Do we believe Consumer Reports (wall ovens)

CT_NewbieAugust 1, 2013

I just did a quick scan of Consumer Reports ovens. Some mainstream brands, like Kitchen Aid and Whirlpool have the highest ratings 72-80 but the premium brands like Wolf (55) and Thermador (63) have much lower ratings? Are they commanding a higher price based on brand or is there something about the CR methodology that skews more mainstream brands? Or do the higher end brands have more complex functionality that may not always work?

Please advise. Thanks!

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Very rarely does CR say that premium brands are the best, outside of Lexus and now Tesla cars.

CR is in the business of finding "best buys" or some low end product that is just as good as a mid range product. And giving number 1 status to a mid range product that is just as good as a premium product.

If they did not find these conclusions what is the point of buying a CR magazine or becoming a "member" and paying "membership fees" ?

They gave the Bluestar 22k btu burner a good but not great rating for high heat.

A few years ago they rated Miele Optima dead last for dishwashers. Behind GE and Hotpoint. Dead last.

I agree with them generally about a third of the time, disagree a third, and vehemently disagree another third of the time.

How they construct some of their test and what they prioritize is sometimes ridiculous.

What CR is really good for is checking if an item has a horrible reliability/durability rating. If they say it is extremely bad in those areas you generally want to scratch it of your list. Even here, sometimes a functionally superior product can have a failure rate of 3% while another product has a 1% failure rate. CR would tell you to avoid the product with three times the failure rate. But maybe for you the superior functionality and the still low probability of getting a lemon is worth the risk.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 4:47PM
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The zeitgeist of Consumer Reports and their members is not finding the functionally superior product. It is about saving money. That is their sales pitch. If you buy their magazine or online subscription it will more than pay itself in savings from buying their best buys and little jewels they find that cost less.

The zeitgeist of Appliance Forum is a little different. :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 5:07PM
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deeageaux; I think your analysis of CR is way off. You said "The zeitgeist of Consumer Reports and their members is not finding the functionally superior product. It is about saving money."

While I agree that the concept includes a very strong focus on saving money, it SPECIFICALLY focuses on the functionality and quality of the products. It does this with precise side by side analysis of almost all current models rather than emotion and our own personal experience with a couple of appliances and some comments from our friends. Now I am sure that some of us might find specific reasons that a particular analytic technique was not the best for some reason or that too much (or not enough) weight was given to a feature. Most obviously style. Style is hard to analyze and measure.

I just grabbed my more recent CR's to see if I found your 22k BS burner to see if I could find if they listed their reason for rating it poorly. I suppose it was in an earlier edition. I would guess that they were probably comparing it with some other units' high power burners and found it weaker, or less efficient, but I suspect that the reasoning was noted. I certainly didn't search for the dead last miele dishwasher (but would like to know its CR issue), but I did find the latest ratings for dishwashers which make my points clearly. The highest rated units are as follows: Kenmore Elite $1200, Bosch Ascenta $700, Bosch SHX98 $1500; KAKDFE454 $1500; Bosch 800 $900; LG steam $1000; and Miele Futura Dimension $1950. These are the first seven in a listing of 87 models. These seven had ratings of 82 down to 80 and the ratings fell down to 23 for the 87th washer (for $230 and it wasn't rated a best buy). The first Bosch at $700 not surprisingly was rated a 'best buy' and the 11 highest ranking units (ratings down to 79) were marked as 'recommended' (that included two more Bosch's and KA's.

You will note prices from $700 up to $1950 for these highly rated units. That is most assuredly not an emphasis on price.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 9:11PM
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CR supposedly uses scientific testing of their appliances, but their results do not match my own personal experience, so I have a healthy degree of skepticism when it comes to their appliance ratings. I think deeageaux is right; CR doesn't just want the best performing appliance, but what they define as "best buy". And in general, that describes their subscribers. Consistent with this attitude, CR has almost always been negative about high end brands [Viking, Wolf, Miele, Bluestar]. That would be OK, but take a look at what's on the cover every year of their kitchen issue -- high end brands! I remember one year where the owners of the spotlight article installed a Viking range, even though that was the lowest rated range that year. I don't rely on CR for ratings of cooking appliances. I think they're most useful for cars. That's why I terminated my subscription years ago and just go to the library or bookstore when I need some info.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 9:50PM
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Sure, CR often has more than a whiff of sanctimony, but CR uses some very specific tests for rating ovens. If you understand the tests, you can evaluate how useful the information is for you.
For ovens, the primary test for baking is to put a sheet of sugar cookies in the center of the oven and bake until done. An optical scanner is used to evaluate the evenness of the shade of browning. Apparently, according to the "range test video" on the CR website, the test is now done with both standard bake and convection bake.

Something that throws some people (and outrages others) is the mid-pack rating of "good." Some people see that as saying that the oven (or whatever) is so piss-poor that nobody should buy it because the oven is unacceptably bad. It does not mean that, at all, of course, but you can't tell some people that good is "good enough."

The issue others of us have with CR is that the graphic rating system seems opaquely subjective. For instance, how much better are the "very good" cookies than the "good cookies" and how much better than them are the "excellent" ones? Are we talking miniscule differences perceptible only to measuring machines?

As for the Blue Star, and now the NXR, getting "panned" for an inability to quickly heat pans of water, some of that may simply be the kind of pan used. My perception is that larger diameter pans on pro-style burners come to heat much more quickly than smaller diameter pans. CR may be using what they consider "typical" cookware. So they run their test with, say, a tall, narrow Kirkland 12 quart stockpot from Cotsco and find that it takes 20+ minutes to boil 6 quarts of water in it. I run the same test with a different, wider stockpot and find it takes only 14 or 15 minutes. So my stove is "merely" good the way CR tested it but excellent with the pans I use? Some would say that this clearly shows CR is a bunch of lying hypocrites who hate anybody who buys high end appliances. Others (like me) say to take the CR tests as a starting point and do your own investigation for stuff outside the scope of the limited testing CR does.

And EurekaChef is correct about that annual spotlight articles where some CR staffers express personal preferences for some of the preium priced products that do not get excellent ratings in the CR tests.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Fri, Aug 2, 13 at 1:02

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 10:27PM
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Their testing is rarely "scientific" but mostly subjective.

I remember them rating down a Demeyere saucepan because it was heavier than other brands.

But they were not comparing apples to apples as they were not comparing induction-compatible cookware but cookware in general. Demeyere is one of the best brands for induction BECAUSE it is multi-clad (and therefore, heavy). Duh!

I have not seen a CR trust-worthy review of high-end brands (and they ignore them most of the time).

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 1:01AM
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CR also does not like anything "newfangled". I know they rated the Blanco Silgranit sink poorly because it was damaged when they dropped a 5-lb. weight on it from a height taller than any person. But they did not perform that same test on a stainless steel sink, which would have dented, on enameled cast iron, which would have chipped, on fireclay, which would have cracked. But because Silgranit has not been around for the last 40 years, CR was "looking for a reason" to downgrade it. CR's kitchens issue also had a lot of errors and misconceptions about countertop materials and other things that anyone who hangs out on the Kitchens Forum for a couple of days would know.

I also have a problem with the fact that CR often rates Kenmore appliances much much higher than the re-badged item it actually is. So, for example, the LG appliance is #12 on the list, while the exact same appliance but with the Kenmore badge on it, is #2 on the list. This is glaringly indicative of the inaccuracies of CR's testing.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 8:45AM
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I stopped using CR for guidance when I realized that their criteria for judging products are often completely ridiculous (though I am still a subscriber). When it comes to high end appliances, they are of no use at all. Also, they don't show how they weight the various criteria in their scoring. If they are all equally weighted, that would be even worse, obviously. I think they are mostly good for reliability ratings, as deeageaux said. When it came to researching kitchen appliances, I found their advice and picks worse than useless.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 9:45AM
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"supposedly uses scientific testing of their appliances,"

not really !

Couple of years ago they tested a washer with silver ion technology and washed clothes with it and without it activated to see if it killed bacteria that caused smells.

Wanna know how they "tested" the feature ? A smell test - literally.

I mean - Tesla automobile as a best buy ? Really ?

$65,000 starting price (almost no options) and you can't even get one serviced in VA, TN, AL, SC, MS, IN, AR, and a few other places.

To me, CR is a nice resource. But, it shouldn't be used as a benchmark. I find it to be like a well funded and nicely packaged science project that we all did in grammar school.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 12:55PM
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I stopped subscribing to CR when they put Ralph Nader on their board of directors (a long time ago). However, I think it is possible to use them to discover whether a particular candidate appliance (to them cars are also appliances) has any particularly egregious warts.

If one's concept of driver education is high school driver education, and driving education is talking on a cellular telephone, then CR's car selections are probably fine. If one's idea of driver and driving education is attending a driving school (on a track, or ice course, or similar such venue), then one will likely use different weights than CR does in scoring the salient characteristics of cars. This will also be true of the tires to use on them.

I suspect a parallel situation exists with serious cooks versus their cooktops.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 11:10AM
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If you're buying Kenmore appliances, which is what they usually rate highly, then it's fine to use them to see which models they like. Otherwise, not so useful except to decide what you are not interested in.

If you are shopping for high end appliances CR is useless because they are "value" driven and if, say, they get the same results between two products they downgrade the more expensive product. That explains the low ratings on Miele dishwashers, f.ex. which are very skewed IMO.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 12:21PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The other thing that is rarely commented on is that the tests take so long that by time the results are reported, the model that they tested is no longer available and you're dealing with a newer generation that may or may not be the same basic model that they tested with some alterations.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 2:34PM
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Thank you all for your highly informative and thorough perspectives! So if CR isn't good, is there another source that is good for comparisons? Or do I have to do it all myself feature by feature talking to reps and reading online factoring in some personal preferences. Or do I just go by brand (with obvious consideration to price/value in terms of high end brands and promos) with a cursory look at features? At this point, I'm short on time and energy and am finding it hard to make appliance decisions.

Do you think I should pay $90 to have an appliance service guy look at the `1999 Thermador ovens to see if they'll last a bunch more years? I'd have some cost savings if I keep them and I am somewhat indifferent to the ovens . Some say skip the eval and just buy new but I've been spending so much and the cabinet guys say they can make the box to fit a 30" down the road and it would work for Wolf/Thermador but not GE.



    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 11:33PM
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With regard to the original question, the ovens are a completely new design from Whirlpool. We have received service training on them and they are well constructed.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 6:50AM
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CR buys and tests products in a laboratory. There's a web page and a video about stove testing that tells what they test. They've said in the past that they don't go into detail about tests because they don't want manufacturers to design products just to get high scores.

Their rankings don't consider price unless they say they do. They do factor reliability which is based on repair histories that their subscribers send them. They publish reader comments on specific products which run the gamut from best to worst and are of limited usefulness IMO.

I often disagree with their opinion of what's important and what isn't but I've never had reason to suspect the integrity of their methods. They're a unique resource for U.S. consumers.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 8:27AM
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No one can tell anyone else what to buy -- only share opinions about brands. Everyone must determine what they need and what works for their budget. After someone has picked a set of appliances they usually post the choices and solicit opinions on those specifics or alternatives.

Alternately, folks who are short on time and patience often turn to an expert such as their KD to discuss the various options.

I personally would not put old ovens in a new kitchen even though there is no one "true" oven choice. Reworking an oven cabinet post-reno can create a domino effect that is expensive and beyond aggravating.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 8:50AM
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Seems to me that you might as well spend the $90 to have somebody look over your existing ovens --- as long as you know the servicers to be good and competent , These are electric ovens, right? Not much to go wrong with them. At some point, a heating element will burn out. Those probably are stock parts at appliance parts warehouses. Bought one last year for a vintage-2000 GE electric oven and it cost about $85. Easy diy project, too. The the oven door gasket will eventually need replacing but, again, that's an easy diy project and not expensive. The other thing to find out is if replacement circuit boards and temperature probes are still available and how much they cost.

If parts are avaialable, there is no reason for you to spend several thousand $$ on new ovens when you are indifferent to them and the existing ones otherwise work for you.

But, back to the original topic: do we have a consensus on CR? Actually. we have two.

One is folks who view CR as lying hypocrites engaged in class warfare who only give high ratings to cheap products. Never mind that CR gives high ratings to 36" pro-style ranges.

The other consensus is folks who see CR as doing some limited testing that may be useful (or not) to you when you understand how they test and what to make of the results they report. We recognize that sometimes their performance ratings seem confused as with Mrs_Nyefnyef's example of the LG that has different performance ratings that the essentially indistinguishable Kenmore version. Though, I have to say, that the differences may simply be product variation from different manufacturing runs as from sloppy testing by CR.
Also, sometimes, when you look at CR's actual testing results, a #12 rated stove may not perform much diffferently than the # 2 rated one.

No reconciling these divergent opinions,

So, is there an alternative and objective source for information on appliances as CT Newbie asked? Mostly, no, especially when it comes to data on reliability. From sites like this one, as roccocogurl says, you can get first hand info that may provide helpful opinions (and sometime decent performance reports). If you have a specific model of oven you are interested in, you sometimes can find good video reviews on youtube. For other info on use, you can try, chowhound (although I do not recall anything recent on ovens), and the forums at Sometimes there can be useful information at, who tend to be more explicit than CR about their testing. (Pretty limited number of reviews, though.)

Other than that, you can try finding a product demo. That can be one benefit of visiting some of the higher-end appliance stores.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 5:37PM
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