Is CR a good source of information/ratings about appliances? If not, what other sources are better?
You can google gardenweb & consumer reports and find several threads on this.
IMO CR is "A" source not "THE" source.
I will elaborate a bit on what I wrote in last weeks thread.
The editors of CR would say that the members of GW's Appliance Forum are "self selected" and are susceptible to "group think" and the problem of "perceived value."
I would say there are no scientifically valid protocols to test the superiority of one appliance over another. When they design test it is susceptible to bias and group think within the CR organization. Furthermore, when they do test that require the tester's perception like the evenness of ovens based on the brownness or goldenness of chocolate chip cookies they may see what they expect to see.
CR's "members" or subscribers are also self selected. And through their online forum and surveys they can create an echo chamber with the CR staff. When CR testers test for ease of use for example they may also have a "perceived value" problem.
When researching appliances I look at Consumer Reports and Consumer Digest plus online sites like dishwasher-info.com, or consumersearch.com, epinions.com or chowhound.com cookware forum.
But I like this site the best.
>>>" Furthermore, when they do test that require the tester's perception like the evenness of ovens based on the brownness or goldenness of chocolate chip cookies they may see what they expect to see." Well, CR is actually both better and worse than this.
On the one hand, CR is not subjectively evaluating the brownness of the cookies they use for rating oven "evenness." And, the CR videos show sugar cookies, not chocolate chip. The reason being that they run the baked cookies past an optical scanner that measures the evenness of each cookie and cookies in its batch. (Chocolate chips would skew the measurement because you can't get exactly the same distribution of chips in each cookie in a batch.) The measurement is done with standard food science equipment and results in replicable, quantifiable, measureable etc. results. So that part is "scientific."
On the other hand, CR then makes judgments about what the numerical results mean and classifies them as as poor, fair, good, very good and excellent. How much differenes is there between good, very good and excellent? We don't know. Would you or I see the difference between good, very good and excellent as significant in our own cooking? Maybe, maybe not. No way for us to know from what is presented to us by CR.
SImilar kinds of problem with the refrigerator ratings. One of the things they test is how well a fridge compartment holds an even temperature throughout the compartment. Straightforward testing with digital recording thermometers produces "scientific" and non-subjective numerical results. But, once again, there is a layer of subjectivity in the reporting of the results in the graphical buttons for poor, fair, good, very good and excellent. How big are the gradations? What is the difference between a fridge at the high end of "very good" and one at the low end of "excellent?." The gradations seem subjective, if not arbitrary.
And some of the ratings -- such as "ease of use" are obviously subjective preferences.
These things do not mean CR is a bad source. It means their data has limitations and that you have to be aware of their preferences and biases as you would with any other source. Those biases and preferences are usually pretty easy to discern with CR. Plus, CR does surveys to establish reliability data and trends. The info may be on a somewhat limited number of major brands --- there may not be enough purchasers of some niche market products to get a statistically usable survey sample --- but you can't get broad ranging reliability data elsewhere.
So, as Deeageaux says, CR is a useful source --- provided you understand their outlook. Occasionally, you can find some similar testing with a reasonable degree of objectivity such as refrigeratorinfo.com. With the latter, you may find reviews of only a few fridges and they may not be models you are interested in, but if they have looked at a fridge you are interested in, the data you get may be more useful that CR's presentation. Or, it may be just too much.
As I said on the other recent thread about CR, the thing that glaringly shows CR's flaws is that they will rate a Kenmore appliance much higher than the identical appliance that particular Kenmore rebadges. First of all, why don't they even know it's a rebadge, when anyone stepping into a Sears appliance department can see the Kenmore fridge, and, e.g., the LG fridge standing next to each other on the floor and see they are identical? Second, how is it possible that CR rates two identical appliances so differently, just because one is Kenmore, and the other is LG?
Here is a link that might be useful: Other Recent Thread about CR
This post was edited by Mrs_Nyefnyef on Tue, Aug 13, 13 at 8:40
Mrs_Nyefnef - in general I agree with you but the Kenmore badged appliance is usually similar but not identical to the other brand. When Sears contracts with other brands, they set the specs for the appliance which often contains additional features to make the Kenmore appliance more attractive to buyers. So it's possible that the Kenmore appliance might perform a little differently on some of the CR tests, but I agree there shouldn't be a huge variation.
Thanks so much for the responses! I apologize for not searching first, I should have thought to do that. Thank you for the link to the other recent thread. :)
The problem is CR looks at everything through the prism of price, and make judgements accordingly.
So, when CR compares two appliances, X and Y, they will rate appliance X higher even if its performance is as not as good as appliance Y if appliance X is cheap enough.
I rely heavily on CR, one reason being there is no other source quite like it. Besides ratings, CR gives data. For example, it gives the actual useable cubic footage of fridge & freezer space in fridges. One fridge may have a 7.0 cf freezer, while another says it has 6.5. CR may reflect that the latter one has 5.0 useable cf freezer space, while the first one has 4.8.
CR isn't perfect, but it does at least use some scientific measures. For example, it tests loudness of fridges by using a device. THEN it layers over that a subjective value by the testers.
As for "ratings" based on price, that's not quite right. Ratings don't include price in the calculations. It is the "recommendations" that include price. If 2 fridges are close in ratings, but one costs significantly less, one may be "recommended" but the other not, because you can get almost the same rating for a lot less $.
In using this site and others as sources, the problem is there is no count of ratings. People who are angry tend to post more often about products, it seems. In this site I've seen posts warning not to buy LG products. Howevr, I've seen warnings for EVERY brand of fridge I've researched, not to buy it (Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Maytag, Kenmore, Kenmore Elite, GE, GE Profile, LG, Amana).
CR also gives a history of reliability that is NOT part of the ratings. I see posts by people complaining that CR recommended this lemon or that lemon, because an appliance broke. But CR rates based on certain things...NOT reliability. It gives reliability separately, based on tons of reports by CR members (I forget the # of members, but it's huge).
CR is also one of the few places to get some sort of rating on an appliance or vehicle that is not that popular. In researching top freezers, for instance, there are far fewer expert and consumer reviews, because top freezers are not that popular.
J D Power & Associates also gives ratings of various manufacturers of products, including appliances.
I've concluded that: appliances are no longer made to last (and that's intentional); no matter what you buy, you could get a lemon; all appliances break; no matter what you buy, you could luck out and get an appliance that lasts and lasts.
One thing I learn from consumer reviews that is very helpful is identifying particular problems with certain models of appliances. I've seen, for example, many reports of the same problem with a particular Whirlpool fridge (frosting over and leaking in and from the freezer). I've also learned that LG products are excellent, but when you have a problem, LG service sucks and is hard to find. So while Kenmore may have an ALMOST identical version of the LG fridge, Sears' service is better.
Finally...although LG makes some (I don't think all) Kenmore fridges, and they may look identical, they're not quite identical. The one I was considering does not have handles on the LG, while the Kenmore, which looks identical in all other respects, does have handles. LG warranties its compressor for 7 or so yrs; I don't think Sears does. Maytag and Whirlpool are owned by the same co. A model I looked at looked identical online, same dimensions. I saw them in the store, though, and could see that the Whirlpool had a slightly better quality to the materials of the bins and shelves, etc.