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Often purchased as an afterthought or as part of a larger laundry pair, dryers traditionally aren't thought of as cutting-edge appliances. Times have changed, however, and even lowly clothes dryers have entered the brave new world of the smart home. Take the $1,200 GE GTD86ESPJMC, for instance. Packed inside its gunmetal gray curves is hardware for linking to smartphones, tablets, and even compatible GE washing machines all in the name of extra convenience and capabilities.
Of course smart technology is just one piece of this pricey machine's story. It also features a long list of special drying cycles to better handle specific fabrics and garment types. But even with those advanced capabilities, it can't match the performance and style of other, similarly intelligent appliances. The $1,400 LG DLEX5000 for example is more expensive but has greater drying power. It's also better looking and easier to operate, all of which make it a wiser laundry buy.
The GE GTD86ESPJMC dryer is roughly the same size as other modern laundry room appliances such as the LG DLEX5000 (38.8 x 27 x 32.8 inches), except for one important detail -- a massive back panel. Counting its big, rear-mounted control panel, the machine stands at a full 44.5 inches (3.7 feet) tall. So even though this dryer spans a reasonable width of 28 inches (2.3 feet) across and reaches a modest depth of 31.9 inches (2.7 feet), the appliance appears much larger than it really is.
Another drawback to placing the controls along its backmost edge, besides having to reach over the entire contraption to use them, is that you can't stack a washer on top of it (or vise versa) to save space. Forget about placing the dryer on a pedestal either, whether to add more functionality like the LG Twin Wash or simply to improve ergonomics, because that's not an option GE offers with the GTD86ESPJMC.
That said, the dryer's design does have a certain amount of futuristic flair to it. At the center of the control panel sits a large silver knob for selecting your desired drying cycle. It smoothly swivels both left and right yet softly clicks into place at each cycle stop. A bright blue LED indicator also confirms what dial position you've landed on.
To the left of the dial is a small, rectangular display which highlights more cycle options such as "Time," "Level" (of dryness), and "Temp." Unless you're standing directly in front of this screen though it's rather hard to read. That's because brightness drops severely when viewing the display off-angle (anything greater than 45 degrees). By comparison the LG DLEX5000's illuminated controls are not only brighter but clearly legible even when seen at very obtuse angles (approaching 180 degrees).
I'm also not a fan of this dryer's overall design language which struck me as uninspired especially for a machine this expensive. I am aware that GE built the GTD86ESPJMC to match its paired laundry appliance, the top-loading GTW860SPJMC ($1,200). Still, aside from the GTD86ESPJMC's outdated shape, the dryer doors exposed hinges and blank surfaces (front and top) are bland and lack much visual impact. By comparison the DLEX5000's clean lines and smooth curves lend the machine an attractive and modern look.
Offsetting the GE GTD86ESPJMC dryer's blah design is a large list of clothes handling modes and drying cycles. Twelve in all, these options run the gamut from "Delicates" and "Active Wear" to "Jeans," "Towels/Sheets," and a "Bulky Items" setting that promises to properly dry large winter coats, comforters, and blankets.
And what modern dryer (or washer) would be complete without steam functions? The GE GTD86ESPJMC has you covered in this regard, too. Available cycles include "Steam Refresh" for flattening out slight wrinkles in small batches plus "Steam Dewrinkle" to refresh larger loads that are dry but have perhaps been sitting in the dryer overnight.
The dryer also offers what GE calls a "Steam Select" button. Engaging this key tells the machine how many items you plan to process (ranging in number from 1 to 18). The dryer will then adjust projected cycle times depending on the batch size you enter, the briefest being 16 minutes (1 to 2 garments). That's longer than the shortest possible "Steam Fresh" run time which the LG DLEX5000 promises under similar conditions (1 to 3 items).
The GE GTD86ESPJMC is the company's first dryer to boast a Wi-Fi radio and is also one of the few within GE's roster of WiFi Connect appliances. As a result you have the option of linking the machine with the GE Laundry mobile application (available for either iOS and Android). Once properly connected to your home network, the app provides useful information such as the projected time until your clothes are dry, which dryer cycle is engaged, and what temperature setting you've selected.
To avoid leaving your clothes in the machine, a laundry crime I often commit, the app has numerous ways of alerting you. For instance you can receive notifications when a cycle finishes, when the precycle ends (5 minutes before final completion), and/or when clothes have remained in the drum for longer than 30 minutes. Additionally, the app functions as a method for updating the appliance's firmware. Hopefully these updates will serve up both new features and squash any software bugs in short order.
The app itself is laid out quite well, too, with minimal clutter and economical use of buttons and text. Compared with LG's extremely confusing Smart Laundry application which is crammed with settings, options, and even mini apps, GE Laundry looks downright elegant. Keep in mind though that while LG Smart Laundry has the power to activate dryer cycles remotely, GE Laundry is strictly limited to monitoring and extending currently running cycles.
Running a battery of scientifically accurate dryer tests may sound like a simple task, but it's actually quite a challenge. Essentially our main goal in the lab is to measure the amount of moisture a dryer can remove from fabric and how long it takes to do so. Additionally, in order to compare test data between individual units we also strive to eliminate as many variables as possible including environmental conditions and test materials.
Using its electronic moisture sensors, the GE WiFi Connect dryer took an average of 60 minutes to complete its most generic cycle, labelled as "Mixed Loads". That's long compared with the LG DLEX5000 which plowed through its equivalent "Normal" dryer cycle in a much shorter average of 42 minutes. That's with both appliances running at their medium temperature setting.
Each machine managed to remove an average of 5.6 pounds of water during their dryer runs. The GE dryer tended to overdry our test loads by about 4 minutes based on the final moisture content of 0.8 percent. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) considers a retained moisture content of less than 5 percent to be overdry.
Most important, however, is the speed which the GE dryer pulled moisture from clothing. We calculated this water evaporation rate to be 0.10 pound per minute. The number confirms the GE's relatively slow dryer performance, at least when stacked up against the LG DLEX5000's swifter rate of 0.14 pound per minute.
I also wasn't blown away by the few anecdotal "Steam Dewrinkle" cycles I had the GE dryer run. Wrinkled dress shirts, 100 percent cotton, in my opinion looked smoother (especially around the edges) when steamed by the DLEX5000. One possible reason could be the LG machine's liberal use of its steam nozzle which was active throughout the entire cycle. GE's dryer on the other hand sprayed misted water primarily at the beginning of its steam program but remained quiet after that.
As GE's first connected dryer, the $1,200 GTD86ESPJMC certainly delivers on its promised smart home abilities. While you can't begin dryer cycles from afar, the GE Laundry app lets you monitor the machine's status in real time plus receive handy alerts and reminders regarding your clothes. Unfortunately the GTD86ESPJMC doesn't excel at its primary mission: removing excess moisture from washed garments as quickly as possible. Another let down is the dryer's design which lacks the flash and polish of competing products.
At $1,400, the similarly app-enabled LG DLEX5000 looks better and dries clothes faster. That machine can also be stacked or mounted on a pedestal -- the GTD86ESPJMC can't. As a laundry room splurge, it's the better buy between the two.