're willing to adapt to a tedious rack setup, it'll reward you with cleaning performance that far outclasses its pay grade.

For all of that, this Bosch unit does do one thing consistently well: clean dishes. This $800 dishwasher tackled everything we threw at it. It handled tough stains like chili and spinach, and water spots on glassware were almost non-existent. In fact, it out-cleaned our previous champ -- the $1,200 LG LDT9965BD -- by a couple of percentage points making it the best cleaner we've seen so far. It finished our trials with an average clean score of 93 percent. That's amazing.

I wish there were more features on the Bosch SHS63VL5UC for its price, but seeing sparkling dishes after each cycle makes this dishwasher hard to ignore. If all you care about is dish-cleaning performance and you're willing to spend for an upper-midrange appliance to get it, the Bosch SHS63VL5UC is an easy recommendation.

Boss your dishes around with this Bosch dishwasher

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Design

The stainless finish of the Bosch SHS63VL5UC reminds me of many other modern large appliances, but the scoop handle provides a pleasant change of pace. Above the handle, a lighter steel color borders the rest and curves up to the control panel on the upper lip. As with every other built-in dishwasher with hidden controls, you'll need to pull open the door for the control panel to work. But unlike most other dishwashers with hidden controls, the Bosch SHS63VL5UC actually has physical buttons instead of touch controls.

The buttons are responsive, I just found them strangely out of place on a hidden control panel. There's nothing outright wrong about the design of the SHS63VL5UC, but there's no color accents on the interior, and as a whole it struck me as plain and a little old fashioned.

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A little old fashioned, but not necessarily ugly.

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can purchase the Bosch SHS63VL5UC 300 Series dishwasher at AJ Madison and other large appliance dealers. Like most large appliances, you'll find it cheaper than the $800 list price. Right now, AJ Madison has it for $715. The SHS63VL5UC is not available overseas.

Features

Open the dishwasher and press the On-Off button, and you'll be able to select from a pretty standard selection of cycle options -- Heavy, Auto, Normal and Rinse -- each with their own respective buttons. I found the lack of creative cycle options on an $800 dishwasher more egregious than the presence of buttons themselves -- especially given that Bosch doesn't even give you an express cycle if you need to wash a load quickly.

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Not many cycles to choose from.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The $900 LG LDF7774ST lets you vary the water pressure from the top rack to the bottom with one of its cycles. It doesn't have a true express either, but it comes closer with a Quick & Dry cycle that takes a little over an hour. Bosch's shortest cycle other than Rinse is more than two hours long.

The $900 LG's time display stays on as it runs, keeping you up to date with how much longer it will run. As you select your cycle, the display on the Bosch SHS63VL5UC blinks an estimate that updates as you add options such as "ExtraDry," then turns solid as you hit start on the right to show you it's ready to go. But once you close the door and the SHS63VL5UC whirs into action, the display turns off.

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The InfoLight lets you know the dishwasher is running.

Chris Monroe/CNET

A red info light shines on the floor to let you know the dishwasher is running, so the SHS63VL5UC is sure to delight your family's cat, but I'd have liked a few more features aimed at humans for the $800 price.

Usability

The interior of the SHS63VL5UC doesn't have a lot going on in terms of features either, and I don't like most of what it does have.

You can lift the upper rack to adjust its height to any of three possible positions. Once it's all the way up, press the triggers on either side of the rack to lower it back down to position one, but even that is cumbersome as you'll need to prod and jostle the rack to actually get it to drop.

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Lowering the upper rack takes more finesse than it should.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The upper rack also has two columns of tines that fold down and stem holders for wine glasses that double as shelves for small cups. But that's it. The SHS63VL5UC doesn't have a third rack, or bottle wash jets, or any other tines that fold or change position.

At least the tines on the upper rack are straightforward. We struggled to fit our plastic bowls next to our porcelain ones on top, but loading the bottom rack was even worse -- particularly the orientation of tines in the lower-right quadrant. They're spaced close enough together and angled so that it's almost impossible to use them for anything other than small plates.

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The arrangement of tines on the bottom rack strictly limits what you can put there.

Chris Monroe/CNET

That's what the manufacturer recommends you put there, but I don't like how limiting the arrangement is. And even filling the rack with small plates takes quite a bit of finesse -- you can't load moving from top to bottom or the angle of the plates will block the next slot once you get towards the bottom.

Even the silverware basket of the SHS63VL5UC aggravated me. The recommended loading pattern confused me to the extent that loading silverware felt like solving a puzzle. The oddly shaped curves at the bottom of the basket cause some of your silverware to stick out, and you're supposed to load knives into slots where they don't even fit -- the slots are too narrow. You're of course welcome to ignore the instructions and just dump silverware into the basket, but they might not turn out as clean.

Performance

Speaking of cleanliness, I'd be even more aggravated by the arrangement of tines and the shape of the silverware basket if it weren't for the performance scores the SHS63VL5UC earned. As it turns out, Bosch has a method to its madness. Find a way to get your dishes into this thing, and it doesn't matter how dirty they are when you hit start, once the cycle ends, you'll pull out great results.

The Bosch SHS63VL5UC is the best cleaner we've tested yet, handily besting models that cost a couple of hundred more.

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Bosch outperformed competitors that cost hundreds more.

Steve Conaway/CNET

Yes, we found the occasional missed spot on large plates or a small piece of spinach or chili redeposited on the top rack, but we're hard on our dishwashers when we test them. Bosch handled 112 plates with 13 different foods that had been adhering for over 24 hours and it produced plates, bowls, glasses and silverware mostly without blemish. Despite the rigor of our tests, the few pieces of remaining dirt we found were tiny. Most of the dishes were flawless.

Not only did it eliminate almost all of our dirt, but it seldom left water marks in its wake. Not only were the glasses clean, they practically sparkled.

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The Bosch SHS63VL5UC did well on our dry tests too -- keeping water spots to a minimum.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

When we added the ExtraDry option to the Normal cycle, Bosch did even better -- averaging a dry score of 58.8 percent. We still found the occasional drop, but water marks were even rarer.

The verdict

If you're willing to adjust your loading habits to meet this Bosch dishwasher's strict rack arrangement, the SHS63VL5UC will reward you by taking care of any dirt you throw at it. Over time, I'm sure you could adapt to this dishwasher and even overlook the fact that it doesn't have many extras. This dishwasher even helps you forget it's there with a whisper-quiet sound rating of 44dB -- which, like its performance, is great for the $800 price.

Don't get me wrong, the conveniences of models like the GE PDT750SSFSS and the LG LDT9965BD can be quite nice -- especially bottle wash jets on the former and the third rack on the latter. If you don't want to rethink how you load your dishwasher and just want to put your own dishes in any way you please, I'd recommend one of those over this Bosch. But get used to its strange racks and the Bosch SHS63VL5UC will wash away your complaints like so much dirt.

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7.2

Bosch SHS63VL5UC

Score Breakdown

Performance 10Features 5Usability 5Design 6