laundry

Frigidaire FFLE4033QT Laundry Center Review

Frigidaire pairs a dryer with a high-efficiency washer in this compact laundry center.

Credit: Reviewed.com / Matthew Zahnzinger
April 16, 2015
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

If you live in a condo, apartment, or small house with in-unit laundry, chances are you have a laundry center stashed away in a closet somewhere. Laundry centers are single structures that feature a top-load washer on the bottom with an attached dryer on top.

Laundry centers have traditionally lagged behind their full-size counterparts when it came to stain removal and efficiency, but competition from European-style 24-inch compact machines has forced the industry to up its game.

That's where the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT (MSRP $1,699) comes in. This all-new unit includes a 3.8-cu.-ft. washer beneath a 5.5-cu.-ft. dryer, and is also the world's first high-efficiency laundry center. Gone are the days of clothes-shredding pole agitators, replaced now by a more efficient and effective impeller design. Compared to other laundry centers, like the Maytag MET3800XW (MSRP $1,399), the FFLE4033QT's washer uses significantly less water, and is gentler on clothes. The dryer, too does a perfectly suitable job on just about everything... except for large comforters and other bulky items.

The new model also features a legible control scheme right at eye level, and looks great in a dark gray finish. If you're looking for a stacked top loader combo, Frigidaire's FFLE4033QT isn't just the latest—it's also the greatest.

Design & Usability

Tall, dark, and simple

Frigidaire FFLE4033QT Front
Credit: Reviewed.com / Matthew Zahnzinger
Laundry Center = A dryer stacked above a top-loading washing machine. View Larger

Aesthetically, the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT actually looks pretty darn good for such a basic machine: A Classic Slate finish looks unexpectedly stylish, while the cohesive structure gives it a sturdy appearance.

Despite it's towering height, however, both individual sections are actually somewhat small: The washer has a 3.8-cu.-ft. drum, while the dryer is 5.5-cu.-ft.

That should be enough for one or two people, but washing large items like duvets or heavy jackets may require a trip to a laundromat.

Another ergonomic drawback involves the doors. Because of the position of the dryer, the washer door can only be opened to a 45° angle. This means you may find yourself reaching in to fish around blindly for that last stray sock. And when you stand up? Be careful, or you might hit your head on a half-opened dryer door.

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Controls & Features

Easy access, with a low learning curve

Stacked
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
The controls are located between the washer and dryer for easy access. View Larger

One of the major advantages of a laundry center's design is the unified control panel. If you stack an individual washer and dryer, the dryer's controls may be more than five feet off the ground. Here, the FFLE4033QT sandwiches its controls between the washer and dryer, well within arm's reach and right at eye level.

Speaking of controls, we found a mix of old-school and new-school approaches to this appliance's functionality. Older models let you choose the spin, temperature, water level, and cycle on the washer. Newer machines let you simply choose a cycle, and the onboard computer figures out the rest. The FFLE4033QT has a little of both: You pick a cycle and temperature, but the rest is out of your hands. It's a nice middle ground for both the washer and dryer, as temperature is the one variable that consumers are more likely to customize.

Washer Controls
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
The FFLE4033QT has controls that are somewhere between modern and traditional. View Larger

Beyond those minor adjustable settings, there's not much else going on here. You have the option of adding fabric softener for washing, plus there's a switch that toggles an Energy Saver mode. Other than that and the ability to turn the cycle chime on and off, that's all there is.

Despite the slim feature set, the cycle list is rather comprehensive. Each option for both the washer and dryer is actually something useful, like Presoak or Bedding for the washer and Cotton Towels for the dryer. Unfortunately, the analogue nature of the dials and the lack of any timer screen means there's absolutely no way to know when your laundry will finish.

Frigidaire FFLE4033QT Dryer Controls
Credit: Reviewed.com / Matthew Zahnzinger
Like the washer, the dryer portion of the laundry center has very little you can customize but a wide range of useful cycles. View Larger

Washing...

As good as the rest, and does it for less

Washer Door Angle
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
Because of the dryer on top, the washer lid can't open all the way. View Larger

This Frigidaire washer's stain removal capabilities are on par with other top loaders in its price range. The difference is that it uses significantly less water. Based on average U.S. electricity costs and use patterns, we estimate that this laundry center will cost about $47 a year to clean your clothes. Compared to a standard top loader like the Whirlpool WTW8000BW, you'll save about $150 in water and electricity over ten years' of ownership.

Fortunately, that reduction in water use didn't cut back on stain removal. Surprisingly, the Normal cycle proved the best, even compared to the Heavy Duty cycle. At an hour and eleven minutes, it also was the longest cycle we tested. During that time, it did well against red wine, blood, and cocoa stains—a range of substances that vary in pH and chemical composition.

Heavy Duty was the other cycle of note. Although it's overall cleaning ability wasn't as strong, it did fare better against sweat and oil stains compared to the Normal cycle. We attribute this to the fact that it uses four more gallons of hot water, and recommend it for undershirts and gym clothes.

Most of the cycles on the FFLE4033QT took an hour or more, with Heavy Duty taking a little less time than Normal. The Quick Wash cycle needed only 22 minutes, but its relatively poor cleaning performance should be reserved for when you have only a few items that just need refreshing.

For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.

Detergent Dispenser
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
Bleach and fabric softener only View Larger

...& Drying

A great workhorse machine, but avoid large loads

Up top in the dryer, we measured similarly strong results. Normal only took about an hour and didn't get too hot. The Quick Dry cycle, too, did a great job with our smaller loads, only taking about 25 minutes on average to finish.

Normal only took about an hour and didn't get too hot. Tweet It

The Heavy Duty cycle, on the other hand, didn't do a great job tackling our fluffy comforter, but that's something we attribute more to the size of the drum than the efficacy of the sensors. 5.5 cu. ft. simply isn't large enough to tumble a bulky item—but you can remedy that by flipping it inside out during the cycle.

The Delicates cycle was a bit of an oddity. With temperatures set to low, it took only 30 minutes but only got clothes 40 percent dry. We tried it with the temperature set to Normal, and got similar results. We don't think this is a major problem, though. Most consumer use a Delicates cycle for thin or sheer fabrics, which take less time to dry than the standard cottons we use for testing.

For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.

Raising the Bar

Niche appeal, but a clear winner in its field

The Frigidaire FFLE4033QT is literally a niche product. It's aimed at a small segment of buyers, and designed to fit in a tight laundry closet. You're either looking for a machine like this, or you're looking at something completely different. If you are in the market for a laundry center, though, this high-efficiency model is about as good as it gets... so far.

As a washer, water consumption is much lower compared to the competition, though overall stain removal was just average compared to standalone top loaders in its price range. The top half delivers great drying performance out of is workhorse Normal cycle, too, though you may want to just schlep down to the local laundromat for bulky items.

At the end of the day, the Frigidaire FFLE4033QT is a smorgasbord of compromises, driven by size. It will never wash or dry as well as the best standalone machines—but it's a superb option for folks with space constraints.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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