Monday, February 27, 2017

The Best Refrigerator Review

What is the best refrigerator? ProductReportCard has reviewed some of the best refrigerators on the market to help you find the right refrigerator for your needs and budget. After conducting extensive research on various refrigerator brands and styles, we picked out our favorite Side-by-Side, Top-Freezer, Bottom-Freezer and French Door refrigerators in different price points and compared them against one another. We ranked each based on its refrigeration system, its shelving/storage set up, any bonus features it has, its exterior style/functionality, its brand's general reputation and reliability history, and the feedback its received from customers online. Based on our analysis, we then chose the best overall refrigerator, the best high-end refrigerator, the best budget refrigerator and the best refrigerator for large families.

Review by: Mary Griffin Editor in Chief, ProductReportCard
Updated March 2014

Top Ranked Refrigerators

Displaying 1 - 3 of 6
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Ranking
#1
#2
#3
Report Card Grade
Product Grade
Product Grade
Product Grade
Our Awards
Overall Score
77%
76%
73%
Date Reviewed
January 2013
December 2012
January 2013
Pros
Superior temperature performance; high-quality design built to last for 20 years; highly adjustable storage design; air purification system; built-in water filter; bulk ice making feature; humidity- and temperature-controlled drawers; open door alert; can be used in a standard installation or in a flush inset installation; Star-K certified with a "Sabbath" mode
ENERGY STAR® qualified; maintains optimal internal conditions; has external digital temperature controls with child lock; quiet; space-saving icemaker design; built-in water filter; external water and ice dispenser; bonus storage (ex. egg container, wine rack and can holder); open door alert; available in multiple finishes; LED Tower Lighting
ENERGY STAR® qualified; has external digital temperature controls with child lock; maintains optimal internal conditions; quiet; great lighting; humidity- and temperature-controlled drawers; three tiered freezer storage; Tilt-N-Take freezer door easy to open; built-in water filter; external water and ice dispenser; air purification system; open door alert
Cons
Very expensive; useable freezer capacity is relatively limited; no gallon-size door bin; energy efficient but not ENERGY STAR® compliant
Some complaints about the icemaker not working properly; some reported quality issues with the handles (loosening and/or falling off); door bins aren't adjustable; some complaints about small drawers that didn't open fully; doesn't have built-in air filter; doesn't have temperature-controlled drawer
Many complaints about the icemaker not working properly; some complaints about Sears' customer service; some complaints about frost build up in the freezer; left side door bins very narrow and won't be able to accommodate many condiment jars
Refrigeration System (25%)
Storage Capabilities (20%)
Extra Features (25%)
Exterior Style/Functionality (10%)
Brand Reputation/Reliability (10%)
Customer Feedback (10%)
Type
Built-in
Freestanding
Freestanding
Style
French Door (pull-out freezer drawer)
Side-by-Side
French Door (Tilt-N-Take freezer door)
Total Capacity (cu. ft.)
21.0
24.5
30.7
Price (MSRP)
$8,575 - $10,060
$2349 - $2399
$2576 - $2812
Warranty
2-year full warranty on parts & labor for the entire unit; 5-year full warranty on parts & labor for the sealed refrigeration system; 12-year limited warranty on just parts for the sealed refrigeration system.
1-year limited warranty on parts & labor for the entire unit; 5-year limited warranty on parts & labor for the sealed refrigeration system
10-year warranty on the linear compressor. You can also purchase an additional In-Home Master Protection Agreement for either $379.99 (3-year) or $549.99 (5-year).
Dimensions (Width x Height x Depth)
36" x 84" x 24"
35.88" x 70" x 29" (taken from instruction manual)
35.75" x 70.25" x 36.25"
Depth with Door Open at 90°
43.38" (note: the freezer drawer fully open will exceed that depth at 47.5")
45.44"
48.13"
Width with Door Open at 90°
40.75"
36.33"
44.25"
Weight
529 pounds
254 pounds
Unknown
ENERGY STAR® Qualified
No
Yes
Yes
Power
It uses 571 kWh/year. Sub-Zero estimates that it could cost about $61 a year to run.
It uses 560 kWh/year. Samsung estimates that it could cost about $60 a year to run.
It uses 579 kWh/year. Kenmore estimates that it could cost about $62 a year to run.
Cooling Technology
High-tech dual refrigeration system with electronic microprocessor monitors/controls temperature and humidity levels in the fridge and freezer separately. The system is able to keep temperatures within 1 degree of your preset temperature.
Twin Cooling Plus™ technology (single compressor / dual evaporator) offers precise monitoring and control over humidity and temperature levels in each compartment. There are also 5 temperature sensors and multiple vents to ensure that cold, fresh air is always circulating evenly throughout each compartment.
GeniusCool™ technology features a linear compressor and dual evaporators to maintain optimal temperature and humidity levels in the both compartments.
Auto-Defrost (Frost-Free)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Temperature Controls
A digital control panel at the top of the fridge allows for precise temperature adjustments in the fridge and in the freezer.
An external digital control panel (with a child lock) allows for precise temperature adjustments in the fridge or the freezer. Panel also has "Power Cool" and "Power Freeze" button that will quickly drop the internal temperature in the fridge or freezer.
An external digital control panel (with a child lock) allows for precise temperature adjustments in the fridge or the freezer.
Built-In Air Filter
Yes, it has a built-in air purification system that reduces airborne bacteria, odors and even ethylene gas.
N/A
Yes, it has a built-in CleanFlow™ charcoal air filter to keep air fresh and clean.
Fresh Food Capacity (cu. ft.)
15.7
15.2
20.7
Shelf Material
Tempered glass
Tempered glass
Tempered glass
Spill-Proof Edges
Yes
Yes
Yes
Shelves
4 full-width shelves (3 adjustable and 1 stationary)
4 adjustable shelves including 1 that is also retractable
5 shelves including 1 stationary full-width shelf and 4 adjustable split shelves
Total # of Drawers
2
3
3
Humidity-Controlled Drawer (Crisper)
1 (full-width)
1
2 (half-width)
Temperature-Controlled Meat/Deli Drawer
1 (full-width)
N/A
1 (full-width)
Door Bins
8 door bins including 4 adjustable bins, 2 stationary bins and 2 adjustable dairy bins (magnetically sealed)
5 stationary door bins including 1 gallon-size bin and 1 dairy bin
6 door bins including 2 gallon-size bins, 3 narrow bins and 1 covered dairy bin
Additional Storage
N/A
Egg container, optional wine rack and foldable can holder
N/A
Freezer Capacity (cu. ft.)
5.3
9.3
10.0
Freezer Storage
2 pull-out wire drawers that are divided into separate compartments
4 shelves, 2 drawers and 3 stationary door bins
3 tiers of storage including 2 pull-out drawers and 1 deep bin
Icemaker
Yes, it has a factory-installed automatic icemaker in the freezer.
Yes, it has a factory-installed automatic icemaker that is built into the freezer door. The ice bucket is clear, so you can easily check ice levels when necessary.
Yes, it has a slim, factory-installed automatic icemaker built into the fridge door.
Bulk Ice-Making Capabilities
Yes, in "MAX ICE" mode, ice production increases by 40% for a 24-hour period.
No
No
Built-in Water Filter
Yes
Yes
Yes
External Water/Ice Dispenser
N/A
Yes, it has an external water and crushed/cubed ice dispenser on the freezer door.
Yes, it has an external water and crushed/cubed ice dispenser on the left-hand door.
Lighting
40W appliance light bulbs in the fridge and the freezer
LED Tower Lighting systems in the fridge and freezer
LED lighting system along the sides and top of the fridge and 2 LED lights under its doors to illuminate the freezer.
Open Door Alert
Yes, after 1 minute (optional)
Yes, after 2 minutes
Yes, after set amount of time
Product Design
It is available in Stainless Steel or Overlay (with custom panels). It has flat, smooth doors, and you can choose between 3 handle styles including Pro, Tubular or Framed.
It is available in 4 different finishes including Black (RSG257AABP/XAA), White (RSG257AAWP/XAA), Stainless Steel (RSG257AARS/XAA) and Stainless Platinum (RSG257AAPN/XAA). It has flat, smooth doors with concealed hinges and a concealed grill at the bottom.
It is available in 3 different finishes including White (72052), Black (72059) and Stainless Steel (72053). It has smooth, contoured doors and matching handles.

ProductReportCard Editor's In-Depth Review

Selecting the Best Refrigerators

Your refrigerator is one of the most important appliances in your kitchen. Since refrigerators vary greatly in terms of size, style, price, technology and amenities however, it can be difficult to determine the best refrigerator for your particular needs and budget. Below we have reviewed some of the best refrigerators on the market to help you find the best refrigerator for your home. After you have read the overview below, we highly recommend reading our Refrigerator Buying Guide.

Refrigeration System

First we evaluate the refrigeration system within each of the models. The cooling system in particular is one of the most important factors to consider because it directly affects the refrigerator's ability to keep your food fresher for longer. After looking for its ENERGY STAR® label, we then determine whether its cooling system is designed with a dual compressor / dual evaporator, a single compressor / dual evaporator or a single compressor / single evaporator. While a dual compressor / dual evaporator is ideal because each compartment is kept completely separate, these systems aren't as energy efficient as ones with a single compressor / dual evaporator, and so they are only rated slightly higher in our rankings. Next, we check the refrigerator's temperature control system. Digital controls that allow you to make precise temperature adjustments in the fridge and in the freezer are preferable, but some refrigerators only allow you to make general adjustments to both compartments. We also awarded points if the refrigerator offered quick cooling technology, which is a convenient feature for rapidly reducing the internal temperature of the fridge or the freezing after its been loaded with groceries, the door has been left open, etc. Additionally, we looked at whether the freezer had an automatic or manual defrosting system. Auto-defrosting (or frost-free) freezers are relatively common, but you may still come across some manual ones if you are considering cheaper model. Lastly, we looked at refrigerator testing done at Consumer Reports to get a sense of each models temperature performance and noise levels during operation.

We found that the brand with the best refrigeration system is Sub-Zero. It features dual compressor / dual evaporator cooling technology and is able to maintain preset internal temperatures within 1 degree while also keeping optimal humidity levels in both the fresh food compartment and freezer. However, our favorite model, the Sub-Zero BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator, didn't win this category because it isn't ENERGY STAR® compliant. The top rated models were the Samsung RSG257 Side-by-Side Refrigerator, the LG LDC22720 Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator and the Kenmore Elite 7205 French-Door Refrigerator. Each of these refrigerators is ENERGY STAR® compliant with a single compressor / dual evaporator cooling system. They offer precise temperature adjustments in both compartments, and, according to Consumer Reports, have excellent temperature performance and a quiet operating system. All are designed with auto-defrosting freezers, and the Samsung RSG257 and LG LDC22720 are also built with rapid cooling technology.

Digital temperature controls are ideal because they allow you to make precise adjustments to the fridge or freezer when necessary.
Digital temperature controls are ideal because they allow you to make precise adjustments to the fridge or freezer when necessary.
Credit: Mary Griffin
Energy Efficient vs. ENERGY STAR® certified.
Energy Efficient vs. ENERGY STAR® certified.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Storage in the Fridge and Freezer

Here we assess the storage capabilities within the fridge and freezer. First, we look at the materials used for the shelving and door bins. Tempered glass is the best material for shelves and bins within the fridge because it is durable and allows you to easily view what is inside. We also like to see shelves with spill-proof edges in the fridge because they help to contain messes and limit the spread of germs. In the freezer, spill-proof edges are obviously not as important, and you'll probably see mostly wire used for shelves or bins. Next, we evaluate the flexibility of the refrigerator's storage system. Highly adjustable door bins and shelving (including retractable or removable shelving) are ideal because they help you maximize the useable capacity of your refrigerator. We also check out the drawers in the fresh food compartment. We like to see at least one full-width or two half-width crispers because humidity-controlled drawer(s) help keep fruits and vegetables fresher for longer. We also like having at least one temperature-controlled deli drawer because it helps to extend the life of your meat products. In terms of door storage, we also like to see at least one gallon-size bin and one sealed dairy bin in addition to smaller bins for condiments.

In terms of storage, our favorite model is the KitchenAid KBRS22KW Architect® Series II Refrigerator. It offers everything one could want in a refrigerator's storage system including highly adjustable shelving/bins, two humidity-controlled crispers, one full-width temperature-controlled deli drawer, and a bonus wine/beverage rack. The Sub-Zero BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator wasn't far behind, but lost points because it lacks a gallon-size door bin and extra storage solutions like the wine rack. Not surprisingly, the least expensive model reviewed, the Maytag M1TXEGMY Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers, scored the lowest in this category. Its storage system has the essentials, but it doesn't offer as much flexibility for maximizing capacity, and it doesn't have a temperature-controlled deli drawer.

Humidity- and temperature-controlled drawers allow you to keep certain foods fresher for longer.
Humidity- and temperature-controlled drawers allow you to keep certain foods fresher for longer.
Credit: Mary Griffin
Optional dividers in full-width drawers allow you to keep food items well-organized.
Optional dividers in full-width drawers allow you to keep food items well-organized.
Credit: Mary Griffin
Bonus storage features (like an optional can holder or wine rack) can really enhance the useable capacity of a refrigerator.
Bonus storage features (like an optional can holder or wine rack) can really enhance the useable capacity of a refrigerator.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Extra Features

Here we evaluate some of the bonus features that enhance a refrigerator. First, we check to see whether it has an open door or temperature alert. This helps protect your food from spoiling and is a particularly helpful feature if you have a big family. We also look at the lighting system in the fridge and freezer. We prefer environmentally friendly LED lighting but don't mind having incandescent lights so long as they are located in both compartments. Next, we check to see whether the fridge has a built-in air filter. Built-in air filters eliminate the need for a box of baking soda and they also cut down on airborne bacteria as well as ethylene gas, which can cause some foods to ripen prematurely. We also like having a refrigerator with a factory-installed automatic icemaker, especially if it features bulk ice-making capabilities, but we like to have a built-in water filter along with it. Along the same lines, we also like the convenient of having an external water/ice dispenser on our refrigerator and give bonus points for child locks so little munchkins can't create a big mess or reset the refrigerator's temperatures without your knowledge. Lastly, we also like seeing if a refrigerator is Star-K certified or at least offers a Sabbath mode because it not only complies with certain religious observances but also is nice for those who travel a lot.

The Kenmore Elite 7205 French-Door Refrigerator has nearly all of the bonus features that one could need in a refrigerator. It has an open door alert, LED lighting in both compartments, a built-in air filter and a built-in water filter for its automatic icemaker and the external water/ice dispenser Again, not surprisingly, the refrigerator with the fewest frills is the Maytag M1TXEGMY Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers. While it comes with an automatic icemaker, it doesn't have a built-in water filter, and it is also lacking a light in the freezer.

We award additional points to refrigerators with bonus features such as a water/ice dispenser.
We award additional points to refrigerators with bonus features such as a water/ice dispenser.
Credit: Mary Griffin
We love a factory-installed automatic icemaker in our freezer especially if it comes with a built-in water filter.
We love a factory-installed automatic icemaker in our freezer especially if it comes with a built-in water filter.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Exterior Style and Functionality

Here we consider the exterior style and functionality of the refrigerator. Since style is a personal choice, we first look to see what is offered in terms of finishes. We appreciate having multiple options when it comes to finishes and door handles because it allows for more design flexibility. We also like it when a refrigerator can be fitted with a custom panel for a fully flush integration with the surrounding kitchen cabinetry. For top- or bottom-freezer refrigerators, it is also convenient to have a fridge with reversible doors, which allow it to fit into any kitchen set up. Lastly, we look to see whether the refrigerator is designed to be ADA-compliant.

The Samsung RSG257 Side-by-Side Refrigerator and Maytag M1TXEGMY Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers came out on top in this category. Both refrigerators come in multiple finishes and are ADA compliant. The Maytag model is also designed with reversible doors. The LG LDC22720 Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator didn't do as well. It only comes in two finishes with matching handles, isn't designed for custom panels, doesn't have a reversible door and isn't ADA compliant.

A built-in refrigerator compared to a freestanding one.
A built-in refrigerator compared to a freestanding one.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Brand Reputation and Reliability

Here we assess a brand's overall reputation and reliability. First, we take into consideration how professional firms have rated the brand. For example, we incorporate reliability studies done by experts at Consumer Reports, as well as the results from consumer satisfaction studies conducted by JD Power and Associates, which, in 2013, included testimony from over 4,500 people who had purchased a refrigerator in the previous 24 months. Lastly, we also look at the warranty that is included with the purchase of your refrigerator. While most warranties will include longer coverage on parts and/or labor for the sealed refrigeration system, we looked simply at the manufacturer's warranty on the entire unit. A 1-year warranty seems to be the standard for moderately priced refrigerators, and we wouldn't suggest purchasing any with a warranty lower than that (especially if you are purchasing a model with an icemaker in case there are any issues).

The brands with the best reputation and reliability are Sub-Zero and Samsung. They both come with great warranties, have received good reliability ratings from Consumer Reports and ranked highest among their peers in overall customer satisfaction from a JD Power & Associates survey (Samsung in 2012 and Sub-Zero in 2013). Our two favorite models are the Sub-Zero BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator and the Samsung RSG257 Side-by-Side Refrigerator. According to Consumer Reports, KitchenAid and LG side-by-side refrigerators with icemakers were slightly more repair-prone than other brands' models, but their study didn't determine any other specific brands or styles that were more or less repair-prone. With that said, we still think the KitchenAid KBRS22KW Architect® Series II and the LG LDC22720 are good, moderately priced refrigerators. LG, in particular, received above average customer satisfaction in JD Power's study.

Sub Zero is known for its reliability.
Sub Zero is known for its reliability.
Credit: Mary Griffin
Like Sub Zero, Samsung is a brand known for reliability.
Like Sub Zero, Samsung is a brand known for reliability.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Customer Feedback

Finally, we considered the reviews that each refrigerator has received from customers online. While we feel customer feedback is incredibly important, we don't weigh it as heavily in our scoring process because we think that it can be unreliable in certain cases (ex. uneven number of reviews, unhappy customers more likely to complain, etc.). In the event that a refrigerator doesn't have enough user reviews however, we will incorporate user reviews from similar models. For example, the Sub-Zero BI-36UFD is still relatively new and so we had to use reviews from the other built-in 36" models online. While there were some issues here and there with the models we reviewed, all of the refrigerators received very good to excellent ratings from customers online.

Best Overall Refrigerator: Samsung RSG257 Side-by-Side Refrigerator

Our overall favorite refrigerator is the ENERGY STAR® qualified Samsung RSG257 Side-by-Side Refrigerator. Not only is it moderately priced with a great warranty, but it also features impressive dual evaporator cooling technology and a well-designed storage system for maximizing capacity and food freshness. We also love its sleek, stylish look and that it has an external water/ice dispenser.

The Samsung RSG257 is a counter-depth refrigerator that has a smooth exterior with concealed door hinges and a concealed grill.
The Samsung RSG257 is a counter-depth refrigerator that has a smooth exterior with concealed door hinges and a concealed grill.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Best High-End Refrigerator: Sub-Zero BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator

Sub-Zero is a brand synonymous with amazing quality and design. While pricey and somewhat less energy efficient, it offers the best refrigeration system, impressive storage capabilities and a sleek, attractive design. Our favorite model is the new BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator.

The Sub-Zero BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator.
The Sub-Zero BI-36UFD French Door Refrigerator.
Credit: Mary Griffin

Best Overall Refrigerator on a Budget: Maytag M1TXEGMY Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers

The best refrigerator for those on a budget is the Maytag M1TXEGMY Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers. It is a no-frills, dependable refrigerator that has received excellent ratings from professionals and consumers alike.

The Maytag Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers (M1TXEGMY)
The Maytag Top-Freezer Refrigerator with FreshLock™ Crispers (M1TXEGMY)
Credit: Mary Griffin

Best Refrigerator for Large Families: Kenmore Elite 7205 French-Door Refrigerator

With nearly 31 cu. ft. of capacity, the Kenmore Elite 7205 French-Door Refrigerator is our top pick for large families. ENERGY STAR® qualified, it has a sleek design, a dual evaporator cooling system and an excellent storage system (including a three-tiered freezer section, two humidity-controlled crispers and a temperature-controlled deli drawer).