Supersized products from Consumer Reports’ tests

Make room for these large TVs, appliances, grills, SUVs, and more

Published: June 13, 2014 01:30 PM
Samsung Chef Collection RF34H9960S4

Photo: Samsung

Imagine having an SUV big enough to cart around a Little League team, a washer big enough to clean all their uniforms at once, and a refrigerator big enough for drinks and pizza after the game when they switch on the wide-screen TV. That’s the promise of the ever-expanding SUVs, appliances, electronics, and other products in Consumer Reports tests. When we tested them, we found huge differences.

What’s driving this growth? The folks at Samsung, which is one of the manufacturers that has been supersizing its appliances and TVs, attribute the jumbo models to the increase in household size. "There's been a growth in four to five person households, either multi-generational households or grown kids returning home. These households are already doing more laundry, so they want larger capacities,”  Dean Brindle, Director of Laundry Product Management, said.

With TVs, it’s simply a matter of why not? "When it comes to TVs, bigger is better," Shane Higbey, Samsung’s vice president of Marketing Home Appliances, said. "The price of components has come down so Samsung can deliver a larger TV for the similar price of smaller versions we sold a year ago.”  Recently, we took a tour of our labs to find the best of the biggest in our tests. Here’s what we discovered.

Samsung WF56H9100AG

Jumbo large appliances

Refrigerators. The Samsung T9000 four-door refrigerator, $3,500, had been the biggest model ever tested at Consumer Reports, with nearly 23 cubic feet of usable capacity, until it was knocked off its perch by its brand mate, the Samsung Chef Collection RF34H9960S4, which has an additional .4 cubic feet of usable space, based on our initial measurements.

Samsung's new four-door, French-door refrigerator won't appear in our Ratings until full testing has been completed. But the Samsung T9000 has one of the highest overall scores in our Ratings, on the strength of its superb temperature control and energy efficiency, so we have high hopes for the larger one. The big capacity and innovation of the Samsung Chef Collection refrigerator is matched by its price tag, with a suggested retail price of $6,000.

Washing machines. The Samsung WF56H9100AG, $1,520, had the largest capacity of the front-loaders in our tests and can wash up to 28 pounds of laundry. That’s 12 to 15 pairs of men’s jeans. It did an impressive job and made our list of top washer picks. Even better was the top-rated LG WM8500HVA. This front-loader delivered excellent washing and was gentler on fabrics, and yes, the capacity is mega-sized and so is the price—$1,600.

Among HE top-loaders, the Samsung WA56H9000AP had the largest capacity and also holds about 28 pounds of laundry. And at $1,500, it’s the most expensive top-loader in our tests. It too was impressive at washing, but wasn’t so gentle on fabrics, which is true of most HE top-loaders we’ve tested. The top-rated LG WT5680HVA was better at washing and has a jumbo capacity too. It’s a recommended model and costs $1,200.  

60-inch Wolf DF606

Pro-style ranges. Most pro-style ranges come in standard widths of 30, 36, 48, and 60 inches. Because the biggest pro-style ranges don’t fit a typical kitchen, we test 30-inch and 36-inch models. But based on their performance in our tests, we can guess how their larger brethren might perform. The champ of our 36-inch pro-styles is the dual-fuel KitchenAid KDRU763VSS, $6,000. Our top pick of 30-inch pro-style ranges is the KitchenAid KDRS407VSS, $4,000, which has a big brother, the 48-inch KitchenAid KDRU483VSS $9,000. Our tested model had superb simmering and fast cooktop heating and evenly browned cakes and cookies. Timesavers include convection and three high-power burners.

Bigger still is the 60-inch Wolf DF606, $16,000, which is the larger sibling of the dual-fuel 30-inch Wolf DF304, which was third in our tests of pro-style ranges, barely missing the list of top range picks. The tested model was very good at baking and broiling but cooktop high heat was only mediocre. Still, the Wolf has those beefy red knobs that have become a status symbol in the kitchen.

Napoleon Prestige Pro 665RSIB

Grills as big as a couch

When we test grills we measure the actual cooking area, which is often different than the claimed cooking space. The Napoleon Prestige Pro 665RSIB, $2,600, a recommended model, has 615 square inches of cooking space and 625 square inches of shelf space. It’s 77 inches wide, which is somewhere between the size of a loveseat and a couch.

The Vermont Castings Signature Series VCS524SSP, $2,500, has a cooking area of 610 square inches and 580 square inches of shelf space. Its footprint on your deck is 69 inches long by 26 inches deep. It comes with a lot of extras such as trays, racks, hooks, and lights and delivers delicious barbecue.

Vizio 120-inch reference ultra-HD TV

Outsized TVs

Over the last few years, the TVs in our tests have been getting wider and wider. The largest model we recommend is the 75-inch Samsung UN75F6300, $2,300, which made our list of top TV picks.  It was a cinch to set up and has excellent HD picture quality. (The 80-inch Vizio M801d-A3R, $3,500 didn’t make our list of TV picks.)

We also took a first look at two 84-inch sets that are part of the new breed of ultra-HD TVs, which have four times the resolution of their predecessors. We brought the LG 84LM9600 Ultra HD TV, priced about $18,000, into our labs and were able to spend a few hours with the Sony XBR-84X900 Ultra HD TV, which sells for about $25,000, at Sony’s headquarters. While there was a lot to like about each model, which are similar in many ways, we give the edge to the Sony in terms of overall performance, although it should be noted that we were able to spend a lot more time with the LG under test-lab conditions.

The largest mainstream model, meaning not insanely priced, available right now is the 90-inch Sharp LC-90LE657U, which sells for $7,000. Even bigger were the 105-inch models shown by LG and Samsung at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and Vizio had a 120-inch model on display. Pricing and availability have not been announced but we expect the sticker prices to be stratospheric.

Craftsman 28861

Wide-rider mowers

The lawn tractor in our Ratings with the largest deck is the Craftsman 28861, $2,800, which has a 54-inch deck and one of the fastest ground speeds of the mowers in our tests. This luxury tractor also has superlative bagging. Extras include large rear wheels, a bumper, a comfy high-back seat with arm rests, and a fuel gauge you can read from the driver’s seat.

For less, and a little less luxury, the Craftsman 28858, $2,000, also has a 54-inch deck. It offers wide cuts and competent mowing at a relatively low price and bagging is superb. We named it a CR Best Buy. If you have a tiny lawn but still want a macho mower, the Toro 20199, $1,000 has a 30-inch cutting deck, which is 10 inches wider than most walk-behind mowers. It was very good at most mowing tasks and has a lot of convenient features, which you’d expect for that price.

Behemoth SUVs

The newly revamped 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon XL seem to defy the forces of evolution. These are huge, old-school SUVs built on a full-sized pickup chassis in a world where nearly every other SUV has adopted carlike structures. Standing more than six feet, two inches tall, occupying almost 19 feet of parking space, and weighing close to three tons, these are the vehicles that make green enthusiasts see red.

Another biggie is the new Cadillac Escalade, which GM has positioned as its flagship SUV, with pricing to start at $72,000. Our model had a sticker price of $85,690, positioning it against such status machines as the Land Rover Range Rover or a Mercedes-Benz GL, and raising expectations. The new Escalade certainly looks the part, with chiseled exterior styling and a tastefully finished, leather-laden cabin. But in some ways this flagship misses the boat. Still, the sheer size and bulk of this tall ship is hard to ignore.

—Consumer Reports

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