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Frigidaire FGHI2164QF review: A Frigidaire top-freezer fridge that just isn't frigid enough

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Top-freezer refrigerators are the most basic and least expensive models available, but that doesn't mean there aren't opportunities to splurge. Take the Frigidaire FGHI2164QF. At an MSRP of $1,300, it offers an all-stainless-steel build and an attractive interior packed with user-friendly features, including "Custom-Flex" door compartments that give you an outstanding degree of flexibility over how you store your groceries.

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5.3

Frigidaire FGHI2164QF

The Good

The Frigidaire Gallery FGHI2164QF is a good-looking top freezer with an innovative set of modular door accessories. The "smudge-proof" exterior makes it easier to keep clean than other stainless steel models like it.

The Bad

Temperatures ran warmer than we'd like throughout every section of the fridge, and a poorly thought-out meat-and-cheese drawer in the center of the fridge makes it tough to fit bulky items inside.

The Bottom Line

Despite an appealing aesthetic and some attractive features, this fridge is too poor a performer for us to recommend.

Unfortunately, it's not a strong performer, or anything close to one, quite frankly. At the default setting, the entire refrigerator yielded average temperatures above 40 degrees, a food safety benchmark set by the FDA. Even after dialing it down to the coldest setting, hot spots persisted in both the body of the fridge and in those in-door shelves. It's a far worse result than we've seen from other top freezers that cost less, including the $800 GE GTE18GMHES and Frigidaire's own FGTR1845QF , which boasts the same Custom-Flex compartments as the FGHI2164QF, but sells for $300 less. Despite getting a lot of things right, the FGHI2164QF isn't a fridge we'd recommend.

Stainless-steel style from this Frigidaire fridge (pictures)

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Design and features

First, the good news. Frigidaire did a decent job with the design here, building a fridge that takes full advantage of the brand's "smudge-proof" stainless steel. While "smudge-resistant" might be closer to the truth, it's still a nice feature, and noticeably easier to keep clean and shiny than other stainless-steel models we've tested.

It's a minimalist look, too, with no extra accents, colors or curves. If you want a simple stainless-steel fridge that blends into your kitchen without trying too hard to stand out, it'll fit the bill.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

There's a lot more going on inside of the fridge than outside. Along with spillproof glass shelves, you'll find a dedicated drawer for meats and cheeses, along with an extra drawer up top that runs the width of the fridge. The two shelves in the middle also slide out to help you access items in the back -- this is especially handy for the shelf that sits right underneath the drawer. It's worth noting, though, that you can rearrange the storage space as much as you want, with a veritable bounty of slots to fit those shelves (and that meat-and-cheese drawer) into.

At the bottom of the fridge, you'll find the usual pair of crisper bins for fruits and veggies. Each one comes with a slider that'll let you adjust the humidity within, which is a nice feature, and one that's oft-forgotten by other fridges, including more expensive models. The bins feel a bit flimsy, though, and rattled around too much for my tastes each time I opened or shut them.

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The modular "Custom-Flex" door is highly customizable, with a variety of different types of bins and storage containers (like this can dispenser) for you to choose from and place where you like. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The key feature of the interior, though, is the "Custom-Flex" door. It's a smart design that essentially packs three rows of rails into the door. Frigidaire's bins are built to clip into these rails -- once they're in, you can slide them left and right to make space below, or swap their positions fairly easily. I say "fairly" because I sometimes had to use a bit of extra force, both with the sliding and the swapping. I didn't mind all that much -- I'd rather that than have loose-fitting bins that slid on their own each time I opened or closed the door.

You have a fair variety of bins to choose from, with extras costing about 15 bucks a piece on Frigidaire's website. Less expensive Custom-Flex models sell the more unique bins separately, but they come standard with the FGHI2164QF. Along with the butter bin and three standard storage bins (large, medium and small), you'll find a more miniature bin intended for water bottles or kid snacks and a dispenser that holds six or seven cans of beer or soda. There's also a non-Custom-Flex bin at the bottom of the door that runs the width of the fridge.

Coupled with the high degree of storage flexibility offered inside of the body of the refrigerator, the Custom-Flex door makes for one of the most versatile interiors we've tested. If you like to micromanage your storage space, it's an attractive feature.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A Frigidaire sans frigid air

What's black and white and orange all over? Our heat map of the Frigidaire Gallery FGHI2164QF running at the default setting. Each and every section of the fridge compartment came back with an average above 40 degrees F -- which explains why it's the orangest heat map we've ever made.

It's a patently bad result. Most refrigerators default to a setting of 37 degrees, and the good ones hit that mark throughout the entire interior. The mediocre ones might see a few drawers or in-door shelves creep up above 40, but they'll at least keep the main body of the fridge out of orange territory. Not the FGHI2164QF. No matter where you put your groceries, they're going to be at least a few degrees warmer than you'd like.

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Ry Crist/CNET

The minute-by-minute graph of that same test, while admittedly wonkier to look at, paints an even clearer picture of the result. With thermocouples taking the temperature of 10 different regions inside the fridge every minute for 72 hours, we took a total of 43,200 readings over the course of the test. Only four of them came back below 40 degrees.

How we test refrigerators (pictures)

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The only good news to be gleaned is that the body of the fridge -- the two blue lines -- was the coolest section overall, averaging in around 41 degrees F. Interestingly, the top drawer (dark red), which sits in the main body of the fridge, was one of the warmest sections, right on par with the butter bin.

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We even found hot spots above 40 degrees when we dialed the fridge down to its coldest setting. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

From here, we ran the test again, but this time, we dialed the fridge down to its coldest setting -- typically 33 or 34 degrees, for most refrigerators. Performance was, as you'd expect, slightly better, but everything was still too warm, and nowhere near what we've seen from other fridges at the coldest setting. The drawers again yielded averages of 40 degrees or higher, as did both the top and bottom sections of the door. The body of the fridge made it down below 40 into blue territory, but only just barely.

It's definitely more acceptable than the default result, but it's still pretty disappointing. If I owned this fridge, I wouldn't feel comfortable using it at the recommended default setting, and I'd barely feel comfortable using it at the coldest setting -- and at that point, I'd be using more energy than I'd like.

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So-so storage

The Frigidaire Gallery FGHI2164QF offers 20.5 cubic feet of storage space, 15.4 of which are allocated to the fridge. That's above average for a top freezer -- bigger than the middle-of-the-road GE GTE18GMHES , but not quite as big as the 23.8 cu. ft. Kenmore 79432 , the biggest top freezer we've tested.

I wasn't surprised that the FGHI2164QF didn't hold groceries as easily as the larger Kenmore model, but I was surprised that it got outperformed by the smaller GE model. All three fridges fit all of our test groceries, but from there, I was only able to squeeze in three of our six stress test items: a cake tray, a pitcher, and a casserole dish. The other three -- a party platter, a roasting pan, and an extra large pizza box -- all fit on their own, but didn't make the cut when I tried fitting all six in at once. The Kenmore fridge fit all six with room to spare, while the GE fridge managed to fit five out of six -- despite only offering 13.5 cu. ft. of fridge capacity.

The problem lies with the Frigidaire model's two drawers. Neither one is large enough to offer much assistance with the stress test items, nor are they large enough to hold much more than the meats and cheeses they're designed for. That means that, ultimately, they get in the way when you're trying to squeeze in something big. It's especially telling that a smaller, 18.3 cu. ft. version of Frigidaire's Custom-Flex fridge also fit three of the six stress test items when we tried it out. It's smaller -- but it also doesn't have those drawers in the way.

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The overhang of that shelf is rough -- enough so to scrape my finger up after I reached in. Ry Crist/CNET

I have one other gripe with those drawers -- namely, the meat and cheese drawer that sits in the middle of the fridge. The opening is fairly narrow, so when you reach in to grab your provolone, there's a good chance that your fingers will scrape against the underside of the shelf above, especially as you're pulling your hand back out. That isn't a good, because that underside is noticeably rough -- enough so that I accidentally drew blood while loading the fridge up.

Admittedly, at least some of the fault lies with me, but still, a smooth, curved underside to the edge of that shelf would have been a much better design choice.

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The verdict

It's a shame that this fridge is such a poor performer, because -- performance aside -- it's got a lot going for it. The simple, classic-looking build works well, the smudge-resistant exterior is a nice touch, the modular, Custom-Flex door is nifty... I can see a lot of reasons to recommend this fridge to someone looking for a top freezer upgrade.

And yet I can't recommend it, not when the performance is this disappointing across the board. At $1,300 -- relatively pricey for a top freezer -- I think you deserve something more dependable. At a retail price of $1,420 (typically discounted by at least a few hundred dollars at Sears) the bigger, better-performing Kenmore 79432 makes more sense to me as a top freezer upgrade. For better performance that doesn't cost as much, you could also consider the $800, slate-finished GE GTE18GMHES , or even a smaller version of Frigidaire's Custom-Flex top freezers -- the $1,000 Frigidaire Gallery FGTR1845QF has a similarly attractive build and performed much better when we tested it out earlier this year. This largest Custom-Flex fridge, however, just doesn't cut it.

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5.3

Frigidaire FGHI2164QF

Score Breakdown

Features 8Design 8Performance 2Usability 6