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Electrolux EW28BS85KS review: This premium Electrolux fridge fails at the basics

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Fancy-looking French door fridges are a dime a dozen (give or take several thousand dollars). The easiest way to stand out is to add something unique -- perhaps an innovative design twist, or a clever new feature. Enter the Electrolux EW28BS85KS, a $3,350 refrigerator boasting "Wave-Touch" controls and a bevy of "Luxury"-branded features. As standouts go, it certainly looks the part.

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5.7

Electrolux EW28BS85KS

The Good

The Electrolux Wave-Touch French door refrigerator is an attractive and simple model with a number of "Luxury"-branded features. The "Perfect Temp Drawer" at the bottom of the fridge held steady temperatures across all of its ample presets.

The Bad

The rest of the refrigerator performed a lot worse, and consistently ran warm in our test chamber. Also, some of those "Luxury" features were more of a hassle than anything else.

The Bottom Line

At this price (or any price), you should expect your fridge to hold temperatures below 40 F. This one doesn't unless you dial it all the way down to the lowest setting, and that's not good enough to earn our recommendation.

Looks can be deceiving. Despite the high-end price, this Electrolux model isn't a high-end performer -- unless you're talking about the temperatures in the body of the fridge, which ran too high throughout all of our tests. On top of that, the fancy-sounding features weren't actually that compelling to use. The Electrolux Wave-Touch French door fridge looks and sounds like a premium model (and it's definitely priced like one), but in practice, it feels like something a lot worse. I say steer clear.

Electrolux promises luxury with the Wave-Touch French door fridge (pictures)

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Designed to impress

The EW28BS85KS sticks to the Electrolux design playbook. It's a safe, simple build aimed at fitting in with its high-end competition. The finish is a sleek stainless steel that passes on unnecessary curves in favor of straight, utilitarian edges. The aim seems to be elegant minimalism, and this fridge fits the bill, if not in somewhat boxy fashion.

The refrigerator's marquee feature is its touchscreen, where you'll access settings using what Electrolux calls "Wave-Touch" controls. It's a lot less fancy than it sounds. Really, all Wave-Touch means is that the display is touch sensitive, and that the options fade out when not in use. For $100 less, you can go with "="" model"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="review" uuid="6bf072b8-063d-4b28-af5f-4f0e7de54bde" slug="electrolux-ei28bs80ks4a-standard-depth-french-door-refrigerator-with-iq-touch-controls" link-text="an almost identical " section="products" title="It's tough to warm up to Electrolux's high-end fridge"> -- it's still touch sensitive, but the options stay illuminated even when you're not using them. Of course, that's not to mention the dozens upon dozens of other refrigerators and kitchen appliances that offer touch controls. Nothing special here.

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Don't be fooled: those "Wave-Touch" controls amount to little more than a simple touchscreen. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You'll also notice right away that the Electrolux Wave-Touch fridge makes liberal use of the word "luxury." Open it up and you'll find "Luxury-Close Drawers," "Luxury-Design Lighting," and "Luxury-Design Glass Shelves." Clearly, the branding wants to convince you that this is a ritzy refrigerator, but take it with a few grains of salt. LED lighting is all but ubiquitous starting at midrange prices, and those shelves and drawers aren't all that luxurious in practice.

Let's start with the shelves, the lesser of the two offenders. Each one is a solid piece of curved glass that comes in and out with relative ease. Electrolux envisions you using them as serving trays as your next get together, which seems like a pretty odd use case to me. The more practical benefit of the design is that the curved glass makes each shelf about as spill-proof as you'll find.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The downside of this design is that it makes for awkward usage space around the edges of the shelves. Try sitting a flat-bottomed container of food near the edge of a shelf, and it'll tilt uncomfortably to the side. That's not a deal-breaker, but it's still a textbook example of a feature that puts form ahead of function.

As for the drawers, the "Luxury-Close" nomenclature refers to a simple mechanism that makes each one impossible to slam shut. Try and close one, and you'll feel resistance at the last inch or so. Let go, and the drawer will finish closing on its own.

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The "Luxury-Close Drawers" were more trouble than they were worth. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In reality, the approach brings some new problems into play. You'll feel that same resistance as you pull a drawer open, meaning you'll need to put some extra oomph into your tug before it'll glide free. Once it does, and the resistance drops out, you're suddenly pulling too hard and yanking the thing open. I must have opened and shut the drawers a hundred times during my tests -- it never felt natural to me.

Even worse is that the mechanism is a bit flimsy, with plastic catches on the sides of the bins that often come unhooked during those inevitable yanks. Once that happens, the drawer won't close at all -- you'll need to wedge your fingers in along the sides to reattach things. This happened about a dozen times or so during my tests; my colleague Andrew Gebhart experienced identical frustrations while reviewing a similar Electrolux model . All told, it's a feature I'd rather do without.

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The tilt-out mini-shelves at the bottom of each door are a great place for kid-friendly snacks. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Thankfully, there are a few other features that struck me as more successful. For instance, you'll find mini-sized shelves at the bottom of each door. This isn't uncommon with French door designs, and usually, the larger shelf above blocks them off, making them borderline useless. With the Electrolux line of French door models, though, these drawers tilt out, offering easy access to whatever's stored inside. It's a perfect solution, and it makes for a handy, appropriately low spot for storing kid-friendly snacks.

The "Perfect Temp Drawer" that sits below the two crisper bins is another strong feature. It runs the width of the fridge and comes with its own temperature controls, allowing you to dial the coolness up or down, or select from one of several ingredient-specific presets. It tested well, too. No matter what we set it at, the drawer held steady at the target temperature.

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That's an awful lot of orange... Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Cool your performance expectations

Unfortunately, the rest of the fridge didn't fare quite so well in our temperature tests. We run each fridge for 72 hours in our climate-controlled test chamber, with several strategically placed thermocouples recording the minute-by-minute temperature in various regions. At the end, we're left with a mountain of data to dig through -- and in the case of this Electrolux, things didn't look great.

The easiest metric to look at is the average temperature in each region. Per the FDA, you want to keep your perishable food at 40 degrees F or below. We test each fridge at the common default setting of 37 degrees F, giving it a few degrees' worth of wiggle room beneath 40. A good one will be able to keep everything below that level -- especially in the main body of the fridge. And, as the above heat map shows, the Electrolux came up well short. Each in-door shelf averaged in the 40s, along with two thirds of the main body.

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Too many regions spent too much of this test above 40 degrees F. Ry Crist/CNET

Looking closer at this bad result, the graph above shows minute-by-minute temperature readings. That bright red line at the bottom is the Perfect Temp Drawer -- we dialed it down to 33 degrees for this test, and it did a terrific job. The rest of the fridge? Not so much. Only the dark red lines representing the crisper bins and the light blue line representing the main body's bottom shelf are anywhere close to 37. The rest -- the doors and upper shelves -- are almost all above 40 degrees for the entire 72 hours.

That bright green line at the top is the worst offender, spending much of the test above 50 degrees. That's the top shelf inside the right door, and it runs hot by design, because it's where most people keep their butter. That's pretty standard across all fridges we test -- butter bins are designed to run a little warm in order to keep your butter soft.

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This butter shelf is the hottest spot in the fridge, but it isn't clear that it's meant for butter. That might make it tempting to put other things there, like this carton of eggs. That'd be a mistake. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Here's the problem, though -- the Electrolux butter bin isn't a butter bin at all. It's just another shelf -- no lid, no labeling. It looks more like a perfectly sized nesting spot for a carton of eggs than a dedicated shelf for butter. Give in to the temptation and store your eggs there, and the results might spoil your day, so to speak.

Of course, you could always dial the fridge temperature down lower than 37 degrees. Most refrigerators will go as low as 33 -- just north of freezing. As such, we make sure to repeat our 72-hour test at that lowest setting to see how our fridges fare (and to make sure they don't get cold enough to freeze your milk.)

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Dialing down to the 33 degree setting helped, but temperatures still ran warm. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

With the Electrolux Wave-Touch French door fridge, you won't have to worry about frozen milk. At the 33 setting, temperatures dropped as expected, but still sat at least a couple of degrees warmer than the target. The top right in-door shelf was still the warmest spot in the fridge, but managed to cool down below 50 at least. As for the Perfect Temp Drawer, we cranked it up to 37 to see if it could if it could hold a warmer temperature than the rest of the fridge, which it did, albeit a degree or two hotter than the target.

It's clearly a better result (and one that isn't nearly so orange), but it's not a terribly impressive one. The similarly priced GE Profile Series French door fridge managed to keep the entire body of the fridge below 36 degrees during this test, with the doors coming in below 39 and the butter bin punching in at 41. It also outperformed Electrolux in the 37-degree test, and offers a more compelling slate of features.

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The freezer did a much better job, holding steady temperatures and keeping defrosts down to five degrees or less. Ry Crist/CNET

Down in the Electrolux freezer, temperatures stayed steady below 5 degrees for the duration of the tests, with expected spikes during our scheduled door openings. Those spikes never brought the temperature up by much more than five degrees, if that, and the freezer was always able to bring things back down in quick fashion. It's a much better result than the fridge on all counts -- though again, it sat at least a few degrees above the target temperature (0 F) throughout the entire test.

There's also a "Soft Serve Drawer" in the top right corner of the freezer compartment -- kind of a butter bin for the freezer. Its job is to hold a temperature roughly 10 degrees above the rest of the freezer, making it an ideal spot for things like ice cream that you want kept frozen, but not too frozen. It did a nice job as well, rising and falling in sync with the rest of the freezer, and maintaining an overall temperature that was just as steady.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

How much will it fit?

The Electrolux EW28BS85KS claims a total capacity of 27.8 cubic feet, 19 of which is allocated to the fridge. That puts it right on par with comparable French door models in the GE Profile Series and the Frigidaire Gallery lineup, and just slightly behind the king-sized LG LMXS30776S .

All told, it's plenty of room for most families, but to help put things into perspective, we filled it up with our standardized load of test groceries. Everything fit just fine, especially once I rearranged the shelves to make room in the body of the fridge for milk jugs and other tall items. Taking things further, I tried loading six additional large-sized stress test items (a pitcher, a roasting pan, a party platter, a cake tray, a casserole dish and an extra-large pizza box). With the shelves rearranged, I was able to fit all of them at once -- see if you can spot them all in the picture above.

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The ice maker eats up a good deal of space in the top corner of the fridge. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Still, things were a bit more cramped than I would have liked in this price range, and that's largely because of the ice maker, which sits in the top left corner of the main body of the fridge. The last Electrolux French door model we reviewed was slightly smaller, but it didn't have an in-door ice maker at all, and as a result, things didn't feel quite so squished.

The comparison is a little clearer in our standard load test, where we aren't allowed to rearrange the shelves from their default positions. Both fridges fit all of the test groceries, but when we tried to add in the stress test items, the Wave-Touch model could only fit the casserole dish, the roasting pan, and the pizza box simultaneously. The smaller IQ-Touch model was able to fit those three along with the party platter, too.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Down in the freezer, you've got 8.8 cubic feet to play with, along with a squeeze-and-slide divider to help you section things off. There's also a second icemaker, which will come in handy if you're throwing a cocktail party, but will eat up precious space when you aren't using it. I think I'd probably just turn the thing off and store the bin in the basement to make room for more frozen pizzas.

All in all, it's an appropriately roomy fridge for the price, but not a clear storage standout like the $1,800 LG LDC24370ST bottom freezer . Along with plenty of cubic feet, that fridge offers a wide variety of user-friendly features aimed at helping you make better use of its storage space, including sliding shelf dividers and an in-door shelf that folds neatly out of the way to make room for tall items. I would have appreciated a few more of those kinds of touches with this Electrolux model.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

High-end appliances deserve a high degree of scrutiny before you buy in -- especially when they start throwing the "luxury" label around left and right. This Electrolux model is such an appliance, and it doesn't hold up to that scrutiny. Its cooling performance is glaringly bad -- the majority of the fridge sat above 40 degrees F for more than 99 percent of our 37-degree test. There isn't much redemption with the features, either. The Wave-Touch controls are hardly worth mentioning, and the Luxury-Close Drawers actually made it more frustrating to use the crispers.

At this price range, I'd much rather have the GE Profile Series French door model . It's simply a better performer, and one that boasts a much better set of features, too. In fact, each and every other French door fridge we've tested has performed better than the Electrolux EW28BS85KS -- with the exception of the equally bad Electrolux EI28BS80KS4A . Put frankly, this fridge doesn't deserve your consideration.

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5.7

Electrolux EW28BS85KS

Score Breakdown

Features 7Design 7Performance 4Usability 6