The best tech enriches your day-to-day, adding convenience and peace of mind when you need it most. Unfortunately, not every product rises to that standard. Some gadgets actually complicate your life by introducing shiny solutions to nonexistent problems.
Of course, perceived value can vary a lot from person to person -- one look at the debate between me and my colleague Ry Crist about the merits (or lack thereof) of sous vide cooking proves that.
Occasionally, though, you come across an appliance that really (empirically) isn't worth it for most folks and the LG Styler -- a $1,999 plug-in closet-contraption designed to de-wrinkle, deodorize and "sanitize" your clothes in between trips to the dry cleaner -- is one of them.
Wrinkled clothes were still mostly wrinkled; smelly clothes were still mostly smelly and the steam-centric sanitize cycle doesn't actually clean anything. Instead, as LG reps told us, it "reduces allergens" like pollen and "refreshes" your clothes -- although they had trouble producing a definition of "refresh."
If you're a smoker who regularly wears stuff that's dry-clean-only, but hate visiting the dry cleaner, the LG Styler is a luxury product that can offer a slight improvement in the overall look and smell of your clothes. Or you could just spray your suit with some Febreze, hang it in the bathroom while you shower and call it a day. My vote's on the latter.
Where the Styler shines
Here's the good news: the Styler delivers in terms of design. It is an attractive, vaguely refrigerator-shaped appliance with a premium reflective finish. It measures just over 6 feet tall, with a roughly 1.5-foot width and a 2-foot depth -- and it clocks in at about 100 pounds. It's equipped with a regular wall plug, so the install is as simple as putting it against an obliging wall and plugging it into a nearby wall outlet. The two potential challenges are getting it up stairs -- if you want it to go in a second-floor walk-in closet, for instance -- and finding a spot that can accommodate its height. Other than that, it's a breeze to set up.
In addition, the Styler boasts a pretty large capacity, but it's only supposed to handle three to five things at a time.
Specifically, it comes with three Styler-specific hangers -- two for blouses, jackets and other tops and one for hanging pants or skirts. And, it also comes with a removable rack where you can stash that old baseball cap or delicate sweater that you'd rather not hang. Depending on the length of the things you're hanging, you will be able to easily fit a couple of tops and one pair of pants in the Styler as well as one or two things on the included rack. But, if you're planning to steam a long coat or something else that hangs down, say, past your knees, you'll likely have to remove the rack to make room for them (which will limit the capacity to only three items).
The Styler also has two water reservoirs -- one that you fill for steam cycles (the max fill line can last for up to four cycles) and another that you drain after each steam cycle. The Styler also comes with a dedicated attachment for creasing your pants -- something I tried with limited success during testing (more on that later).
So, what is this thing supposed to do?
Glancing at the Styler's user manual before testing, I was all but ready to champion this thing as a genius hunk of tech. Similar to the supplemental cleaning a robot vacuum performs between your heavier-duty floor cleaning, the Styler is supposed to extend the life of all sorts of textiles.
It's especially geared toward items that are delicate, cumbersome or otherwise less-than-ideal to tumble in your dryer. Think: gnarly stuffed animals, sweat-stained gym equipment, hats, backpacks and anything you typically take to the dry cleaner. But, it can actually "refresh" pretty much any garment.
LG provides a detailed chart of optimal fabrics and settings in case you need further guidance, but the gist is that cotton is a stubborn fabric that's really touch to de-wrinkle with just a light dose of steam. Thinner materials, though, like rayon and silk, are supposed to perform much better.
The Styler comes with four main cycles:
- The "Refresh" mode, available in Light, Normal and Heavy settings, enlists steam to remove wrinkles and you can stick a dryer sheet in the built-in "aroma" compartment to help mask odors.
- The "Sanitary" mode, available in Normal and Heavy settings, adds heat into the equation, which is supposed to kill off allergens like pollen.
- The "Gentle Dry" mode, available in Delicates, Normal and Time Dry settings, simply dries your clothes on a low heat so that wool sweaters and other shrink-susceptible fabrics retain their shape.
- The "Special Care" mode includes an extended Heavy Sanitary cycle called "Night Care," and 10 different custom cycles that you can download from the Android-only LG Smart Styler app. Some of these cycles include "Air Fresh," "Rainy Day" and "Shawls/Neckties."
It's a significant limitation that the LG Smart Styler app is only available on Android devices, but not surprising since LG's SmartThinQ app for ovens and ranges is similarly Android-specific. That's because LG appliances rely heavily on near-field communication (NFC), a feature available only on Android devices that requires very close proximity for successful pairing between phones/tablets and other devices.
The app itself is easy to configure -- just download it, make sure NFC is enabled in your phone's settings and then hold your phone up to the "Tag On" logo on the Styler's front display. This will take you directly to product registration, where you simply select your country before you can start using the app.