Mere weeks after Kenmore unseated Bosch from the top of our dishwasher Ratings, the brand has rung the bell anew with a new model in the number-one slot. But the Kenmore Elite 12793, $1,350, has an additional claim to fame: an industry-first motorized spray arm. We decided to see how it worked, using an action camcorder mounted inside the dishwasher while it ran.
With the new feature, called 360° PowerWash Plus, the model's interior looks like that of other such models we've recently tested, including the formerly top-ranked Kenmore Elite 12783, $1,200. The larger of its two spray arms is unique, however, in that it's turned by a motorized gear; the smaller one, as with traditional models, is powered by water pressure. Sears says the slower turning of the motorized arm means longer water coverage and more consistent cleaning. An added benefit claimed—what inspired our in-the-flow video coverage—is that the lower spray arm, on which are mounted the arms actually delivering the water, can reverse direction if blocked by, say, a utensil that has fallen through the racks to the bottom.
To put the claim to the test, we removed the dishwasher's racks and mounted a GoPro Hero2 action camcorder, equipped with a WiFi accessory and independent lighting, inside the dishwasher. The camcorder shot HD footage, at 1,920- by 1,080-dpi resolution, of the dishwasher as it operated through its cycle without racks, as shown in the video above. We also show how the Kenmore Elite 12793 with the motorized arm handled an obstruction of the spray arm's rotation—compared with the similar Kenmore Elite 12783, which has only pressure-driven sprays. Neither washed as well in this limited test, but the Kenmore Elite 12793 seemed less affected by the obstruction.
As a washer, the Kenmore Elite 12793 scored comparably to the Kenmore Elite 12783, with top-notch yet quiet washing paired with stellar energy and water efficiency. It's feature-rich, lacking only time-remaining display, but there's an additional treat the Kenmore Elite 12783 lacks: the helpful ability to raise or lower the upper rack using only one hand. All other dishwashers we've tested with an adjustable upper rack require two hands to change position.
Want to pay lots less for a high-performing dishwasher? You can't go wrong with the former champion, the Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7UC, $700. Whenever you plan to shop, be sure to view our buying guide, which includes a video on our tough testing, before you hit our Ratings of almost 190 dishwashers.