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GE GTD81ESSJWS Dryer review: This midrange dryer will need to charm you with its looks

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In many ways the $900 GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer is the inverse of its cousin, the $600 GE GTD45EASJWS, which conceals remarkable drying power within an old-school design, but moderates that appeal with frustrating manual controls. Instead this attractive laundry appliance is sculpted with a modern aesthetic aimed at 21st-century shoppers, but delivers underwhelming dryer performance.

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5.8

GE GTD81ESSJWS Dryer

The Good

The GE GTD81ESSJWS features updated styling and controls which are attractive and easy to manipulate. The dryer has large 7.8 cubic foot capacity drum and is Energy Star certified to run efficiently. A $50 upgrade adds a mobile app and Wi-Fi connection to this appliance.

The Bad

The GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer takes a long time to complete its cycles and is relatively slow to remove water from wet laundry. The dryer lacks steam modes for dewrinkling or sanitizing fabric, and the machine's LCD screen is hard to read. Since the dryer's control panel is mounted in back, you can't place the appliance on a pedestal or stack it vertically with other washers.

The Bottom Line

While the GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer features a refreshed, modern exterior and elegant controls, it takes a relatively long time to dry laundry loads.

To get a machine that dries clothes with greater speed you could choose the $1,100 GE GFDS260EFWW, but the trade-off would be spending $300 more for a dryer with a truly awful control panel. The wiser upgrade is the $1,099 Electrolux EFME617S Perfect Steam dryer, which offers slightly faster cycle times along with good looks and a bevy of extra features and capabilities.

This GE dryer has sweet controls, modern style (pictures)

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Design and features

A spitting image of GE's GTD86ESPJMC laundry appliance minus its dark metallic color scheme and built in app-connected smarts, the GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer measures an identical 44.5 inches tall by 28 inches wide with a depth of 31.9 inches. The white-and-silver machine is equipped with a sizable 7.8-cubic-foot capacity drum to handle big loads and has a control panel running along its top back edge.

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The cycle dial is simple to use.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Thankfully, the panel uses a similarly uncluttered button layout and the same snazzy cycle selector dial that graced its dryer sibling. I found both panels simple to understand and operate, especially the large cycle knob that swivels left and right, settles softly on each setting, activating the corresponding blue LEDs as it turns.

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The control panel lives on the back edge of this machine.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There are drawbacks to having controls placed along the rear of the GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer's top side though. Aside from having to reach clear to the back of the appliance, a rear panel also means you can't stack the machine on top of a washer (or vise versa). Nor will you have the option of placing it on a pedestal to raise its front-loading drum for easier access. I'm not keen on the dryer's small LED display either, as its brightness drops sharply when not viewed head-on.

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The screen loses its brightness off-angle.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Still, it's clear that GE designed this dryer to match the style and shape of its laundry twin, the top-loading GE GTW810SSJWS washing machine. Placing them side by side, their white-and-silver color scheme, blue LEDs and curved panels pair quite nicely.

However, don't expect any fancy steam-powered dryer modes to smooth out wrinkles or banish germs from fabric since the GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer doesn't have a water-line input. What the machine does offer are 12 dryer cycles to tackle everything from "Mixed Loads" to "Jeans", "Delicates" to "Towels/Sheets" and "Bulky Items," just to name a few.

You can also tweak some settings of certain cycles, such as your desired run time, temperature and dryness level. Of course this isn't possible for special modes like "Delicate" and "Air Fluff," which require rigid cycle parameters. There's a button that turns on an LED light inside the drum too, a gimmick I always get a kick out of.

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This dryer has a drum light.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

According to GE, other slick functions the GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer is capable of include something called "CleanSpeak" and support for the GE's ConnectPlus module. CleanSpeak is a communication system meant to transfer cycle data from compatible GE washers over to similarly equipped dryers (via Ethernet cable) and preset them accordingly. A $50 hardware upgrade, ConnectPlus is small box that also attaches to the dryer's Ethernet port to provide a Wi-Fi connection and a means of commanding the dryer via the GE Laundry app (iOS and Android).

Performance

The GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer might be decked out with fancy LED lights and a high-tech facade, but sadly that didn't translate into fast performance. Subjected to a battery of strict scientific tests, the results this dryer turned in were far from impressive. To put it plainly, this appliance coughed up the lowest performance numbers I've logged from a dryer to date.

Be aware that our test procedures are built to measure how much water a dryer can remove from fabric and how long it requires to accomplish the task. We also strive to eliminate as many variables as possible during testing, including environmental conditions and test materials.

Equipped with two HE (high-efficiency) thermistors, which sense humidity conditions inside the drum, the GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer took a lengthy 67 minutes on average to complete our test loads. For each test we chose the machine's Mixed Loads cycle (meant for both cottons and poly-blends) and its Medium temperature setting.

Dryers compared

Dryer Electrolux EFME617S Perfect SteamGE GFDS260EFWWGE GTD45EASJWSGE GTD81ESSJWSGE GTD86ESPJMCLG DLEX 5000
Capacity 8 cu. ft. 8 cu. ft. 7.2 cu. ft. 7.8 cu. ft. 7.8 cu. ft.7.4 cu. ft.
Cycle types 9124121414
Avg Cycle Time 54 min.48 min.48 min.67 min.60 min.42 min.
Energy Star certified YesNoNoYesYesYes
Avg power usage per year 608kWhNANA608kWh608kWh607kWh
App NoNoNoYes, Android/iOS (optional upgrade)Yes, Android/iOSYes, Android/iOS
Warranty 1 year limited (parts, labor)1 year limited (parts, labor)1 year limited (parts, labor)1 year limited (parts, labor)1 year limited (parts, labor)1 year limited (parts, labor)

Compared with other dryers we've reviewed, this is the longest cycle time I've seen so far. For instance while the GE GTD86ESPJMC (60 minutes) and Electrolux Perfect Steam EFME617 (54 minutes) required almost the same amount of time, both models finished their cycles (on average) sooner. The GE GFDS260EFWW dryer (48 minutes) was faster still, but not as swift a as the LG DLEX 6000 with its short average cycle time of 42 minutes.

That said, the machine removed an average 5.6 pounds of water from wet loads during its cycles, identical to the GE GTD86ESPJMC (5.6 pounds) and LG DLEX 6000 (5.6 pounds) and slightly more than the Electrolux Perfect Steam (5.5 pounds) but a touch less than the GE GFDS260EFWW (5.7 pounds).The GE GTD81ESSJWS' water evaporation rate of 0.084-pound per minute, a critical stat that pinpoints an appliance's raw drying power, puts the machine dead last in our group of reviewed dryers. For perspective, its close cousin the GE GTD86ESPJMC (0.095-pound/minute) demonstrated greater drying prowess, as did the Electrolux Perfect Steam (0.103-pound/minute), and GE GTD45EASJWS (0.115-pound/minute). Leading the pack are the GE GFDS260EFWW (0.121-pound/minute) and current dryer performance king the LG DLEX 5000 (0.135-pound/minute).

Water evaporation rate (Pounds per minute)

LG DLEX 5000 0.135GE GFDS260EFWW 0.121GE GTD45EASJWS 0.115Electrolux EFME617S 0.103GE GTD86ESPJMC 0.095GE GTD81ESSJWS 0.084
Notes: Longer bars indicate better performance

Conclusion

Like any big-ticket appliance purchase, when considering a dryer you should carefully factor in design, aesthetics and ease of use into your buying decision. Judged on these criteria alone, the $900 GE GTD81ESSJWS dryer does quite well for itself. Its sleek and modern styling helps it stand out from basic models such as the budget-minded $650 GE GTD45EASJWS. The machine's thoughtfully crafted controls also make it easier to operate than GE's $1,100 GFDS260EFWW dryer unit.

Unfortunately this GTD81ESSJWS model's main weakness happens to be its primary function: drying wet loads of laundry with speed. The least powerful domestic clothes dryer we've tested yet, the appliance takes a relatively long time to process its loads. Add to this a lack of steam modes, plus no options for stacking vertically or mounting the machine on a pedestal accessory, and the flashy dryer quickly loses it luster.

For an excellent alternative I strongly suggest spending an extra $200 to invest in a $1,099 Electrolux EFME617S Perfect Steam dryer. This model offers more features, can be stacked and pedestal-raised, plus has a bigger capacity drum (9 cubic feet). The Electrolux is also easy on the eyes, sports a better display, and dries clothes faster. Of course if you're on a budget, then the GE GTD45EASJWS provides surprisingly swift performance at significantly lower price.

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5.8

GE GTD81ESSJWS Dryer

Score Breakdown

Design 6.5Usability 6Features 6Performance 5.5