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Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer review: Mega laundry machine dries fast but has a hefty price tag

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There aren't many dryers for sale that can swallow 9 cubic feet worth of wet laundry at once, but the $1,400 Kenmore Elite 81072 can do just that. Thanks to its massive drum size and speedy cycle times, the Elite 81072 is a good fit for large families who need to power through hefty laundry loads often and quickly. The Kenmore Elite 81072 has other alluring attributes, too, including straightforward controls, plus numerous specialty drying modes and steam functions.

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7.4

Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer

The Good

The Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer has attractive modern styling and intuitive controls that are easy to operate. The appliance also removes moisture from fabric quickly, has a large 9-cubic-foot capacity along with 14 separate dryer modes plus steam abilities.

The Bad

Unlike other appliances that use an attached water line, the Kenmore Elite 81072 obtains the water for its steam modes from a small reservoir you must fill by hand. The Elite 81072's lightweight door feels flimsy and can't be slammed shut.

The Bottom Line

Though you have to fill its steam feeder with water by hand, the Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer's excellent performance, huge 9-cubic-foot capacity and included drying rack make this laundry appliance very enticing to big families.

Saddled with a cantankerous door and manually fed water supply for making steam, however, this dryer isn't perfect. If your weekly routine demands frequent laundering of monster-size bedding or handling enough dirty clothing to outfit a small army, the Elite 81072 will serve you better than sleeker but smaller units like the $1,500 LG DLEX 5000 and $1,099 Electrolux EFME617S Perfect Steam.

Kenmore's Elite 81072 dryer is huge, fast and roomy

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Design and features

Standing a full 40.8 inches tall, 29 inches wide and 33.9 inches deep, the Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer is positively massive. While roughly the same size as the also gargantuan 8-cubic-foot capacity GE GFDS260EFWW, this machine takes up more space than both the LG DLEX 5000 and Electrolux EFME617S Perfect Steam, which measure 7.4 and 8 cubic feet, respectively.

The benefit to the Kenmore Elite's extra girth is that its roomy dryer drum that offers 9 cubic feet of capacity. It's enough to accept two large washer loads simultaneously from its companion appliance, the Kenmore Elite 41072 washing machine. Additionally, the Elite 81072 dryer's big format helps it to process bulky items like comforters, blankets and bath mats with less stress than with compact dryers.

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The Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer offers a big 9-cubic-foot capacity.

Chris Monroe/CNET

I found the Elite 81072's controls a breeze to operate as well. A central knob swivels and clicks softly in increments to select the dryer cycle you desire. 14 options in all, choices range from treating specific garment types such as Bulky/Comforter, Khaki/Jeans or Workout Wear, just to name a few. The appliance comes with steam modes, too, with labels such as Sanitize, Touch Up or Steam Refresh.

All these controls plus the dryer's other buttons are backlit by blue LED lights or sport indicators of the same hue. A matching blue LED screen lives on the control panel's right-hand side and displays the remaining cycle time in minutes. While small, the screen is bright and clearly legible from various angles or from across the room.

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The controls are intuitive and fun to use.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Honestly, the Kenmore Elite 81072's interface felt eerily familiar, and as it turns out, there's a good reason. Like its matching Kenmore Elite 41072 washer, this dryer is really an LG appliance in disguise -- specifically, the LG DLEX 8100. The smaller LG DLEX 5000 I reviewed also has a similar control panel.

The Elite 81072 dryer relies on a tiny water reservoir to supply moisture for its steam modes. While the machine will flash a warning light when the tank is running low, it's a drag to have to fill it by hand. For an appliance this expensive, I expect the convenience of a dedicated water line. And like the lid on the LG DLEX 5000, this dryer's door feels disconcertingly lightweight. You can't slam the door shut either -- an action I find deeply satisfying -- but must gently push it closed. It's a minor quibble but an annoyance nonetheless.

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The Kenmore Elite 81072 uses a small water tank to supply its steam functions.

Chris Monroe/CNET

I do like the drying rack Kenmore includes with the Elite 81072. It comes in handy when drying items that shouldn't be tumbled, such as hats and sneakers.

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Use the drying rack to dry non-tumble items like hats and shoes.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Performance

Based solely on the particular way the machine cruised through our gauntlet of tests, it's clear the Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer is an LG appliance. The dryer outperformed all the other units we've reviewed to date save one, the LG DLEX 5000. In fact, the Kenmore Elite mirrored the DLEX 5000 so closely it almost posted identical performance numbers.

For the record, our test procedures are designed to measure how much water a dryer can remove from fabric and the time it takes to achieve this task. We also endeavor to eliminate as many variables as possible during testing, including environmental conditions and test materials.

Using electronic sensors that detect moisture levels inside the drum, the Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer took a brief 43 minutes on average to finish our test loads. We selected the machine's Normal cycle (meant for "work clothes etc." as stated in the manual) and its Medium temperature setting.

This is one of the shortest cycle times I've seen so far. For instance, while the LG DLEX 5000 was a hair faster (42 minutes), the Kenmore Elite 81072 completed its cycles in less time than the GE GFDS260EFWW dryer (48 minutes), Electrolux Perfect Steam EFME617 (54 minutes) and GE GTD86ESPJMC (60 minutes). For perspective, the GE GTD86ESPJMC (67 minutes) is the slowest dryer we've put through the ringer yet.

Dryers compared

Dryer Electrolux EFME617S Perfect SteamGE GFDS260EFWWGE GTD45EASJWSGE GTD81ESSJWSGE GTD86ESPJMCKenmore Elite 81072LG DLEX 5000
Capacity 8 cu. ft. 8 cu. ft. 7.2 cu. ft. 7.8 cu. ft. 7.8 cu. ft.9 cu. ft.7.4 cu. ft.
Cycle types 912412141414
Avg. cycle time 54 min.48 min.48 min.67 min.60 min.43 min.42 min.
Energy Star certified YesNoNoYesYesNoYes
Avg. power usage per year 608 kWhN/AN/A608 kWh608 kWhN/A607 kWh
App NoNoNoYes, Android/iOS (optional upgrade)Yes, Android/iOSNoYes, 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)1 year limited (parts, labor)

The Kenmore Elite 81072 removed an average 5.4 pounds of water from wet loads during its cycles. That's less than the GE GFDS260EFWW (5.7 pounds), GE GTD86ESPJMC (5.6 pounds), GE GTD81ESSJWS (5.6 pounds), LG DLEX 5000 (5.6 pounds) and Electrolux Perfect Steam (5.5 pounds). Still, the Elite 81072's water evaporation rate of 0.124-pound per minute, a key figure that highlights an appliance's raw drying power, is the second-highest score we've recorded. Only the LG DLEX 5000 (0.135-pound per minute) could top it.

Water evaporation rate (in pounds per minute)

LG DLEX 5000 0.135Kenmore Elite 81072 0.124GE GFDS260EFWW 0.121GE GTD45EASJWS 0.115Electrolux EFME617S 0.103GE GTD86ESPJMC 0.095GE GTD81ESSJWS 0.084
Notes: Longer bars equals better performance

Conclusion

$1,400 is a lot of money to spend on one appliance, even for a large appliance like a clothes dryer. However, the Kenmore Elite 81072 almost seals the deal. It performs well, looks good, and is easy to use. The dryer's huge 9-cubic-foot capacity is a boon to big families, too ,as is the included drying rack accessory.

Still, it's hard to overlook the Elite's manual steam feeder, which must be filled by hand. It's an annoying setup -- especially when forking over this much cash. For more convenience, and to save a little too, I suggest opting for the $1,099 Electrolux Perfect Steam EFME617, which connects to domestic water lines. It also offers a large clothes capacity (8 cubic feet), is simple to operate, and has a stylish design.

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7.4

Kenmore Elite 81072 dryer

Score Breakdown

Design 8Usability 7Features 6.5Performance 8