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Hands-on Gear Review
Sunbeam Steam Master ReviewPrice: $30 List | $29.99 at Amazon
Pros: Decent glide, inexpensive
Cons: Poor steam output
Bottom line: Reasonable performance at a low price, but there are better budget options out there
Across the board the Sunbeam Steam master performed at or just slightly below average in our testing. It is the most inexpensive model we tested and would be a reasonable investment for those that don't demand much from their iron, but significantly better performance can be obtained for just a few dollars more. If you're on a budget the Hamilton Beach Durathon Digital provides significantly better performance for almost the same price.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Sunbeam Steam Master scored a 7 in our ironing performance testing. This was exactly average, as scores in this metric ranged from 5 to 9. The Sunbeam's stainless steel soleplate made it one of the better gliding models. It felt smooth and supple when moving the iron over fabrics, though it couldn't match the incredible glide of the top scoring rowenta DW5080 Focus. It lost some points, however, in wrinkle reduction performance. Even though all of the models were almost identical in this capacity, the Steam Master was at the back of that tightly packed group, which negated the advantage of its above average glide.
Steam Master may be a bit of a misnomer here, early career steam apprentice would be a more appropriate name. The Steam Master was ironically a below average performer in our steam output test. It scored a 5 in this test, which was significantly better than the low scorer, which earned a 3, but far behind the top score of 9. The Steam Master produced 21 grams per minute of steam during our testing, which was one of the lowest outputs we measured. Additionally, the Steam Master's soleplate has the fewest number of steam holes of any of the models we tested, meaning that small amount of steam is not used to its full capacity. Consequently, pressing the burst of steam button on the Steam Master produces a lackluster puff of steam. If your clothes tend to sprout stubborn wrinkles, you would be better served looking for a model with a bit more steam power.
Ease of Use
The Steam Master was again just a little below average in our ease of use testing. It scored a 6 in this metric, which had tightly packed scores all falling between 5 and 8. It is the only model we tested with a retractable cord. This is a feature our testers universally loved as you could get the cord out of the way right when you were finished ironing, no waiting for the iron to cool down so you could wrap the cord around it. The handle definitely wasn't the most ergonomic of the bunch, but it was relatively well designed. The soleplate shape is functional and fairly standard, but doesn't give you the precise maneuverability of some of the more expensive models. At just 3 pounds it was the lightest model we tested. The interface is intuitive, though some of the controls do feel a bit clunky and cheap. A dial on the front of the handle lets you select the ironing temperature based on fabric type. Two buttons on top of the handle let you emit a burst of steam or shoot a misting spray in front of the iron. These buttons could be easier to press while your hand is on the handle, but they aren't particularly awkward either. Where the Steam Master really lost points was in refilling the water tank. The opening is fairly small and has no lip whatsoever, making spilling a near inevitability when filling it. The placement of this hole is so awkward that you would need an industrial sized sink in order to directly fill it from the faucet.
The Steam Master's score of 5 was a tie for the worst score in our heating testing. While this was significantly behind the top score of 8, it is still not a terrible score. All of the irons we tested heated up fairly quickly, so the Steam Master was just one of the slower horses on a race full of fast horses. It was able to reach a temperature of 390˚F after preheating on its highest setting for two minutes. This means it would hit the 400˚ required to iron cotton in just over two minutes. Yes, the fastest models could hit this temperature in a little under two minutes, but those 40 or so seconds likely won't matter at all, unless you tend to iron under very tight time constraints.
At the time of this writing the Sunbeam Steam Master is available for just $30, making it the most inexpensive iron we tested. While this low price may be tempting, you can get much better performance from the Best Buy Award winning Hamilton Beach Durathon Digital 19900 for just $4 more. So while the Steam Master's inexpensive price represents a fair value, spending just a little bit more can net you a much better value.
The Sunbeam Steam Master is a very inexpensive iron and, to a large degree, it feels like one. It will certainly get the job done, but much better performance can be found in a similar price range.
— Max Mutter & Steven Tata
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