It is not wholly uncommon for dryers in this range to offer a decent set of customizable options, a number of features, and maybe even a specialty cycle or two, but this oddball comes up short on every count. On the other hand, despite what it lacks in bows and frills, and despite lengthy cycle durations, this top-loader can still boast gentle temperatures and thorough drying. As a top-loading dryer, the Fisher & Paykel SmartLoad may be one of the most unusual appliances on the market. When it comes to substance though, the SmartLoad is only just above average.
The SmartLoad has some innovations, but some disappointments as well
Interestingly, instead of a removable lint screen, the SmartLoad has a permanent filter that automatically empties into a bucket to prevent airflow from being blocked.
Though there's no other dryer quite like it, this is actually easy to operate. At the same time, while it's always good to see simple, one-touch controls, we were a little disappointed that the SmartLoad featured no countdown timer. Nearly all other dryers in this price range have some sort of display that shows how long it'll take before the clothes are dry.
The most unusual thing about the SmartLoad is that its entire top is a door, made of heavy-duty, lightweight plastic. Paired with a top-load washer, it's actually pretty easy to dump clothes in and pull them out.
The packs a punch on performance... in slow motion.
With just five pre-set cycles, the SmartLoad doesn't offer the impressive array of sanitizing, bedding, wool and steam dry cycles that similarly priced units have. However, the cycles are well-chosen for most users.
Noticeably, the owner's manual doesn't give estimates of how long cycles take. Judging from the ones we tested, users should be prepared to wait anywhere from 20 minutes to upwards of 80 minutes. Curiously, there's no temperature adjustment on the SmartLoad, which means it would be wise to put all low-temperature items on delicate.
Instead of drying clothes based on a pre-set cycle, the SmartLoad lets you choose a time dry—either 20, 40 or 80 minutes—or an automatic cycle that depends on the unit's internal humidity sensor.
The best part is that using gentle temperatures, the SmartLoad will return wet clothes to their bone-dry weight practically every time, though somewhat slowly. There are many, many machines that cannot boast the same.
Is this oddball right for your home?
The top-loading Fisher & Paykel SmartLoad is certainly an oddity. While it's an admirable performer, getting clothes bone-dry on most cycles, it does take awhile to do so.
We loved the unique, self-emptying lint trap and the easy, top-loading design. The straightforward control panel was a plus too, but its lack of custom temperature controls or a timer were very noticeable omissions. If simple is the name of your game, this machine is a competitive buy, but if specialized cycles and a flood of extra features are what you're looking for in an appliance, then this $799 MSRP SmartLoad won't be the right fit for you.
Top-loading dryers are about as common as ivory-billed woodpeckers, so we'll take you on a tour of this laundry room rarity. We will also outline the performance test results to show you how well this SmartLoad can handle laundry.
A brief word on top-loaders and then a look at how this SmartLoad did on Delicate and Normal cycles
The drum on this top-loading dryer tumbles on a horizontal axis that's perpendicular to the side of the washer. That means the door is an opening in the drum, and must be electronically aligned with the dryer each time it's opened. A door lock prevents the dryer from opening otherwise. So does it work?
In this first case, yes, it does. On our normal test, after about 70 minutes, clothes emerged from the SmartLoad's Regular cycle as dry as an Arizona summer. That's ten to twenty minutes longer than similarly-priced dryers, but still not too shabby, and temperatures did not peak too high either, at 134.1ºF.
Top-load design didn't seem to hinder the Delicate cycle either, which peaked at a gentle 114.7ºF and expelled 100 percent of the moisture from our test loads. The only downside? It took 81 minutes to do it, which is longer than we like—although we have seen far worse.
How will this dryer handle quick work and bulky items?
The SmartLoad doesn't have a dedicated cycle labeled "quick," but it does have a 20-minute Time Dry cycle, which we used to run our test. In just 20 minutes (surprise!) clothes ended up almost two thirds dry, which is about as good as any other dryer can do.
The SmartLoad's "Denim" cycle is meant for bulky clothes, and got our bulky test load 100 percent dry in 65 minutes after reaching 146.7ºF—toasty, to be sure.
Meet the testers
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.Shoot us an email