1.number of cycle programs
With a wider range of programs to choose from you can be more specific and choose the best, most economic program for your needs.
Machines with a load sensor can weigh the load and adjust settings accordingly. This means you don't have to feel as guilty about doing a smaller load as the machine will use less water.
A faster spin speed means you can get things cleaner with a lower temperature of the water. Using a fast spin also extracts water, meaning that the clothes come out nearly dry. Generally, anything over 1,000 rpm is very good.
With a bigger drum you can fit in larger items such as duvets, or do a big load at once.
With a delay start option you can schedule the machine to begin at a later time. You can also set the machine to wash at night if your electricity is cheaper outside of peak times.
This means you can stop the machine if you want to add something you forgot, or get something out that you need urgently.