Best time-saving appliances and electronics

Best time-saving appliances and electronics

Consider these top-performing products for your home

Published: January 2015

Time is a precious commodity—and it’s one that Americans are willing to pay for. In fact, when Consumer Reports asked more than 4,000 readers if they would shell out more for the best time-saving appliances and electronics—such as speedier dishwashers, washers, and dryers—25 percent of the appliance owners said yes. (About one-third of that group said they would pay an extra $100 or more.)

Manufacturers are aware of that need for speed. Induction ranges and cooktops are growing ever more popular, single-serve coffeemakers are crowding store shelves, and faster settings are being built into washers and dishwashers. Buyers of electronics have a different definition of fast; they want devices that stream, process, and download swiftly. Whatever the product category, all of that clock-watching can pay real dividends: 15 minutes here, an hour there. If you owned one of each type of product on these pages, you could save more than two hours per day. Just think of what you could do with that!

The quick kitchen

Photo: Thermador

The two recent innovations that have trimmed kitchen time the most are induction cooking and pod coffeemakers. Induction rangetops and cooktops hold the speed record in Consumer Reports' tests, often heating a large pot of water 20 to 25 percent faster than a regular electric smoothtop. They’re even faster when compared with gas models. That’s because a magnetic field directly heats pans, offering precise simmering and control. And cleaning spills quickly is easier because the induction surface is much cooler than a smoothtop’s during cooking and after. Prices for induction appliances have come down, but most still cost more than electric or gas. As for pod coffeemakers, though they have a downside—limited coffee choices, less-than-top-shelf taste—there’s no denying that they’re easy and speedy.

Ranges
 

Make & model Kenmore 95073, $1,530 Frigidaire Gallery FGIF3061NF, $1,800 GE PHB920SFSS, $2,200
Details Delivering superfast cooktop heat and precise simmering, this induction range (a top pick) has four cooktop elements (two are high-power). The large oven has a convection option and offers impressive baking and broiling; self-cleaning was excellent. The warming drawer keeps side dishes hot. Two high-power elements on this top pick quickly bring water to a boil. It also offers induction’s superb simmering and precise control, ideal when heating sauces or making delicate foods. Baking and self-cleaning are impressive, though broiling is only so-so. The oven’s convection option can trim cooking time. Fast cooktop heat and great simmering make this induction range excellent overall. The large oven was impressive at baking and superb at self-cleaning, but broiling was so-so. Features include four cooktop elements (three are high-power), convection, steam for light cleaning, and a warming drawer.
Estimated time saved  It’s about 3 to 4 minutes faster than an average smoothtop at heating water for pasta. It’s about 3 to 4 minutes faster than an average smoothtop at heating water for pasta. It’s about 3 to 4 minutes faster than an average smoothtop at heating water for pasta.

Coffeemakers
 

Make & model Starbucks Verismo 600, $150   DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Circolo Flow Stop, $180 DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio EDG455T, $130
Details First- and second-cup delivery were speedy and consistent, and this top-pick coffeemaker was fairly easy to use. But brewing strength and coffee flavors are limited, though flavors are similar to what you’ll find at a Starbucks store. The coffee tastes so-so, and you’ll need Starbucks capsules to get your java jolt.
This pod coffeemaker, a top pick, is pretty easy to use, with a scroll button to select the serving size. The reservoir holds 44 ounces of water, and it’s easy to see how much is left from both the front and side. As with other pods, the coffee tastes just OK, and you’re limited to the company’s 18 flavors. Plus you can use only one pod at a time no matter the size of your cup.
Single-serve coffeemakers are all about speed and ease. This top-rated pod coffeemaker was among the fastest, consistently serving the same amount of hot coffee cup after cup. It’s fairly easy to use, refill, and clean, and it allows you to adjust the brew strength. But taste was only so-so, though that’s true for all pod coffeemakers in our tests.
Estimated time saved It’s 3 minutes faster than the slowest pod coffeemaker. It’s 3 minutes faster than the slowest pod coffeemaker. It’s 3 minutes faster than the slowest pod coffeemaker.

Induction cooktops
 

Make & model Whirlpool GCI3061XB, $1,200   GE Profile PHP900DMBB, $1,400 Kenmore 43820, $1,700
Details Fast heat and precise simmering at a price lower than many others we tested make this 30-inch induction cooktop a CR Best Buy. Features include easy-to-read touch controls placed in the front and center, and four elements, including two that are high-power. Even the fastest electric smoothops can’t beat the heating speed of the fastest induction cooktops, which use an electromagnetic field to send most of the heat to pans. This 30-inch top pick has four elements (three high-power) and offers superb simmering. The stainless trim is a nice touch. Super at simmering, this 30-inch induction cooktop is also among the fastest models we’ve tested at bringing water to a boil. It has four elements; three are high-power and one is low-power. Touch controls and stainless-steel trim add to the sleek look of this top pick.
Estimated time saved It’s about 2 minutes faster than an average smoothtop at heating water for pasta. It’s about 4 minutes faster than an average smoothtop at heating water for pasta. It’s about 4 minutes faster than an average smoothtop at heating water for pasta.

Speedy cleaning

Washing machines
 

Make & model LG WT1701CV, $950   Samsung WF45H6300AG, $1,050 Whirlpool WTW4850BW, $580
Details This high-efficiency top-loader fits 24 pounds of laundry, doing an impressive job in 75 minutes. The TurboWash option cuts about 20 minutes without sacrificing cleaning. Most HE top-loaders take 60 to 90 minutes but extract more water than agitator washers, so dryer time is trimmed. The matching dryers were superb: the electric LG DLEY1701V, $1,100, and gas DLGY1702V, $1,200. Front-loaders tend to use the least amount of water, extract the most water, and have wash times of 70 to 100 minutes. This Samsung takes 80, but the SuperSpeed option cuts about 20 minutes, and cleaning is comparable. We fit 22 pounds of laundry. The matching dryer is excellent but noisy: the electric DV45H6300EG, $850, and gas DV45H6300GW, $950. This top pick offers impressive cleaning in 50 minutes using the least water of this type. Most other top-loaders with an agitator in the middle take a similar amount of time but don’t deliver similar performance. But like other agitator washers, it’s relatively noisy and not as gentle on fabrics as front-loaders. This one fit 15 pounds of laundry.
Estimated time saved 15 minutes per load 20 minutes per load 5 minutes per load

Dishwashers
 

Make & model Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7[5]UC, $730   Blomberg DWT54100SS, $750  
Details The 95-minute normal cycle is faster than most we tested. This CR Best Buy dishwasher excelled at cleaning and is especially energy efficient and relatively quiet. Try the 30-minute express wash for lightly soiled or prerinsed items. Features include a delayed start and an adjustable upper rack and tines. You need to clean the filter, and the controls are hidden. Clocking in at 85 minutes, this dishwasher’s normal cycle was the fastest we tested. It offers superb cleaning but is relatively noisy, so use the delayed-start mode when hosting parties. Adjust the upper rack to fit large items. The quick cycle is for light jobs and takes about 35 minutes. You need to clean the filter periodically.  
Estimated time saved 110 minutes vs. the slowest model 120 minutes vs. the slowest model  

Fleet electronics

 

Make & model OKI MB471w printer, $470   Jabra Solemate Max wireless speaker, $300 Brother MFC-J4310DW all-in-one inkjet printer, $130
Details If you need a presentation for a client meeting that started 5 minutes ago, you want a printer that can spit out pages in a hurry. Home printers don’t come much faster than this OKI laser all-in-one, which can deliver 23 text pages per minute. That’s speedier than most laser printers we’ve tested and significantly faster than inkjets. Text pages cost just a penny apiece, and text quality is excellent, so you won’t pay a penalty for your need for speed. Want to blast out your playlist quickly? Bluetooth speakers like this one use near field communication (NFC) technology to speed the pairing process. Just tap an NFC-compatible phone or tablet to the speaker and you’re ready to listen. The Solemate Max has good sound quality with decent power, and its weatherproof design and integrated handle make it ready for the great outdoors—even if that’s no farther than your backyard. You can print snapshots in a snap with this Brother multifunction device. It’s the fastest photo printer in our Ratings, cranking out a very good 4x6-inch photo in just 15 seconds. That’s much speedier than average; many printers take up to a minute to deliver that same photo. Other photo-friendly features that can save you time include a memory-card reader and PictBridge, for direct printing from compatible cameras.
Time advantage Prints 23 pages per minute. Bluetooth pairing in a flash. A stack of photos in a few minutes.


 

Make & model Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 tablet, $280   Microsoft Surface Pro 3 detachable, $1,000 Apple AirPort Extreme wireless router, $185
Details This 8.4-inch version of the Galaxy Tab Pro offers outstanding performance when running demanding apps, with speedy performance and smooth graphics, thanks to the quad-core 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. If you want to play games on your tablet, this is a great choice. It’s slim and light, with a long-lasting battery. Also consider the Apple iPad Air 2 (64GB), $600. This laptop, configured with 128GB and a keyboard, has enough oomph to tackle tough tasks like editing HD video and playing demanding games at top speed. It’s versatile, too: Detach the keyboard and use the 12-inch touch-screen device as a tablet. Our tested model had a powerful fourth-generation Intel Core i5-4300U 1.9GHz processor. Also consider: Toshiba Satellite Click 2 Pro P30W-BST2N22 Ultrabook, $1,500. For pure speed, you can’t beat the sixth generation of Apple’s wireless router. Its 802.11ac Wi-Fi performance was tops in our tests at near and midrange distances (although it faltered farther away). This router can handle a crowd of devices. And if you have ultra-high-speed broadband (say, 50 Mbps or faster), the whole family can stream HD videos, send e-mail, and browse the Web at the same time without stuttering.
Time advantage The most sophisticated graphics won’t slow it down. Speedy video editing and gaming. Fast downloads and multiplayer gaming.

Faster tactics

Modern life may be moving at warp speed, but many new appliances we like actually take longer than their predecessors to do their tasks. That’s because other things we prize—such as great performance, energy efficiency, and water conservation—mean longer cycles. Today’s most efficient front-loaders, for example, cost about $1,400 less to run over 10 years compared with most top-loaders with an agitator. Want speed and efficiency? Try these tips:

Dishwashers

  • Run the hot water. It’s faster to heat water at a faucet than for a dishwasher to heat it.

Washers

  • Fill ’er up. Larger capacities mean fewer loads.
  • Measure detergent. Use too much and it can prolong the rinse cycle.
  • Pick the right setting. The heavy-soil option adds time, so use it only when needed.
  • Understand speedy settings. Quick-wash cycles are only for two to four lightly soiled items. Other fast settings, such as GE’s Time Saver, Kenmore’s Accela-Wash, LG’s TurboWash, and Samsung’s SuperSpeed, cleaned well and shaved off 15 to 20 minutes in our tests using full loads of dirty laundry.

Dryers

  • Clean filters. Do it after each load to keep air flowing freely. If laundry is taking longer to dry, clean the exhaust vent.

When slow is the way to go

You can save time, effort, or money in the long run by taking more time up front. Here are some ways to do that:

All-purpose cleaners. Ignore claims about just spraying and wiping; let the cleaner sit for a minute (5 minutes for products that disinfect). We did and got better cleaning power in our tests. Pine-Sol Original liquid was the best; it’s a CR Best Buy. Among sprays, Seventh Generation All-Purpose natural cleaner was tops but no match for the Pine-Sol.

Heavily soiled or stained items. The sooner you tackle stains, the better your results. Help lift them by soaking garments overnight or for at least two hours in oxygen bleach, which brightens colors without fading. but don’t soak silk or fabrics that “bleed,” and follow directions on the container. And don’t toss an item in the dryer until the stains are out or the heat will set them.

Slow cookers. Chop and stir your ingredients in the morning, then do the other tasks on your list—or put your feet up—while the slow cooker makes dinner. That not only saves time but can also save money. That’s because cheaper, tougher cuts of meat are better for slow cookers than expensive cuts. Our tests have found little difference between slow cookers. All of the 6- to 7-quart models turned out tasty spare ribs, pulled pork, honey chicken wings, and apple brown Betty.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the February 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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