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LG LDT9965BD review: LG's black stainless dishwasher washes away its flaws

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The LG LDT9965BD annoys me. It's beautifully designed, with a black stainless finish that resists fingerprints as promised, and it has plenty of space for dishes thanks to a third rack that can fit small coffee cups or silverware. But the main upper rack is a pain to load. It doesn't have a true express cycle. I don't like how the buttons work. It's extremely expensive for a dishwasher at $1,200 and it doesn't even dry the dishes particularly well, leaving water spots everywhere.

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7.8

LG LDT9965BD

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The black stainless finish on the LG LDT9965BD looks great and resists the typical fingerprint smudges of stainless steel. And more importantly, this dishwasher aced our cleaning tests.

The Bad

The upper rack is a pain to use, the controls are counterintuitive, and it's not great at drying.

The Bottom Line

The $1,200 LG LDT9965BD gets a lot of the big stuff right, particularly design and cleaning performance, but fumbles some of the little things like ease of use to fall short of a seamless dishwasher experience.

So there's plenty about this premium LG dishwasher that I don't like -- but my goodness, it can clean your dishes. It finished our trials with an average clean score just over 90 percent. That's amazing. We intentionally stress out our dishwashers with our tests to see what they're good at and what they aren't. As far as cleaning is concerning, the LG LDT9965BD is good at just about everything. By comparison, the similarly priced GE PDT750SSFSS earned a clean score of 67.7 percent -- a fine, if underwhelming, result, given the rigor of our tests. The LG even manages its sparkling clean at a quiet 42 decibel sound rating.

The LG LDT9965BD drops the ball on a lot of the little things, and for a $1,200 dishwasher, that's tough to forgive. If you thoroughly rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and value flexibility and ease-of-use over cleaning prowess as a result, this isn't the dishwasher for you. But if you're willing to pay a premium for cleaning power, so you can throw whatever you want in your dishwasher without worry, then the LG LDT9965BD will come through for you where it matters most.

LG brings a new take on smudge-proof stainless to its high-end dishwasher (pictures)

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Designed to impress

I'm a big fan of the black stainless exterior on the LG LDT9965BD. It's not actually black -- more of a dark grey -- but next to the other stainless steel dishwashers in the lab, the dark shade stands out. It's distinguished and classy.

The only adornments on the front are a gently curving handle bar, an LG logo in the upper left corner, and four status indicator lights in the upper right. The controls are hidden on the upper lip of the door, a popular method of reducing the clutter on the front that I'd expect of this dishwasher, given the price. All told, it's an elegant look that suits the $1,200 cost.

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LG's front panel looks great and resists fingerprints well.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The roomy interior maintains that elegance with lighter color racks against a dark stainless tub. Purple wine stem holders and brackets provide a hint of brightness along with an orange steam vent on the left side -- both colors a playful touch in an otherwise professional looking machine.

With a capacity of 15 place settings, the LG LDT9965BD feels roomy, and that effect is aided by a third rack dedicated to silverware and items of small stature. A light silver frame pulls out from just under the top of the tub, holding two darker grey plastic baskets. These basket lift free easily so you can load silverware into them on your countertop before placing them back where they belong. They're convenient, but the plastic feels a bit less elegant than the rest of the interior, if not cheaper. These baskets are useful, but maybe not as nice as the rest of the machine.

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The third rack is useful, but the plastic feels cheaper than the rest of the interior.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The main upper rack suffers from the opposite problem. The bottom of each column angles up and in, creating a fine visual accent, but actually making it more difficult to load dishes. I'm sure the lips and angles created by the uneven terrain are meant to help somehow, but even following the manufacturer's recommended loading pattern, I found them to be a pain.

Glasses in the middle column cramp the bowls in the second, none of them feel particularly steady in place, and in order to actually use the stem holder for wine glasses, you need to actually take up two columns, placing the wine glass in the fourth and leaning it into the stem holder covering the fifth. With the stem holder lowered, it's very hard to fit anything else into that column, a problem made worse by the bottom wires sloping up. We managed to squeeze small coffee cups under the stem holders, but they became entirely blocked in by glasses in the next row. You'll have to plan ahead when loading this dishwasher, because the upper shelf tries to do too much. You can probably get used to the issues, but with a $1,200 sticker price, I wish there wasn't anything I had to get used to.

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Even with 10 place settings, the upper rack feels jammed, in part because the wine glasses take up two columns.

Chris Monroe/CNET

You can raise and lower the upper rack easily, and still remove it from the dishwasher entirely if you choose. Pull it and angle it upward and it'll come free. When it's in place, you can lift up on the sides and it'll latch in a couple of inches higher so you can fit taller items on the bottom. Pull up on the purple triggers on the sides and it'll drop back down. It's easy enough to adjust the height that you can likely do it with a rack full of dishes.

The purple brackets also serve a purpose other than adding color to the interior -- they mark the movable tines. The two right columns on the top rack fold down. The two on the left can shift to five different angles. The bottom tines are flexible as well. Each half of each row of tines can fold down independently of the other half. And for an extra option, you can space the tines on the left half of the rows further apart by folding every other tine down.

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Lift the upper rack to raise it a couple of inches, or lift the purple level on either side to drop it back down.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The LG LDT9965BD tries hard to help you use the space as you see fit, and has a few options for flexibility. Some of those options do indeed help, but others hurt.

Get your dishes loaded and you can choose from the six cycle options using the smooth buttons on the hidden control panel. Hit the power button on the right to turn on the LED display next to it. Tap any cycle option and it'll show the estimated time to completion. You can pick between Auto, Heavy, Delicate and Dual Wash -- all of which use steam to assist the cleaning process -- or pick Normal or Quick & Dry -- which just use water.

Quick & Dry is the LG's LDT9965BD version of an express cycle, but it isn't actually that fast, with an estimated run time of an hour and 20 minutes. The GE PDT750SSFSS's express cycle takes only 30 minutes to run its course.

The Dual Wash cycle varies the intensity of the upper and lower spray arms, keeping things gentle on the upper half of your load, while maintaining an intense spray on the lower rack. It's designed to help you wash fine china at the same time as normal dishes, and its the only unique cycle or option this LG dishwasher offers.

You can add options to your cycles with other buttons for Extra Dry, Rinse, High Temp, Half Load and Delay Start, most of which are pretty self-explanatory; the Rinse button cycles between a Sanitary rinse at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, an extra rinse and a rinse-only cycle. Figuring that out without the instruction manual, though, would be a trick.

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Select your cycle, and the LED on the left of the control panel will estimate your time remaining.

Chris Monroe/CNET


The only thing the LED ever displays is time. Icons next to it light up to show what you've selected, but I found them unclear and had trouble remembering what was what even after consulting the instruction manual. LG handily put a program guide just inside the dishwasher door so you can see what the cycles do while making your choice, but doesn't offer enough assistance when it comes to figuring out its counterintuitive icons.

Once you do find the options you'd like, close the door and the LG dishwasher will start automatically. Call me old fashioned, but I still like a start button on my dishwasher and this doesn't have one. That's not a terrible omission, but I'd imagine it would be fairly easy to start a run accidentally. You do have a couple of seconds after the door shuts with your selections in place to change your mind and pull it open, but you wouldn't have to worry about that if it had a start button.

As it kicks into gear, the time on the display stops flashing and starts counting down, and it'll adjust as necessary if it needs to run an extra cycle, so it'll always show the dishwasher's current estimate of time remaining -- helpful if you want to know when you'll have access to your plates and silverware again.

The four colored LEDs on the front -- three blue and one green in a horizontal row, will also flash then turn solid one by one over the course of the wash so you can see a rough representation of its progress from a distance.

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Certain cycles employ steam, which sprays out of these vents on the left side of the tub.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Using the LG LDT9965BD isn't always a seamless experience, but it looks the part of a premium machine and has enough features to fit most of your needs, if not quite enough to be impressive for the cost.

You can purchase the LG LDT9965BD from major appliance retailers such as Home Depot and Best Buy. The LG's site will point you in the direction of retailers in your area. As with most large appliances, you'll generally find it cheaper than the $1,200 MSRP. Right now, it's listed at just under $1,000 at the retailers above.

It's not available overseas.

Taking a shine to the performance of the LG LDT9965BD

LG wants its machine to sit in the upper echelon of dishwashers. The price necessitates high expectations. The design delivers. The features and usability don't quite. But the performance atones for a lot of sins. Speaking of upper echelon, the LG LDT9965BD defines it with its cleaning capabilities.

And we certainly didn't go easy on it. In fact, our cleaning test is meant to be stressful. We want to see the limits of what a dishwasher can do so that means asking it to do things it can't. We slather 10 place settings of dishes including plates, bowls, cups, wine glasses, and silverware with all kinds of different foods. We use eggs, chili, oatmeal, mac & cheese, spinach, coffee, wine and more. Then, we let the dishes sit out for 24 hours, load everything in, and run the dishwasher on the normal cycle. You can check out the full process in our how we test article.

Take a closer look at how we test dishwashers (pictures)

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Again, we're not expecting complete cleanliness. The mix of soils shows us how well dishwashers handle adhered foods and sticky foods, how well they cut through grease and dairy products, and how well they filter out bulky stuff like spinach leaves and mac & cheese noodles. If the dishwasher isn't powerful enough or the water jets don't reach everywhere, we'll find leftover gunk. If the filter can't keep up with the bulk, we'll see bits of spinach or noodle spread over everything. We give the dishwasher a fighting chance by loading everything according to the manufacturer's recommended pattern.

That fighting chance was all the LG LDT9965BD needed to ace our steep challenge. It finished with a clean score of 90.3 percent. That's an average of three separate test runs, and its lowest score of the three was 89.4 percent. Those are outstanding numbers. The similarly priced GE PDT750SSFSS performed competently, and finished with a 67.7 percent average clean score.

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LG earned a wonderful clean score, slightly tainted by an underwhelming dry score.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

At the end of each run, LG's filter was filled with noodles and spinach. Again, that's fine. We intend to stress it, and you can clean the filter easily by twisting it loose. And I'd much rather have those particles jammed into the filter then still on the dishes. If you're loading a normal amount of food into your dishwasher, you probably won't have to deal with the filter much.

The vast majority of the dishes themselves were spotless. We'd occasionally find a stray noodle still on one of the large plates, or some gunk still stuck to the inside of a spoon. One time, the jets didn't reach the inside of a glass, and it was still covered with tomato juice, but that was more an aberration than an issue. Otherwise, a stray dot of spinach could be found here and there from a minor case of redeposit.

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We found some spots of spinach when inspecting the bottom rack of dishes.

Chris Monroe/CNET

But the LDT9965BD keeps redeposit to a minimum, it takes care of all sticky substances with ease and the jets manage to reach almost everywhere. It's a great cleaner.

It's not great at getting dishes dry. To be fair, we don't add any drying options to our normal cycle, so we're still expecting some wetness. We found plenty of drops still on the dishes, but more importantly, we found water spots on almost all of the silverware, the glasses, and the occasional one on plates and bowls. The tines aren't great at keeping those to a minimum. And it is harder to appreciate the cleanliness of your dishes while looking through small white water blemishes.

We do use rinse aid in our cycles, but it didn't appear to help much. Still, the dry scores of the LDT9965BD aren't enough to turn me off of its wonderful ability to fight through almost any kind of grime.

The verdict

I might be being hard on the peripheral aspects of the LG LDT9965BD. There's isn't actually much about it that's outright bad. In fact, it's impressively designed. The black stainless finish resists fingerprints well, the purple accents on the interior add some pop, and it has a few little touches like a program guide on the inside of the door and a countdown timer. As far as design is concerned, it lives up to its $1,200 billing. It's just that, given that the performance goes above and beyond the call of duty, it could have been perfect with a slightly more robust feature list and racks that were easier to use. I'm disappointed that I can't give the LG LDT9965BD my universal recommendation, because it came close.

A $1,200 dishwasher is a tough sell, and if you tend to make life easy on your dishwasher by thoroughly rinsing what you put into it, then the LG LDT9965BD is probably more power than you need. For the $1,200 cost, the GE PDT750SSFSS offers a few more useful features like the ability to only wash one rack or the other, and specific tines dedicated to washing deep within bottles. But the LG LDT9965BD cleans like a wizard, and if you're willing to put up with some missteps and water spots for a dishwasher that can bulldoze through dirt while keeping the noise to a minimum, you might just find the LDT9965BD worth the price.

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7.8

LG LDT9965BD

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 7Usability 6Design 8