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

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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.

5.8 Overall
  • Design 6.5
  • Usability 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5.5

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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