Need to know
- Our lab experts review thousands of products to find the best and worst in their tests
- Hopeless heaters, lukewarm fridges and a power bank that scored one percent are just some of the duds we discovered
- CHOICE members can access our full test results and compare products side by side
Heard the story about the robot vac that cleans so badly, it makes a broom look good? What about the $3000 fridge that couldn’t hold a temperature? Or the Kmart heater that’s even worse than last year’s “warm doorstop”? These are just some of the stories our product tests told this year.
Every year, our experts assess and review thousands of products from hundreds of brands to help you buy better. As always, in 2020 they found some excellent performers (including some surprising budget buys) and some serious shockers.
To make sure you don’t land one of the latter, here’s our rundown of the biggest duds we tested this year. Purchase at your own peril.
1. The worst robot vac we've seen
Model: Kogan SmarterHome G60
CHOICE Expert Rating: 26%
We'd all love a hand with housework so it's no surprise robot vacuums are a hot ticket right now. Although many still struggle to out-clean a human-propelled stick or barrel vac, our lab testers have certainly seen some impressive units this year.
This Kogan clanger isn't one of them. In fact, with a woeful test score of 26% overall, it's the worst performing robot vac we've ever tested in the CHOICE labs. The previous record holder? Another Kogan, now discontinued, which sucked just a little less (or more?) with 30%.
Bad bot: The Kogan robo vac scored just nine percent for carpet cleaning.
In our separate surface tests, this year's bot bombed out badly, scoring just 33% for dirt removal on hard floors and a shocking nine percent on carpet. It also lost battles with pet hair (30%) and corners and edges (40%).
Sure, it's one of the cheaper machines on the market. But its poor cleaning performance means you're probably better off investing in a broom.
2. The all-style, no-substance Smeg fridge
Model: Smeg FAB32RRDNA1
CHOICE Expert Rating: 34%
With its bold colour and sleek retro design, this Smeg model is one fine fridge. Our experts thought so too – until they started testing it.
The results weren't pretty, especially with its price tag just shy of $3000. The unit rated a tepid 34% overall in our lab tests, making it the second lowest scorer in our current fridge reviews (beating only a lowly Beko from 2019 on 32%).
All thrill, no chill: This Smeg flunked our tests.
It scored just 44% for food freshness, a dismal 15% for temperature stability and – in a big shock – used way more energy than its star rating claimed. That's a lot of red flags for this red fridge.
"It may look cool, but its beauty is only skin deep," says Ashley Iredale, CHOICE's whitegoods expert. "Its style may be from the 1950s, but so too is its performance.
"And despite its imposing presence, it doesn't have a lot of space inside. There are much better options out there for a lot less money."
With poor performance cramping its style, this unit proves you can never judge a fridge by its finish.
3. The Kmart heater that still doesn't heat
Product: Kmart Anko DL03L electric heater
CHOICE Expert Rating: 45%
Last year, Kmart Anko's $55 oil heater came last in our lab test with a frosty overall score of 48%, leading our experts to dub it a "warm doorstop".
We hoped Kmart would lift their game (or at least the temperature). But, amazingly, this year's $59 model did even better at doing worse. In chilling news, it earned an icy score of 45% overall, making it the worst model we've tested since 2014.
Cool runnings: CHOICE's Jonathan Brown reviews the new Anko.
"Last year's heater was one of the poorest performing models I'd seen at CHOICE, until I saw this one," says Matthew Steen, our director of testing and reviews, told us at the time.
"It's disappointing – Kmart could have improved their products. Instead, they've delivered one that's more expensive and inferior."
The heater is cheap, but Matthew says that's no excuse for it to perform so poorly. "In fact, several models from other brands cost only a dollar more and scored a lot better in our reviews," he says.
4. The air purifier that doesn't purify
Product: GreenTech PureAir 500
CHOICE Expert rating: 19%
This one makes us both disappointed and angry. Disappointed because this air purifier 'purified' so badly that our testers had to check it was switched on.
In our lab tests, the $179 unit scored an unbelievably low five percent for dust removal and smoke removal, and just 10% for removal of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Its CHOICE Expert Rating would have been much lower, except it managed to score 50% in our 'ease of use' test.
So Shonky: The PureAir 500 rated only 19% in our tests.
It's not a freak fail either – GreenTech's other model, the PureAir 3000, also scored horribly with 22% (and costs a breathtaking $889).
This air purifier 'purified' so badly that our testers had to check it was switched on
Duds like this make us fume, and not just because they're a rip off. A lot of vulnerable people – with allergies, asthma or respiratory issues – spend good money on home air purifiers to improve their quality of life. Last summer saw unprecedented bushfires and awful air quality around the country, so it's even more vital products like these do the job they promise.
That's why we gave the PureAir 500 a Shonky Award this year. It's well deserved.
5. The Ffalcon TV Fflop
Product: Ffalcon 40F1 TV
CHOICE Expert Rating: 58%
With COVID lockdowns and closures, this year was prime time for binge-watching lots and lots of TV. For the sake of your viewing pleasure (and sanity), we hope you weren't relying on this mediocre model to keep you entertained.
In our TV lab tests, this unit from oddly named brand Ffalcon (which is actually owned by TCL) landed in last place by a notable margin, with a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 58%.
It rated a not-so-crystal-clear 56% for high definition (HD) picture quality, a sorry 51% for standard definition (SD) and a woeful 45% for sound quality.
Poor show: the Ffalcon TV scored lowest in our viewing test.
It is a cheaper TV, but that's no defence: models from other brands sit in a similar price bracket, but performed much better in our tests. Don't Fflock to this Ffalcon any time soon.
6. The Dragon that fails to fire
Product: X-Dragon power bank
CHOICE Expert Rating: 23%
When testing products, our experts usually focus on the most popular brands because that's what people want to know about.
Occasionally though, they throw in some wild cards from online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon to see how they measure up. Why? Because these products claim to offer amazing performance for a very low price.
Enter the X-Dragon, the least powerful power bank we've ever tested. This online special (available on both eBay and Amazon) shocked our experts with a test score of just one percent for battery performance. "Power your life" is X-Dragon's company slogan, but judging by our results you won't be powering much at all.
This online special shocked our experts with a test score of just one percent for battery performance
"There are a lot of products from unknown brands being sold online, which promise big numbers and amazing performance, and consumers should definitely be wary," warns CHOICE electronics expert Peter Zaluzny.
"As always, if a deal seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Be sure to read reviews of brands you haven't heard of before and check out our lab tests to see how products really rate."