Top-loading dryers are about as common as ivory-billed woodpeckers, so we'll take you on a tour of this laundry room rarity.

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The drum 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.

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If you have nightmares of forgetting to empty the lint trap, the SmartLoad is your dryer. A self-cleaning lint filter automatically empties into a bucket that you can clean whenever you remember. It's an unusual system, but it sure beats messing with a wire screen.

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With cycles that varied in length from 20 minutes to nearly an hour and a half, the SmartLoad took awhile to do what it had to.

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.

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On the delicate cycle, the SmartLoad reached 114.7 degrees. That's a little warmer than some dryers, but not enough to damage clothes. After an 81 minute cycle, the clothes emerged entirely dry -- a feat most dryers can't replicate.

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The SmartLoad's "Denim" cycle is meant for bulky clothes, and got our bulky test load 100 percent dry in 65 minutes after reaching 146.7 degrees.

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The SmartLoad doesn't have a dedicated cycle labeled "quick," but it does have a 20-minute Time Dry cycle that we used. In just 20 minutes (surprise!) clothes ended up almost two thirds dry, which is about as good as any other dryer can do.

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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.

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Even the owner's manual doesn't give estimates of how long cycles take. Judging from the ones we tested, be prepared to wait.

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Curiously, there's no temperature adjustment on the SmartLoad, which means you best put all low-temperature items on delicate.

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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.

It's always good to see simple, one-touch controls. However, we were disappointed that the SmartLoad featured no countdown timer. Nearly all other washers in this price range have some sort of display that shows how long it'll take before a wash is done, even if such timers usually offer pretty rough estimates.

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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.

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If you have nightmares of forgetting to empty the lint trap, the SmartLoad is your dryer. A self-cleaning lint filter automatically empties into a bucket that you can clean whenever you remember. It's an unusual system, but it sure beats messing with a wire screen.

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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 lint trap, and it was easy to dump wet clothes into a top-loader. The straightforward control panel was a plus, but its lack of custom temperature controls or a timer were very noticeable omissions.

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

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