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GE GNS23GMHES 22.7 CU. FT. French-Door Refrigerator review:

Princely performance at peasants' pricing

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MSRP: $1,600.00
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The Good The $1,600 GE GNS23GMHES looks great and performs better than fridges that cost twice as much.

The Bad Its only notable feature -- a hidden water dispenser -- turns out to be a good idea poorly executed. It lacks basic conveniences like spillproof shelves and humidity sliders.

The Bottom Line Despite the fact that it's feature-poor, the GE GNS23GMHES outclasses its low-end French door price range with top-of-the-line performance and looks.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.9 Overall
  • Features 7.0
  • Design 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Usability 7.0

We've seen what top-of-the-line French door refrigerators can do. Between behemoths like the 34-cubic-foot $6,000 Samsung Chef Collection to the the $4,000 LG LMXS30776S with its door-in-door panel and custom temp drawer, the models north of $3,000 to $4,000 have plenty to offer. The GE GNS23GMHES sits on the other end of the French door spectrum. At $1,600, it's an entry-level fridge in this popular style.

It does make sacrifices for the sake of affordability. Its 22.7 cubic feet of space should be plenty for most families, but it's not the gaping chasm of the Chef Collection. It also doesn't have folding shelves, custom temp drawers or even more basic amenities like spillproof shelves or humidity sliders on the drawers. What it doesn't sacrifice is performance, or style, for that matter. Complete with a compelling slate finish, the GE GNS23GMHES looks good, and cools competently. Since it gets those two essential aspects right, it's well worth a look for French door shoppers on a budget.

Forgoing stainless

I'm going to come right out and say it: I prefer GE's slate finish to stainless steel. That might sound like blasphemy given the current popularity of the latter with high-end appliances, but I've seen plenty of both, and GE's dark gray hits a bolder note in my mind while still keeping an air of professionalism.

It also smudges less and maintains a cleaner look longer because of it. To be honest, I might just be a little tired of stainless everything, but GE deserves credit for having a premium finish that's different.

The slate finish stands out nicely from the stainless crowd. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Complete with that Slate coloring, the exterior of the GE GNS23GMHES looks elegant and pristine. Here, GE uses stainless as an accent rather than the base -- the curved handles glisten with that familiar silver and complement the body of the fridge nicely. The rest of the exterior is unbroken gray save for the circled "GE" in the upper right corner.

Hidden dispenser, hidden annoyances

Finish aside, the most uncommon part of this fridge is the water dispenser, and it isn't on the exterior. GE chose to keep the outer surface clean. Instead, you'll find the dispenser once you open the doors to the fridge, on the inner left wall.

It's a fine idea in theory, and a hidden anything adds cool points for me. It also helps GE round out the fridge's feature checklist. In practice, it's a dud. You have to use two hands to fill up your glass -- one to hold it, the other to press the button. That's not an evil in and of itself -- only the best water dispensers allow one-handed operation. With only the left door open, though, I had a heck of a time finding a comfortable position for my arms while filling the glass.

You'll have to stand there with the door open while you use the dispenser. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The space just wasn't wide enough for my shoulders. I either had to tilt my body and hook my left arm over the bins of the door to reach the button, or open the other door. It's not difficult to open the other door, by any means, but I don't like the idea of standing there with my fridge wide open and all of the cold air escaping while I fill my glass.

The rest of the interior functions well. The LED at the top behind the control panel, and the two bulbs behind the drawers at the bottom keep things well lit.

Not crying over fridge spills

That said, the shelves don't have spill protection, an odd omission for a fridge priced at over $1,000. They're almost exactly the same as the those of the $1,200 GE Artistry , and like that fridge, I wish GE had raised the plastic edges over the clear glass center even a little bit to keep in dumped fluids.

We intentionally make a mess with all of our fridges, dumping an 8-ounce glass of water on the top shelf so you know what to expect should you ever have to deal with a spill. The fridge has one full-width shelf, and two half-width ones. One of the half-width shelves has a small, clear plastic drawer underneath it. At the bottom of the compartment, a third shelf forms the top of two larger, half-width drawers, again made of clear plastic.

The interior is nice, but I wish the shelves had spill protection. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

On round 1 of the spill test, we had the full-width shelf on top and dumped the water on it. The extra surface area gave the liquid enough room to disperse; it ran toward the back, and the curved plastic lip there held it in place. It did surprisingly well for not having any spill protection.

Round 2, when we tried again on one of the half shelves, was not nearly as successful. Water went everywhere, dumping over the sides, into the rails for the shelf hooks at the back, and eventually pooling under the drawers. In my cleanup effort, I had to remove both drawers, only to find water had somehow dripped into them as well as under them, and I even found water trapped between the glass center and plastic borders on that bottom shelf.

We made a mess, and cleaning it up was not fun. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

It was a sizable mess, and we do the test with an empty fridge to save ourselves some trouble. If you dump something into a full fridge, especially if it's a spoilable liquid where it's important to get every drop, expect to spend a good long while emptying and disassembling everything, including removing those brackets at the back.

Customizable -- to an extent

The brackets do make moving the shelves easy. Tilt the shelf up to get the hook out of place, find a new slot for it, and tilt it back. Under the hooks, each shelf has an additional protrusion that slides into the slot beneath the one you choose. It stops the shelf from rocking once it's in place. Occasionally, that protrusion didn't properly find it's place, and from my eyeline above the shelf, it looked like everything was positioned securely. I'd let go only to have the shelf tumble a moment later.

It's a minor annoyance. Nothing broke and I fixed the problem quickly. And we've yet to find a fridge that makes rearranging the shelves easy.

Rearranging the bins on the door, however, was a breeze. The left door has three bins. The right has two and a butter bin at the top with a flip-up plastic lid. Lift any bin off of its current spot, find a new height to your liking and push it back down onto the braces running up and down the sides of the doors.

I liked the intuitive control panel. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

At the top of the compartment, the control panel is similarly easy to use. There's a button for the energy saver and turbo cool. The latter puts the compressor into high gear for when you get home with a fresh load of groceries and need them cooled quickly. The former turns off the heater on the doors that helps to prevent condensation in areas of high humidity. If you do notice condensation, you'll want to turn the energy saver off, as the outer moisture can lead to rust.

Otherwise, you can turn a door alarm on or off, reset the water filter and adjust the fridge and freezer via a digital display.

The display shows the current temp, so you'll know if you're losing cool after leaving the doors open, and printed beneath the LCD is a reminder of the ideal settings: 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 Celsius) for the freezer and 37 (2.8 Celsius) for the fridge. It's an intuitive control panel that's a definite step up from the dials on base-level top freezer models.

To round out the fridge a little more, I would have liked humidity sliders on the drawers, and the naked bulbs behind them make the interior of the fridge nice and bright, but look a little odd.

I would have liked humidity sliders on the drawers. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Spillproof shelves and humidity sliders can be found on budget fridges cheaper than this one. In particular, the $1,000 Frigidaire FGTR1845QF has both. I understand not having premium features like folding shelves and custom temp drawers, but I'm disappointed the GE GNS23GMHES lacks some of the run-of-the-mill conveniences.

My icy reaction to the freezer

I'm also disappointed in the freezer. I disliked the Artistry's freezer as well. This one is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't step far enough. I like the pull-out drawer much more than the hinged freezer drawer of the Artistry, but the main basket is still a white wire bin that feels cheap.

The freezer feels cheap and the ice bin is awkward to maneuver. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other than the bin, the freezer has a half-width wire shelf in the upper right corner and an automatic ice maker in the upper left. The ice bin pulls out half way so you can easily access a handful of cubes. The stopper on its rails works well. I never pulled out the bin past the halfway point unintentionally, and if you want to grab the bin in its entirety, you can lift it and pull it the rest of the way.

This proved somewhat problematic. The ice bin is longer than the opening, even with the freezer door pulled out all the way. You have to turn it to get it out of the freezer, and it's long and cumbersome to maneuver. I ended up spilling ice a couple of times.

With the GE Artistry, the freezer was bad enough to give me pause in recommending an otherwise excellent fridge. The GE GNS23GMHES isn't that bad. It still feels cheap, but if you can live with a wire basket instead of a solid bin, it's serviceable, if not as pleasant as the interior of the fridge or as impressive as the overall exterior.

Availability

You can purchase the GE GNS23GMHES from Lowe's, Amazon, Home Depot, Best Buy and other major appliance retailers. GE's site will point you in the direction of stores in your area. As is typical with large appliances, you can find the fridge for less than its $1,600 MSRP. The listing price currently falls between $1,400 and $1,500 at the sites above.

The GE GNS23GMHES is not available overseas. For our readers in the UK and Australia, the price converts to approximately £1,026 and AU$2,026 respectively.

Groceries galore

We push the space in our fridges to the limit. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

This $1,600 fridge doesn't match more high-end French door models on features, and given that its 22.7 cubic feet of space is nowhere near that of the 34 cubic feet of the $6,000 Samsung Chef Collection, the 30 cubic feet of the $4,000 LG LMXS30776S or the roughly 27 cubic feet of the $3,100 Electrolux EI28BS80KS4A and the $2,600 Frigidaire FGHB2866PF9A , I didn't think GE's budget French door model could keep up in functional space.

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