Until now. We purchased a and put it through the same rigorous tests we use for full-size dishwashers. While it couldn't clean up after a dinner party for twelve, the little Sunpentown held its own, leaving dishes cleaner than many built-in units -- and certainly cleaner than you could ever get them by hand. If you've got a small apartment and $250, it's time to stop hand washing your dishes.

The Sunpentown's front door also houses the control panel. From the back are two hoses that join a "quick connect" mount that should attach to any faucet. One hose takes in fresh water, the other drains dirty water into the sink. Once we purchased a small 15/16" to 55/64" faucet adapter at a hardware store, we had no problem hooking ours up.

Front Closed Photo

The front of the GE CDWT980VSS.

Controls 1 Photo
Controls 2 Photo

Inside, there's a filter that's removable for cleaning. You'll be thankful for that, because it gets clogged pretty easily after a particularly dirty load of dishes.

Front Open Photo

The CDWT980VSS with door open.

There's only one rack on this dishwasher. Shown is a rack from the EdgeStar DWP61ES. It's identical in shape, but it's gray instead of white so it's easier for you to see the tines.

Top Rack Photo

The top rack of the CDWT980VSS.

Cutlery Basket Photo

The CDWT980VSS cutlery basket.

The is an Energy Star rated appliance, and lived up to its classification. It used between 0.25 and 0.5 kWh of electricity per wash. Much of that savings comes from using hot water from the tap, which means the washer itself doesn't have to heat water very much internally. That does result in lower overall water temperatures, however.

The used between 2.42 gallons of water for a quick wash cycle to 4.16 gallons for a heavy duty wash cycle. It's almost certain you'd use many times that amount of water if you were hand washing.

We calculated that the total yearly cost of running the would be $17.49, and individual washes would run between six and eleven cents each.

Cycles on this Sunpentown are pretty quick, ranging from an hour and 51 minutes for a heavy duty cycle to just 49 minutes for the "speed" cycle. The normal cycle takes an hour and 15 minutes.

Loaded correctly, the does a good job getting dishes clean. We found that the dirtiest dishes should be placed toward the center of the rack with their filth facing forward. On every cycle, a milk glass at the back corner of the rack remained just as gross as it was when we put it in, a sign that it didn't get washed.

Remember that for the purposes of our tests, we apply a standardized amount of filth to each dish that's greater than you'd ever put in a dishwasher. If you prewash or even just scrape your dishes, chances are yours will end up cleaner than any dish in our test loads.

The quick cycle -- labeled "Speed" on this unit -- did well enough for lightly soiled dishes. On our test load, it left behind more meat and oats than the other cycles, but it did pretty well on everything else.
After the normal cycle, dishes emerged relatively clean. The only noticeable problem the Sunpentown had was reaching stained dishes at the back corners of the rack. We'd advise against placing anything there, because it just won't get cleaned.
Because we couldn't fit our burnt lasagna, baked on cheese and hardened dessert pans in with other dishes, we modified this test a little for a compact dishwasher and washed only pots, pans and serving dishes. The lasagna and dessert pans emerged entirely clean, though some cheese remained. That's nothing a little prewashing wouldn't cure, though.
Five cycles are on offer, ranging from heavy duty to quick. There's also a rinse option, which might come in handy if you're storing the dishwasher after a wash and don't want it to smell like food residue.

Washes cannot be customized.

Controls 2 Photo

There are no additional wash options, but the option to put the dishwasher away once you're done is an attractive one to many apartment dwellers.

Controls 1 Photo

Though Sunpentown claims that one can fit six place settings inside the , we could only fit four. Pots and pans needed to be washed separately.

Capacity Illustration
Capacity Top Rack Photo
Capacity Bottom Rack Photo

There's one wash arm at the base of the dishwasher. Below that, there's a removable filter that ended up chock full of filth after each wash.

Wash Arms 1 Photo

The CDWT980VSS wash arms.

Wash Arms 2 Photo

The DW 14140 upper wash arm

Filter Photo

The CDWT980VSS filter.

There is only one dish rack on the . With the exception of a removable cutlery basket and a shallow upper shelf that folds out of the way, it cannot be adjusted at all.

Bottom Rack Photo

The bottom rack of the CDWT980VSS.

Top Rack Photo

The top rack of the CDWT980VSS.

The cutlery holder has a variety of openings, many of which are too small to fit most flatware handles into.

Cutlery Basket Photo

The CDWT980VSS cutlery basket.

The detergent dispenser features two compartments. In the detergent one, there's room for wash powder for small or large loads. Next door is a rinse aid dispenser.

Detergent Dispenser Photo

The CDWT980VSS detergent dispenser.

Rack tines are spaced too close together to load larger bowls, but otherwise the is somewhat easy to fill with dirty dishes. Larger pans may be too tall to fit standing upright, so they may take up more space lying down.

As it's devoid of most soundproofing, you'll know when the is on. There's a distinct hum when the pump is pushing water out of the drain, and a whooshing noise when cleaning is underway.

There are three buttons on the front of the : a power button, a start/stop button and another selector button that scrolls through all available cycles.

Controls 1 Photo
Controls 2 Photo

The was more efficient than most other dishwashers we've tested, though it didn't get water as warm as more feature-filled units.

Dishes emerging from the were as clean as they'd be coming out of a full-size model. Just make sure not to load the very back corners of the rack, as those items sometimes don't get a full cleaning.

There aren't any features on this dishwasher aside from its portability. You can't delay a wash or add a rinse cycle, but you can hook it up to almost any kitchen faucet. It's pretty bulky, but if you're really short on space you can even store it in a closet when you're done.

Meet the testers

Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Former Editor in Chief, Reviewed Home

@itskeithbarry

Keith was the Editor in Chief of Reviewed's appliance and automotive sites. His work has appeared in publications such as Wired, Car & Driver, and CityLab.

See all of Keith Barry's reviews
Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Former Editor in Chief, Reviewed Home

@itskeithbarry

Keith was the Editor in Chief of Reviewed's appliance and automotive sites. His work has appeared in publications such as Wired, Car & Driver, and CityLab.

See all of Keith Barry's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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