If an electronic bidet defines the category, it is by far Toto's Washlet S500 series. Not only does the model number sound like a cushy Mercedes-Benz deluxe sedan, but let's face it, at a retail price point of over $1600 (street $1300) each, it is the absolute top of the line for an electronic toilet seat.
So what makes it worth the money? Overall, it comes down to lots of little design features and, well, the finesse in which it does things.
There's a new remote that the S500 line has which is smaller, less clunky, and more responsive than previous units, such as the one that came with the S300 series that preceded it and was the previous category leader.
There's the auto-lifting seat in the S550 that senses your motion when you enter the bathroom -- this is one of the big features that a lot of people overlook when buying a bidet seat, as well as the finesse the spray head has in terms of levels of pressure (as well as the choice of soft spray versus cleanse). And of course, the variability of oscillation and pulsating of the water, and also the level of control of the positioning of the stream.
All of these things sound a bit funny and perhaps over-the-top in terms of the basic functionality until you experience using one of these seats -- this includes stuff like the pre-misting of water which wets the bowl before use, the dryer function, the heated seats, the warm water spray, the deodorizer, and the self-cleaning functions.
Can you get by with less in a bidet seat? Sure. But do you want to go back to using a basic model after using an S550e? That's a much harder question to answer, considering how much time we spend on the toilet.
- Pros: There is literally nothing the S550e does not do as a bidet, it is the category-defining product
- Cons: By far the most expensive of options when compared with its competition, only works through a distributor model, will only honor warranty repairs from products sold by its authorized distributors.