If you're shopping for a new fridge, expect to see no shortage of fancy-sounding features aimed at winning your hard-earned cash. The hard part comes when you try and separate the gimmicks from the good stuff.
Fortunately, that's where we come in. After countless hours spent testing fridge after fridge, we've seen everything from built-in Bluetooth speakers to doors in all of the doors, and we like to think we have a good sense of what's worth it -- and what isn't.
So, without further ado, here are five features we think you'll want to look for in your next refrigerator:
Adjustable temperature zones
We're seeing more and more fridges with special drawers or compartments with their own, dedicated temperature presets. That's a good thing, because it lets you store important ingredients at their ideal temperature, even if that's a different temperature from the rest of the fridge. Adjustable temperature zones like these are an especially good fit for things like meats and cheeses, or as a makeshift in-fridge beer or wine cooler.
Of all of them, we like the "FlexZone" in Samsung's four-door fridges the best. Those fridges don't come cheap, but for your money, you're getting a compartment you can dial between fridge and freezer presets, giving you a wider range of flexibility than any other compartment like it. Better still, it's performed like a champ each time we've tested it.
Other refrigerators offer dedicated drawers in between the freezer and fridge, complete with those precious temperature presets. I prefer these over drawers that sit inside of the fridge itself, because they typically perform a lot better when they aren't competing with the refrigerator at large to hit a specific temperature.
Smarter water dispensers
Lots of fridges serve as a convenient source of fresh, filtered water, but we're starting to see some fridges take things even farther. Specifically, I'm talking about GE, which sells a number of refrigerators with clever water dispensers that crank up the convenience factor by automatically filling up your glass, pitcher, or pot.
Those refrigerators include high-end French door models in GE's Profile Series lineup that can dish out the specific amount of water you want, along with more affordable top freezer models that'll automatically fill up a pitcher of water inside the fridge.
GE isn't alone, though. Whirlpool is starting to sell fridges that can dispense precise amounts of water, too. And if you like your water on the bubbly side, then you might want to check out Samsung's Chef Collection fridge -- it's capable of dispensing sparkling water on demand.
You use your fridge to store groceries every day, so we're keen on features that make it easier to do just that. Almost every refrigerator will let you rearrange the shelves as you see fit, but some go farther, with shelves that slide in or fold up to make room for tall items below, or shelves that slide out to help you reach items in the back of the fridge.
All three features are increasingly common -- enough so that we're starting to see them turn up in top- and bottom-freezer fridges that don't cost as much as French door models. Just make sure to get your hands on them while you're shopping on the showroom floor -- for best results, you'll want to be sure that they glide smoothly.
Stainless steel is all the rage, but it's a challenge to keep that shiny, metallic finish free from fingerprints. To that end, we like fridges that offer a line of defense, with special finishes designed to resist smudges.
Frigidaire reigns supreme here, with several models available in a finely contoured, "smudge-proof" stainless steel finish. "Smudge-proof" is probably overselling it a bit, but it definitely does a better job at repelling fingerprints than traditional stainless-steel finishes.
If your budget is big enough, you could also consider jumping in with the trend of black stainless steel appliances, most of which are inherently better than plain stainless steel at resisting fingerprints (or at least hiding them). For a more affordable option, consider GE's line of slate-finished refrigerators. They aren't shiny like true stainless steel, but they still look classy and do a much, much better job of staying smudge-free.
Finally, we'd be remiss not to mention smart refrigerators, which have taken a big step forward in 2016. That's largely thanks to the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator, easily the most feature-rich appliance I've ever tested. With a 21.5-inch touchscreen that comes loaded with apps, not to mention cameras inside that keep track of your ingredients, it's more fridge than any of us will probably ever need. But flash aside, it surprised us with how practical a lot of its features were -- especially the fridge cameras, which allow you to track expiration dates with handy countdown timers on that touchscreen. Just be prepared to spend big.
If not Samsung, you could consider GE's top-of-the-line Cafe Series fridge and its built-in K-Cup coffee maker. Thanks to Wi-Fi smarts, you can program that coffeemaker to heat up from your phone -- a handy way to get the coffee process started before you ever get out of bed. Whirlpool's in the mix, too, with a new smart fridge that promises to sync up with the Nest Learning Thermostat.
In the end, performance and design are probably the key factors that should influence your buying decision. But with so many legitimately useful features out there, it makes sense to put some thought into the bells and whistles, too. Shop smart, and you'll love your fridge day in and day out for years to come.
Want to know which fridge features to avoid? Check out our list of the refrigerator gimmicks we think you should skip.