Editors' note: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of 34 top-load Samsung washing machines on November 4, 2016. Samsung's WA52J8700AP was one of the washers listed on the recall. Check here to find out if your washer was affected.
Top load washing machines tend to get a bad rap. You can't stack them and they're usually limited in terms of features and storage capacity compared to their front load cousins. One benefit is that they typically cost less, but that isn't always enough to make a top load washer purchase worthwhile.
Samsung's $1,199 Activewash machine, model number WA52J8700AP, is giving traditional top load laundry a makeover, starting with a built-in sink and jet that lets you hand wash, prewash and directly target tough stains without having to travel to the kitchen or the nearest bathroom for a water source. Currently restricted to the US, there are actually four models in this series starting with the 4.8-cubic-foot $899 WA48J7770AW with a white finish and ending with the pricier WA52J8700AP we reviewed here.
Although this unit, finished with a silvery-gray "platinum" coat of paint, looks nice and is mostly easy to use (with the exception of the oddly placed and hard-to-reach detergent dispenser), it didn't blow us away during testing. It performed worse than the $1,500 front load LG WM5000HVA and the $1,400 front load GE GFWR4805FMC, but better than the $1,500 top load LG WT7700HVA. And if you don't care about the built-in sink, it's really just going to get in the way.
Even so, I'd suggest taking a look at the $1,199 WA52J8700AP -- it's less expensive than its top load competition from LG, but performed better overall.
A built-in sink? Why?
An attached sink struck me as a totally bizarre and unnecessary washer feature at first, as I have never presoaked anything in my life and tend to use the delicate cycle as my hand-wash catch-all. But, after spending time with Samsung's Activewash, I'm beginning to question my current laundry technique; maybe my clothes would last longer with this sort of rig.
It works like this: Lift the washer door, make sure that the sink is lowered and press the Water Jet button. The jet will spit out a stream of water into the basin, press it again to stop the water. That's it.
Then you can presoak any grass, wine, mustard or other stubborn stains before starting a regular wash cycle. Or you can use the sink as a complete hand wash cycle. And when you're done, simply lift the sink and the remaining water will pour into the main tub and out through your washer's designated drain hookup.
It's so easy that I could imagine actually trying to presoak or hand wash certain items when previously I would've just shoved them in the washer. But, if you don't plan to use it -- either because you already have a standalone sink in your laundry room or because you don't foresee a lot of presoaking in your future -- this feature will just get in your way. (Do you pre-soak your clothes? Leave a comment and let me know whether you'd use a built-in sink.)
What else can this washer do?
Aside from the sink, this machine offers a lot of other features. It has a 5.2-cubic-foot capacity, which is big for a top load unit (although LG's top load WT7700HVA is even larger, with 5.7 cubic feet of space). Samsung's model also boasts several special settings: Heavy Duty, Bedding, Activewear, Deep Steam, Sanitize, Eco Plus and even Super Speed, which Samsung claims can complete a full cycle in only 36 minutes.
Beyond these options, this washer also happens to look nice and, at 27 inches wide by 46 inches tall with a depth of 29.3 inches, it won't take up too much space. The Activewash's transparent lid showcases the sink below and its sparkly gray finish and intuitive, easy-to-read display gives it a clear edge over many top load washers. That isn't true for the LG WT7700HVA, though, which has a very similar design aesthetic.
The sensitivity of the touch display did throw me off at first, as it's extremely responsive. My instinct to press on the display overcomplicated things, too, as a light touch is more than enough to adjust the temperature, soil level and other settings. There's also a difference between the power and start/pause buttons and the rest of the panel. The first two are actual buttons that you press, while the rest respond to touch alone.