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GE ADT521PGJBS review: GE Artistry dishwasher looks so good you'll forget it cleans dishes

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It feels like we've been down this road before. The GE Artistry Series dishwasher looks a lot like the other GE Artistry appliances we've reviewed -- simple colors accented by curved silver handles and an old fashioned GE logo. That's not a bad thing -- the designs would go well together if you bought them as a set and all of the models in the series look great in a cool, retro fashion that reminds me of a classic Cadillac.

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7.3

GE ADT521PGJBS

The Good

The GE Artistry dishwasher features an appealing retro design and a solid list of features. It cleans quickly, quietly and more-or-less effectively.

The Bad

It's not as good at cleaning as similarly priced competition. You'll want to rinse your dishes before you load them. You might not be able to fit large pots and pans -- this dishwasher lacks any fold down tines and changing the height of the upper rack is a pain.

The Bottom Line

You can find more well rounded and better performing dishwashers for the same price, but if you factor design heavily in your buying decisions, the GE Artistry dishwasher does everything else well enough to be worth your consideration.

Other than its cool design, though, the $500 ADT521PGJBS doesn't have any competitive edge over the similarly priced $700 Kenmore 13699 or $650 Frigidaire FGID2466QF. Both are better cleaners and have comparable features. If you prioritize design when buying appliances, the ADT521PGJBS holds its own as a cleaner and is worth your consideration. Otherwise, go with the Kenmore for the best cleaner in this price range, or the Frigidaire for the most well-rounded dishwasher of the bunch.

If looks could kill, you'd have to arrest this GE Artistry dishwasher

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Making way for modernity

Thankfully, the beauty of the GE Artistry ADT521PGJBS isn't just skin deep. Pull the curved silver handle, and the old fashioned exterior gives way to modern features and design trends -- such as the control panel hidden on the upper lip.

The ADT521PGJBS is missing a delicate cycle, but otherwise has a useful quartet -- AutoSense, Heavy, Normal, and Light. The Light cycle does a good job of cleaning up recently dirtied dishes in a snappy 40 to 50 minutes. The Frigidaire FGID2466QF has a 30-minute quick cycle, but 40 is suitably fast and much better than the hour and a half "quick" cycle on the $700 LG LDS5040ST.

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GE's quartet of cycles provide a standard but useful variety.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The options on the ADT521PGJBS help its limited selection of cycles feel more robust. You can run a cycle on the upper rack or lower rack only. You can change the temperature of the water, and you can add a steam pre-wash to help the dishwasher loosen stuck on dirt.

Make any changes to the cycles or the options, and the display will update the estimated time to completion, which stays on and updates as the cycle runs.

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The Artistry's list of options is plentiful.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can buy the GE Artistry ADT521PGJBS dishwasher at AJ Madison, Home Depot, JCPenney, and other large appliance retailers. Head to GE's site for a list of retailers in your area. As usual with large appliances, you'll find the ADT521PGJBS for less than its $500 price tag. Currently, Home Depot has it for $450. You won't be able to find the ADT521PGJBS overseas.

Inflexible interior

The inside of the ADT521PGJBS is plain, and not in the understated, striking way of the exterior. It has a plastic tub -- which will be a drawback for some as a stainless steel tub helps save energy over time -- but the plastic tub is a big part of the reason the cost of the ADT521PGJBS is so reasonable.

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The Artistry lacks fold down tines, but I like the movable silverware basket.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The racks themselves lack flexibility -- none of the tines fold down, so you'll have a tough time fitting larger pots and pans. That said, they're not poorly designed, and comfortably fit standard plates, bowls, and the like. We had plenty of room for our ten place settings and the ADT521PGJBS can fit as many as 15 of them.

You can also place the silverware basket in three different places -- hooks on the door, off the edge of the lower rack, or on the side of the lower rack as usual -- which helps redeem its flexibility. And you can change the height of the upper rack, but doing so is a pain. You need to remove the cap on the rail, slide off the rack, fit the upper or lower set of wheels back onto the rail, then put the cap back on. That doesn't sound too egregious, but it's a distinct step down from the trigger based height adjustments of the LG LDS5040ST and the Kenmore 13699.

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Changing the height of the upper rack is a pain.

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can remove the stem holders if you don't find yourself washing your fine china often and want extra room for taller glasses, but as a whole, the interior of the ADT521PGJBS is less impressive than the exterior. Other than the lack of foldable tines, though, nothing should hamper your day to day use, it just doesn't have perks to help make your life easier like the bottle wash jets of the $600 GE GDF610PMJES or the casserole specific jets in the Kenmore 13699.

Ready with a rinse

You'll want to rinse your dishes before you load them into the ADT521PGJBS. It's not a bad cleaner. In fact, it scored a 77.3% on our rigorous tests. It's a $500 machine, and it bested the $1,100 Frigidaire FPID2497RF and the $900 LG LDF7774ST.

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The ADT521PGJBS keeps it quiet while getting your dishes clean.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

When we're testing a dishwasher, we look for how well it removes food in the first place and how well it keeps food off. The ADT521PGJBS missed some spots at the bottom of our deeper plastic bowls and it left flecks of spinach on the corner of the large plates. We also found an occasional stray Mac & Cheese noodle left on plates and still stuck to our small forks, but for the most part, the ADT521PGJBS handled stuck on foods well as we didn't find evidence of leftover egg, peanut butter, or honey.

Some flecks of food didn't stay off of the dishes, though. The filter on the ADT521PGJBS handled the bulk of the dirt well, but we still found leftover dirt on plates and occasionally in coffee cups. The ADT521PGJBS is pretty good at both getting food off and keeping it off -- again, it bests higher priced competition. It's just not as good as a couple of excellent cleaners we've tested recently that are similarly priced.

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The Artistry can't quite keep up with tough competition.

Steve Conaway/CNET

If you rinse your dishes, the ADT521PGJBS is more than competent enough to handle the rest, but if you want to put them away or use them immediately after the cycle ends, you'll notice they're still a bit wet. The GE Artistry dishwasher isn't great at drying. Turning on the Heated Dry option helps, as it upped the dry score to a respectable 50.4 percent, but we still found water marks on the glasses and drops on the plates and bowls.

The Verdict

Take a look at the front of the $500 GE Artistry ADT521PGJBS. If you don't like what you see, you can eliminate this model from your list of options. Rest assured that there are plenty of more well-rounded dishwashers at a similar price. Chief among them are the $700 Kenmore 13699 and the $650 Frigidaire FGID2466QF, both of which outscored the ADT521PGJBS on our cleaning tests.

If you already own pieces of the Artistry series, or are in the mood for a stylish, retro appliance, don't let my qualms about the ADT521PGJBS scare you. It's not the best cleaner in this price range, but it's fine if you rinse your dishes. And sure the racks are inflexible, but they're roomy enough for everyday use and the ADT521PGJBS affords you a nice list of options to wash your dishes how you please. The style's the selling point of the $500 GE Artistry ADT521PGJBS dishwasher, but it's competent otherwise. I wouldn't blame you for disregarding this model entirely, or putting it at the top of your wish list.

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7.3

GE ADT521PGJBS

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Features 8Usability 6Design 8