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Less is more with Whirlpool's clever connected fridge

The Whirlpool WRFA94CIHN comes in "sunset bronze" and offers a number of useful features on its tiny touchscreen, including virtual Amazon Dash buttons.

Whirlpool's newest smart fridge comes in stainless steel, black stainless steel, and the new "sunset bronze" finish seen here.

Chris Monroe/CNET

It wouldn't be CES without at least a couple of new connected refrigerators -- this year, that includes the WRFA94CIHN, a new $4,400 smart fridge from Whirlpool that comes in a gold-tinted "sunset bronze" finish. It'll seek to compete with the likes of Samsung's Family Hub and LG's Alexa-equipped InstaView ThinQ fridge when it arrives later this year.

At first glance, the Whirlpool model might look outmatched. Unlike those other two, which each feature king-size touchscreens that span entire doors, the Whirlpool's screen is only a couple of inches across, sitting humbly above the water dispenser. There's no collection of fridge apps, either -- instead, you get a small smattering of use-case-specific features for things like cleaning the fridge or hosting a party.

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That purpose-driven approach seems like a good one, though. Rather than overwhelm you with a flood of features you might not need (looking at you, Family Hub web browser), Whirlpool instead decided to stick with simple, fridge-specific features that don't ask you to rethink the role of your kitchen. Marinating some meat? The screen will show you recommended times for different cuts and ask if you want to set a timer. Cleaning the fridge? Whirlpool will suspend cooling to save energy and also shut the door alarm off so it doesn't annoy you while you scrub.

In other words, this golden touchscreen smart refrigerator actually shows a surprising level of restraint.

The fridge also features an Amazon Dash integration that lets you put virtual Dash Buttons for your favorite groceries right on the touchscreen (and unlike the actual Dash Buttons, which cost $5 each, the virtual Dash Buttons don't cost anything). Just give one a tap, and Amazon will send you another order of paper towels, diapers, coffee or lots of other household staples.


You can also tell the water dispenser to dish out a precise amount of water.

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On top of that, the fridge borrows a couple of well-liked features from its competitors. For starters, there's a "Door-Within-Door" compartment that you can open by pulling a hidden latch on the right door handle -- LG was the first to popularize that feature, and they did such a good job that everyone else, from Samsung to GE and now Whirlpool raced to copy it. 

You can also use the touchscreen to tell the water dispenser to dispense a precise amount of water, a clever trick first found in fridges from GE.

Whirlpool tells us that the new smart fridges will hit retail outlets this spring. We'll keep an eye out for them and see if we can't get one into our test room as soon as they arrive.