We've listed our five favorite fridge features -- now it's time to take a look at the ones we think you should skip.
We had plenty of contenders. Manufacturers are constantly trademarking new, gimmicky fridge features in an attempt to win your business. More often than not they offer little more than niche practicality, and the worst of them can even make your fridge less appealing to use. That isn't good, considering that you'll be using your fridge day in and day out.
So, here we go -- five fridge features that just aren't worth it, starting with:
I don't get door-in-a-door compartments, and I don't think I ever will. These compartments are essentially just an extra door on the front of the fridge that opens up to reveal the in-door shelves, and companies pitch them as a convenient way to quickly access things like drinks and condiments. But ultimately, you're still just opening a door and grabbing what you want -- same as it ever was.
In fact, there's a good argument to be made that door-in-a-door compartments make things less convenient. Just look at the approach LG takes with most of its "Door-in-Door" fridges. There's a plastic barrier on the inside of the shelves designed to help keep the cold in when you open the front panel, but it makes it difficult or even impossible to access the groceries on those in-door shelves the old-fashioned way -- from the inside. Plus, it's flimsy as hell.
Worst of all, these kinds of compartments don't do anything to help your fridge perform better. In fact, every door-in-a-door style refrigerator we've tested has yielded warmer-than-average temperatures in the door-in-door shelves. Sometimes, that poor performance extends beyond the in-door shelves and raises temperatures in the body of the fridge, too. It all adds up to a feature that deserves its place at the top of this list.
In-fridge temperature zones
Don't get me wrong, I think it's a nice luxury to have a drawer or a compartment in my fridge with its own temperature presets for delicate groceries like meats and cheeses. I just prefer the ones that actually work.
The "in-fridge" part is the problem here. We've tested several of these types of drawers, and the ones that sit inside of the fridge almost always struggle to hit a target temperature that's noticeably different from the temperature of the refrigerator itself. In the worst cases, these drawers just flat-out don't work.
If you want to get a refrigerator with an adjustable temperature compartment, then it's well worth it to spend the extra cash on one that keeps it separate from the body of the fridge. Think French door models with dedicated, separate drawers in between the freezer and fridge compartments, or the "FlexZone" in Samsung's four-door models.
Here's another case of a good feature gone bad.
Spillproof rims around your fridge shelves are a no-brainer, but Electrolux took the idea too far in some of its high-end French door models. Typically, spillproof shelves are just shelves with thin, slightly raised rims that stop liquids before they spill off the surface. But Electrolux went with glass shelves that curve upward at the edges. They look fancy, and they do an admittedly nice job of containing messes, but they also eat up valuable storage space, since you can't sit anything flat within an inch or so of the edge of each shelf.
And hey, while we're talking about storage space...
King-size ice makers
It's definitely nice to have a mother lode of ice on hand when you're throwing a party, but here's the problem: The bigger the ice maker, the less room for groceries.
Samsung and Electrolux are both guilty parties here, with ice makers that sit up on the top shelves of many of their French door refrigerators. That means less room for groceries, and it also means less room in the in-door shelves. The reason? The inside of the door needs to bulge outward to catch the falling ice, and those bulges typically block off the door shelves below.
Personally, I prefer a more compact ice maker, like the "Slim SpacePlus Icemaker" found in many of LG's refrigerators (GE's most recent French door models use a similar design). It's packed entirely into the door, so it doesn't take up any space in the body of the fridge. Plus, with no need for an unsightly bulge, there's nothing blocking off access to those in-door shelves. Unless you have a specific need for mass amounts of ice, that's the better approach.
And... smart fridges
OK, OK, I also put smart fridges on our favorite fridge features list, but hear me out.
Just because smart refrigerators are finally starting to impress us doesn't mean that they're worth buying yet. The Samsung Family Hub is the only one that's really wowed us, and it's still prohibitively expensive, with retail prices starting at well over $5,000. GE's K-Cup-brewing Cafe Series smart fridge is a little easier to afford, but it's still a couple thousand dollars, and it really only does one thing.
The future looks bright, though. Whirlpool's jumping in with a smart fridge of its own later this year -- it promises to sync up with the Nest Learning Thermostat, and it should cost (at least a little bit) less than the Family Hub fridge. I suspect it won't be long before we have even more options, with flagship smart fridges from all of the major manufacturers. That kind of competition is exactly what the smart fridge category needs. Until that day comes, I'm going to recommend holding out.