Speed Queen AFN51F Imperial Series 2.84 cu ft Front Loading Stainless Steel Washing Machine Review
Twice as sturdy, twice as expensive, but with half as many cycles and the same performance as an average clothes washer.
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With its stainless steel exterior, bright red control knobs and thick glass door, the Speed Queen AFN51F looks like a prop from a Cold War-era nuclear thriller. In fact, the uncanny resemblance to military technology is no accident, as its design dates back to when Speed Queen was owned by defense contractor Raytheon. In fact, the only thing about this machine that isn't deadly serious is the owner's manual, written in a silly font called Tekton Pro that could easily pass for Comic Sans' older brother. The washer's performance won't melt any telephones, and its lack of custom controls may cause you to have a nuclear meltdown. At $2200 on sale, it will at least blast open your bank account.
As with most washers, electricity use is far behind water when it comes to total cost of ownership. This Speed Queen will only use about $4 of electricity each year, so don't expect any big changes to your electric bill.
The AFN51F uses between 12 and 17 gallons per wash -- more if you add an extra rinse to a cycle. For a front loading washer with a capacity under 3.5 cubic feet, that's a lot of water.
Cost Per Wash
On average, totaling the costs of hot and cold water in addition to electricity, washes should run between 8 and 14 cents each. The laundromat only charges more than that because they're trying to pay off the cost of the machine and keep their rent current.
Yearly Running Cost
Accounting for hot and cold water use in addition to the cost of electricity, the Speed Queen AFN51F will cost about $47 each year in operating costs. Of course, that number will vary depending on local prices.
Normal/Permanent Press Cycle
There aren’t “cycles” on the Speed Queen, per se — more like a collection of suggested wash options that, when put together, mimic computer-controlled washers’ highly automated options. The Speed Queen is a bit more old-fashioned — choose the temperature, choose the spin speed and wait for the wash to finish.
Despite its industrial visage, the Speed Queen’s performance on the Normal cycle was on par with most of the homebound dryers we’ve tested. It struggled a bit with oil-based stains, but did a great job on red wine and cocoa. Best of all: it only took about 49 minutes, which is a good ten minutes fewer than the average washing machine.
We ran the Normal cycle with a hot water option, and found the results to be somewhat impressive. Stains jumped out of the standardized soil strips we use in testing, leaving them far closer to white. With bleach added, this cycle could be a formidable opponent for stained tablecloths.
We ran the Speed Queen’s water-intensive Delicates cycle at a cold temperature. Among similar cycles we’ve tested, it did a decent job at lifting stains, and left behind the load’s full weight in water.
Unfortunately, the only “heavy duty” option on the Speed Queen is a delicate cycle run with a warmer temperature. It left a lot of excess water behind, which could make for moldy sheets and towels. In the process, it didn’t even do the best job getting out stains. We’d recommend washing heavier-duty items in smaller batches with the temperature turned up to “Hot/Cold.”
Quick Wash Cycle
It doesn’t matter if your clothes just need to be freshened up: there’s no dedicated quick wash cycle on this machine, nor is there a way to adjust an existing cycle to make it faster. Luckily, the cycles on offer tend to be fairly swift
The Speed Queen lacked when it came to dirt removal.
The Speed Queen had somewhat uneven dirt removal performance.
The Speed Queen’s reign of success was cut short by an extremely poor showing in our water retention test. This was almost entirely due to the washer’s doubling up of heavy duty and delicates cycles on a single setting. Set up for delicates, the final spin on the dual-purpose cycle failed to get all the water out of heavy duty towels and sheets, leaving them ripe for mustiness and giving the dryer an extra challenge.
Even though most laundry-doers prefer a "set and forget" cycle, we have nothing against letting users choose wash options for themselves. Unfortunately, the AFN51F's cycles are too narrowly focused to be truly customizable. If Speed Queen had let the user select spin speed, this wouldn't be an issue.
Additional Wash Options
There's only one wash option: Extra Rinse. It comes in handy when using fabric softener or bleach.
Again, more plastic packaging here than a takeout order from the Cheesecake Factory. Though its visually incongruous, its also quite forgivable. Since water tends to accumulate in the detergent dispenser, a metal one may be prone to rust.
Look at that hinge! Look at those screws! Speed Queen means business, probably because the bulk of their products end up in the basement of frat houses and apartment buildings.
Ease of Use
Though the Speed Queen is simple, we think preset cycles are the easiest to use of all. There's no single "normal" setting that the laundry-challenged can choose.
The Speed Queen looks quite industrial, with stainless-ish controls that are actually made of plastic. There's no countdown timer -- your wash is done when it's done, thankyouverymuch.
Speed Queen's AFN51F isn't the most efficient washer we've tested, especially considering that it has the interior space of a compact front loading washer with water use that rivals a jumbo top loader.
The Speed Queen had no problems getting out stains, but on many cycles it left behind lots of excess water. That means more work for a dryer, and more chances for musty-smelling clothes.
The AFN51F's solid, stainless design is its feature. There's a certain subset of consumers who want an appliance that feels tough, and the Speed Queen certainly delivers. Unfortunately, it has a paltry selection of cycles on offer and doesn't give the user enough leeway to customize them.