We first caught a glimpse of LG's Twin Wash at CES 2015, a laundry system that pairs a regular front-load washer with a second, smaller washer built into the pedestal below, appropriately dubbed a "Sidekick" unit.
Designed to transform the tediousness of clothes washing into something that's at least a little more efficient, Twin Wash allows you to run simultaneous cleaning cycles. The general idea is that you can stash your bulky items up top and smaller, delicate items below with less time wasted. And since they are technically standalone units, they have separate water hookups, so the water that's cleaning your bright red towels in the upper machine won't mix with the water that's cleaning your white t-shirts in the lower one.
LG sent us a $1,500 WM5000HVA Twin-Wash-compatible front-load washing machine along with a coordinating $730 WD100CV Sidekick unit to try out. (There are a variety of compatible front-load machines and a handful of different Sidekicks. All of the models are now available for sale at Best Buy and other retail stores in the United States; check here for more details. International availability has not been announced.)
And while this duo definitely impresses in terms of features, design and usability, the WM5000HVA wasn't able to beat GE's $1,400 GFWR4805FMC front-load competitor when it came to removing stains.
Even so, LG's WM5000HVA is a solid premium washer with a ton of settings, including an optional Sidekick that cleans smaller loads of laundry really well.
The WM5000HVA is a 4.5-cubic-foot-capacity front-load washing machine in "graphite steel," which looks similar to your typical stainless finish. Still, it has a definite luxury vibe -- one that actually stands out among its stainless steel competitors.
A large part of that is due to its sleek front-facing display, which is extremely intuitive and easy to read (unlike GE's GFWR4805FMC; its digital time display was impossible to read at certain angles). LG's model offers Normal, Heavy Duty, Bedding, Sanitary, Allergen, Bright Whites, Tub Clean, Sportswear, Permanent Press, Delicates, Towels, Speed Wash and Rinse+Spin cycles.
In addition, it has a "Downloaded" cycle, which allows you to transfer additional cleaning modes from LG's Smart Laundry Android and iOS app onto the washer. (I would share some of the downloadable cycles here, but the app -- on both Android and iOS devices -- was extremely glitchy, so I never got that far. More on the app later.)
For most of the cycles you can also tweak various settings to suit your preferences. These include the water temperature (ranging from Tap Cold to Extra Hot), the spin speed (from No Spin to Extra High) and how dirty the clothes are (from Light to Heavy).
Other advanced cycles and settings include: Steam, Fresh Care, Smart Grid, Remote Start (use the app to start a cleaning cycle), Delay Wash, Wi-Fi Connect (to connect your Android or iOS phone to the washer), Custom PGM (store a custom wash cycle), PGM Save, Turbo Wash, Cold Wash, Extra Rinse, Drum Light, Pre-wash and Child Lock.
Briefly hold down the start, or "play" button to begin a cycle and press it again to pause. The digital display will show what stage of the cycle it's in -- Sensing, Wash, Rinse or Spin -- and also show the time remaining.
Then, to add detergent, fabric softener and bleach there's a hidden compartment on the top that slides back sort of like a retractable hardtop on a convertible.
While the front-load machine works pretty much the same as any other washer with a digital display, the WD100CV Sidekick is quite different.
For starters, the Sidekick washer opens like a drawer. Pull it open and lift its see-through lid to add your clothes (it can fit roughly 3 pounds, or about half of what you'd load in your regular machine). It isn't especially hard to open, but you do have to bend down fairly far to reach it.
Also, the Sidekick doesn't lock into place when you open it. That means that when you open the lid to add or remove clothes, the drawer slides back underneath the main washer unit ever so slightly. We did check to ensure that the units were level, but it still continued to happen. A minor annoyance, but definitely something that I'd rather not see on a premium mini-washer.
The display panel is hidden so that it can only be easily accessed when the drawer is open, but it's simple to navigate, and the touch panel is extremely responsive. With Normal, Intimates, Hand Wash, Active Wear, Rinse+Spin and Tub Clean cycles, use the arrow buttons to select the option you want and then hit the play (or start) button. You can also pause your cleaning cycle as needed, but starting and stopping cycles on the Sidekick unit has no impact on the upper unit; you can access both independently.
This unit doesn't have a separate section for adding detergent or other cleaning aides, so just toss it directly in the tub before you start the cycle -- it isn't compatible with pods, though, so stick with liquid or powder detergent.
Note: Sidekicks can be paired with select existing front-load LG washers if you aren't ready to upgrade your main unit just yet. (Click here for a complete list.)
One of our technical editors, Chance Lane, installed the units and it took him roughly 30 minutes from start to finish. LG provides two Y-connectors, as well as one hot and one cold hose -- everything you need to get it up and running. As always, you should enlist an experienced friend or professional if you aren't comfortable with this sort of install.
A final thing worth mentioning here -- the WM5000HVA stacked on top of the WD100CV (or even the regular non-washer pedestal, which is roughly the same height) is pretty tall. The WM5000HVA is 38 13/16 inches tall and the WD100CV (or just the regular compatible pedestal) is around 14 inches tall. That's about 52 inches -- well over four feet. Basically, this washer and its similarly large dryer pair might take up a lot of space in your laundry room. That's particularly true if you have storage racks hanging on the walls over your current washer and dryer. Just be sure to measure in advance so you'll know what you're dealing with.
In addition to design, features and usability, we also take a close look at how a washer performs. Particularly, we focus on how well it removes stains and how tough or gentle it is on clothes. Typically, the better a washer is at removing stains, the tougher it is on the laundry.
To read a detailed post about how we test washers, check here. The gist is that we follow very specific test procedures outlined by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, or AHAM. That involves stain strips (literally strips of fabric stained with skin oil, carbon, pig's blood, cocoa and red wine) -- and scoring them with a fancy gizmo called a colorimeter as well as mechanical action strips (small squares of fabric with five holes punched into them that wear after use) -- and counting the attached frayed threads at or over 2 millimeters long. Then, we stick all of that data on a spreadsheet. It's a fairly involved process, but it helps ensure that we're able to compare machines fairly.
I ran the LG WM5000HVA through three identical tests with stain strips and mechanical action strips. (Note: this was done using the default normal cleaning cycle with normal soil, hot water and a high spin.)
While a score of 100So is a benchmark for solid stain removal performance, models can actually score over 100, so we don't score the stain strips using a traditional 0-100 scale. So even though the WM5000HVA averaged a 93.27 for stain removal, that's actually closer to scoring a B overall for cleaning performance.
Here's a closer look at how it did on a per-stain basis -- it scored a B+ for removing the skin oil; an A- for removing carbon, or ash; a D+ for removing blood; a B- for removing cocoa and an A- for removing the red wine. GE's GFWR4805FMC did better here, scoring a 98.15 overall.
In contrast, LG's washer was pretty gentle on the mechanical action strips with 229 attached frayed threads at or over 2 millimeters -- that's a B+. GE's washer was much tougher on fabric with 257 threads counted, for a total score of C+.
We aren't currently conducting time studies to determine how much faster a shirt or another garment would wear down in the GE model versus the LG one, but that's definitely an important factor to note if you're concerned about the longevity of your clothes. Still, we do give more weight to a machine's ability to remove stains -- that makes GE's GFWR4805FMC the winner when it comes to performance.
While we didn't run any official AHAM tests in the LG Sidekick unit, I did run various cycles -- a hand wash cycles with a few nice sweaters; an activewear cycle with assorted gym clothes; a normal cycle with some t-shirts. Nothing shrank or looked damaged and it's a nice feature for laundry multitaskers to have as an optional add-on. Although at $2,230 for the main and the Sidekick combined, that's an upgrade on top of an upgrade and not one that anyone absolutely needs to have.
In addition to the LG WM5000HVA's regular washing capabilities, we also tried out the Wi-Fi-enabled LG Smart Laundry app, available for free for Android and iOS users. I installed both apps to compare them side-by-side, but ran into so many issues that I'd suggest skipping this "smart" functionality entirely.
In theory, its remote start function should enable you to consistently start and track a laundry cycle from your phone. I did manage to get this to work once on the Android phone, but the iOS version only crashed. And after an extended period of troubleshooting, I was unable to get the iOS version to work at all or repeat the initial success I had with the Android app.
I really like LG's $1,500 WM5000HVA, but it doesn't match GE's $1,400 GFWR4805FMC when it comes to removing stains -- and that's a pretty important part of the whole washing machine thing.
If you're looking for a washer that offers a ton of cleaning cycles, as well as an optional secondary Sidekick, is easy to use, looks great and is a solid performer, you've met your match with the WM5000HVA and its WD100CV Sidekick. But, you definitely don't need the $730 Sidekick unless you have a large family with a lot of different simultaneous laundry needs.
If cleaning performance/stain removal is at the very top of your list, then the GE GFWR4805FMC is a better and slightly less expensive choice. The problem is that its display panel is really hard to read at certain angles, making it tough to figure out how much time is remaining on a cycle at-a-glance. In the end, both the LG and the GE models are decent options, it just depends on whether you prefer a more versatile, easy-to-use machine (LG WM5000HVA) or prioritize cleaning performance over everything else (GE GFWR4805FMC).
Want to see more of CNET's laundry coverage? We'll have dryer reviews ready soon, so be sure to check here for updates.