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GE ABE20EGHBS review: Groovy performance from this retro GE fridge

The GE Artistry fridge looks like a designer model at a normal price, but can its performance live up to its style?

Andrew Gebhart Former senior producer
13 min read

It took me a while to figure out what the GE ABE20EGHBS looked like. It's impressive and awe-inspiring, but I couldn't put my finger on the semblance at first. GE's Artistry series spans the whole range of kitchen appliances. Each has a look of retro elegance that unifies the appearance of the set. That look, with a black finish, curved lines and stark silver handles that run parallel to the ground, makes the GE Artistry ABE20EGHBS a beautiful fridge.



The Good

The GE Artistry ABE20EGHBS packs in quite a bit of style for a reasonably priced $1,200 fridge, and backs it all up with a great temperature performance.

The Bad

It keeps the price down by sacrificing features. The shelves on the fridge can be tedious to move and the freezer feels cheap and poorly designed.

The Bottom Line

If you can look past its less than optimal freezer design, the GE Artistry refrigerator's combination of attractive retro styling and accurate temperature performance makes it a steal at under $1,200.

It was the handles that tipped me off. It reminded me of an old-fashioned Cadillac. Like those classic cars, this GE fridge packs plenty of power into its pretty frame. It's also roomier than it first appears, and can fit lots of food into its 20.3 cubic feet of space. It's an old-fashioned fridge in terms of looks, and it also goes without common modern amenities such as spill-proof shelves.

That, combined with a few annoyances you'll encounter as you use it, such as a poorly designed freezer basket, keep this Artistry fridge from being a true classic in its own right. However, with the GE ABE20EGHBS, you're getting a fantastic-looking appliance with great performance and a roomy amount of space. It may not be a classic, but at $1,200, it's a winning bargain and well worth your consideration.

Give your kitchen a taste of the past with GE's old fashioned Artistry Fridge

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Polished looks

It's certainly a leap to liken a fridge to a car, but with the GE Artistry Series ABE20EGHBS refrigerator, the trip back to a 1960s automobile doesn't feel that far. In particular, the way the silver handles arc and curve into the body of the fridge halfway across its front reminds me of old car doors. The fact that they're parallel to the ground and cylindrical helps.

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That's a classy looking nameplate. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Even the nameplate towards the top of the fridge -- General Electric spelled out with the circled initials between the words -- makes me think of the cursive Cadillac name printed on the sides of older models. So yes, I really like the way this fridge looks. It has retro cool oozing from every corner.

The interior isn't nearly as striking, but it's simple and pleasing. Bright white LEDs greet you as you open the upper door to the fridge. The main body has two movable full-width glass shelves with small white plastic borders and a third glass shelf covering two drawers at the bottom of the compartment.

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The interior doesn't stand out as much as the exterior. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The shelves don't have any spill proofing to them. Given that they already have plastic borders, I wish those borders would have been raised up slightly over the edge to help prevent dumped liquids from dripping down from shelf to shelf. I can't imagine that adjustment would have added too much to the cost, and it's one I would have readily thought worthwhile, even if it added a hundred or two.

Springing a leak

As it stands, on our spill test, the water went everywhere. We dump an 8-ounce glass of water on the top shelf to see how far down it flows and how difficult it is to clean. Granted, this is a stress test, but it's a stress test that lots of fridges with any amount of spill proofing have mastered. The cheaper $1,000 Frigidaire FGTR1845QF contained every drop.

The GE Artistry did not. The water ended up pooling beneath the drawers at the bottom of the compartment. I had to pull them out and wipe down every shelf in between. It also dripped into the holes at the back that the shelves hook into.

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The shelves look nice, but any water spilled on that top shelf will drip down on everything beneath it. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Given that it was just water, it was fine to let this drip out on its own. If it had been grease or something that could spoil, I'm not even sure how I would have cleaned behind the brackets with those slots. I might have had to unscrew each one after taking out the shelves in order to fully wipe them down.

The GE Artistry is missing a few other common staples. The drawers don't have sliders to control the humidity. The door doesn't sound any alarm if you accidentally leave it open. You don't even have any flexibility as far as the bins on the door.

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No humidity controls on the drawers. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The door includes a butter bin in the upper right, a smaller bin next to it, and two more that run the width of the door below that. You can remove each, but you'll have nowhere else to put them.

Again, it's commendable that GE has kept the price so low on a fridge that looks so good, but spill-proof shelves and humidity sliders aren't exactly premium upgrades. That $1,000 Frigidaire has both and an alarm for when you leave the door open.

Obtuse controls

Note that I keep returning to that Frigidaire. That model, and the $800 GE GTE18GMHES top freezer, also come with more helpful controls than the Artistry Fridge. The Artistry's control panel consists of a dial for the fridge and a dial for the freezer. Having separate controls is a plus at this price, but the dials go from 1-9 for each with no indication of what those numbers mean.

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Each dial goes from 1-9, instead of specific temperatures. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

A simple mark showing the recommended setting on the fridge would have gone a long way, and it's the reason I like the controls of the aforementioned GE GTE18GMHES and the Frigidaire FGTR1845QF better. As you might expect, 5 is a good starting point. The paper instructions do direct you to use that number, but still don't reveal what that means temperature-wise.

Simple numeric notations play to the old-fashioned theme, as does the general lack of modern amenities, but I wish GE would have deviated a little more from that theme to make using the fridge a more modern, polished experience.

The frustrating freezer

The freezer actually makes things worse, as unlike the interior of the fridge, it doesn't even look nice. The door opens on a hinge. I much prefer bottom mounted freezer models to have a drawer you pull open. It's easier to reach everything that way. That upgrade usually elevates the price of bottom freezer models, though, and separates those at bottom prices from those with middling or upper prices.

Thus it makes sense, given the $1,200 cost, that this GE has a hinged door. Still, all else even, I'd have preferred this same fridge for a couple hundred more with a drawer style freezer.

Open it up, and a wire basket and shelf above it are all that adorn the inside. I like a simple freezer, but this one is plain. Both pull out so you can reach them more easily, but the mechanic to do so feels cheap and adds to the tedium, as opposed to alleviating it.

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Pulling the basket out requires the door to be all the way open. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The wire basket won't pull out at all unless the freezer door is open all the way. At the 90-degree position where it's easy to keep a hand on it, the basket runs into the side of the door. You have to put it at a large obtuse angle for the basket to move.

Even then, pull the drawer or the shelf out and chances are it'll just keep sliding until it falls out of the compartment entirely. Neither of the rails have a proper brace on them to act as a bookend.

Most of my issues with the fridge are nitpicks. It's functional enough that once you get the settings where you want them, you'll barely notice any issues. You'll just have to be careful not to spill.

But the freezer design is downright poor and the only major drawback to this otherwise excellent fridge. Make sure you get a chance to play around with it and determine how much of an issue it'll be for the way you use your fridge -- and how it'll fit in your kitchen -- before deciding to purchase the GE ABE20EGHBS.


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Hard to argue with this look, and it's available in a variety of colors. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If the freezer won't be an issue for you, you can purchase the GE Artistry ABE20EGHBS from Home Depot, Best Buy and other major appliance retailers. GE's site will direct you to specific retailers in your area.

As is typical with large appliances, you can find the GE ABE20EGHBS for less than its $1,200 MSRP. At both Home Depot and Best Buy, it's available for under $1,100, making this already good deal even better.

In addition to the normal white and black, you can pay $300 more for an extra splash of color to your kitchen. GE recently added a Cupcake Blue and Red Pepper finish to its hue options for this Artistry fridge.

The GE Artistry ABE20EGHBS is not available overseas.

Filling up

Once you do get that temperature dial where you want it, you'll want to load up the GE ABE20EGHBS with food. With the shelves spaced evenly from top to bottom, there's not a lot of vertical space for tall items, and I initially thought my disappointment with the features of the fridge would carry over to the load test.

We do the load test twice, the first time leaving the shelves in the default, evenly spaced position. The GE had a mark against it from the start since I had to put the milk jugs in the door instead of the main compartment of the fridge.

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Even without stress test items, the fridge was pretty full. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We fill the fridge with common foods first such as those milk jugs, boxes and bottles of soda, veggies, meats, cheeses and condiments. We try to put each item as close to its ideal position as possible. On most fridges, the door bins run warm, so we put milk on the main shelves whenever possible. We also put the veggies and cheeses in a drawer, and try to keep our container of dog food separate from the human food.

After placing all normal groceries, the fridge looked full. But we don't stop there. While keeping the normal items in place, we then try to cram in six different stress test items, including a party platter, a roasting pan, and a cake tray.

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Our six stress test items. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The GE ABE20EGHBS surprised me by managing to squeeze in each of those six items individually except for the party tray. It even fit three simultaneously. We weren't able to fit these items while keeping the dog food container in its separate spot, but that's only a small issue.

By comparison, the $1,800 LG LDC24370ST couldn't fit the party tray or the pitcher on this test. It also fit three items simultaneously, and the GE ABE20EGHBS did well to match it. The LG LDC24370ST has 24 total cubic feet as compared to the GE's 20.3. The fridge in the LG takes up 16.3 cubic feet of that total vs 14.1 for the GE. The cheaper GE went toe to toe with the LG as far as usable space despite having a slightly smaller number to work with.

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The GE Artistry surprised us and managed to fit in a few stress test items in addition to the normal groceries. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

On round 2 of our load tests, we allow ourselves to move the shelves as we see fit and cram the food a little more tightly. We try to keep things spaced apart on round 1. If you overload fridges, it can affect the cooling performance, so we run the first test to keep things optimized for long term use. On the second test, we see how far we can push the space for those special occasions where you're hosting an extra large gathering.

The actual process of moving the shelves on the GE ABE20EGHBS turned into another annoyance. Hooks at the back hold them in place and another protrusion under those hooks keeps them steady. Select the hole on the brackets at the back of the body, then tilt the shelf up to get the hooks free and back down into your newly selected slot.

It's a standard process, and getting the hooks free and the shelf loose proves relatively easy. We've yet to find a fridge that actually makes rearranging the shelves a breeze, but so far, this one was doing just fine. Getting it back in place proved more trying. Occasionally, the experience was seamless, but a few times, that bottom protrusion wouldn't quite snap into place properly.

The shelf still looked like it was resting evenly, and I'd let it go, only to have it come tumbling down a moment later. Fortunately, the tempered glass didn't break, but even knowing that this could happen, I made this mistake a couple more times. It's tough to see those bottom protrusions from an eyeline above the shelf.

Again, nothing broke, and I was able to pick up the fallen shelf and get it back to where I wanted it within moments. I'd also imagine you won't arrange the shelves much once you get them where they're ideal for your use, but like the numerical dials of the controls, this might prove another growing pain as you adjust to this fridge.

Once the shelves were in place, I got back to loading up the fridge. This time, I made myself enough vertical space to fit the milk in the main body, so the initial vertical space issue isn't a deal breaker.

With that little extra height, and by squeezing everything a little tighter, I managed to fit all six stress test items individually and five of the six simultaneously. Only the cake tray wouldn't work with the rest of the group. The roasting pan sat right on the border of calling it a fit. I was able to shut the door, but a hefty turkey sitting in it would have left it out of the group as well.

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With a little more vertical room and a lot more squeezing, we crammed five large items into the GE Artistry. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

On round 2, the LG LDC24370ST tied with the GE Artistry. It fit all six items individually and five of the six at once. Only the pizza box was left out. Again, the GE managed to match the bigger LG, proving that although it looks small, the GE ABE20EGHBS makes surprisingly good use of its interior space.

Cooling down

The plain interior proved more versatile at fitting food than I'd imagined. Once you get the shelves where you want them, you'll be able to fit plenty of groceries. Then, you just need the fridge to keep that food appropriately cool. Good news -- it will.

The default setting for most fridges is 37 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 Celsius). For most freezers, it's 0 (-17.8 Celsius). We set both to 5 on those numerical dials with options 1-9, expecting them to approximate those temps. Given that the fridge doesn't actually indicate that 5 should be 37 and 0 respectively, exact accuracy isn't the primary measurement we focus on.

How we test refrigerators (pictures)

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We do hope it'll be close to that ideal 37, but we also look for the fridge to maintain consistency across the compartment. If the top shelf holds a similar temp to the bottom one, it's easier to adjust the temp up or down without making one area too hot or cold.

To test our fridges, we put thermocouples in solution on every shelf and in every compartment. We give the fridge a day or so to adjust after setting it to the default, then we gather data for 72 hours straight. All fridges will see some temperature fluctuation over that time period, but the better ones with more efficient cooling will keep the spikes and dips to a minimum.

Here are the averages the GE ABE20EGHBS produced in every compartment over that initial three day period:

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The freezer is a little warm, but the temperature averages for the main body of the fridge are impressively close to each other. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

These results are impressive in a couple of different ways. First, it's great that the main area of the fridge -- the bottom two shelves and the drawers -- averaged temperatures less than a degree apart. That temperature is only about a degree over the ideal 37 benchmark, and it's all below our indicator for when things are getting too warm.

According to the FDA, easily spoilable foods need to be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 Celsius). For us, that makes 40 a more important marker than 37. A good fridge should be able to keep the majority of its compartments below 40 most of the time. With the GE ABE20EGHBS: mission accomplished.

Most fridges have doors that run warm, so the higher temps on that bottom door bin aren't surprising. It's a minor ding that keeps it from perfection and elevates the performance of the LG LDC24370ST slightly above it, but the GE ABE20EGHBS does well enough to qualify as a great performer. Again, it's $600 less than that LG.

The much warmer spot at the top of the door is the butter bin, which is meant to be warmer to keep things spreadable.

Even better, the GE Artistry kept things consistent over the three day period. The top shelf wobbles a bit, but everything else keeps a steady hand, and you can barely tell the graphs of the bottom two shelves and the drawers apart.

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The purple and orange lines at the top are the two warmer areas on the door. The darker purple at the bottom is the top shelf. The other lines are tough to tell apart, and that's a good thing. Jared Hannah/CNET

You want your food kept under 40 degrees the majority of the time. Going back to the FDA guidelines, spoilable groceries shouldn't spend more than 2 hours consecutively or 4 hours total over the course of their life over 40. Other than that butter bin and bottom door bin, every other spot in the fridge spent little to no time over that mark. The ebbs and flows are impressively minimal.

The GE Artistry is also versatile. Turning the fridge temp to 9, the coldest setting, for our second three-day test, another benchmark comes into play. You still want everything below 40 -- the ideal mark is 33 (0.6 Celsius) -- but you also want it to stay above 32 (0 Celsius) where food will start to freeze.

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At its lowest temperature setting, everything except the top shelf walked the line between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Again, the GE ABE20EGHBS aced the test. The bottom two shelves and drawers still maintain minimal separation, and every spot other than the top shelf stays between those two key temperatures, sitting above 32 and below 40.

This designer-style low-cost fridge is a cool customer, and that competent swagger goes beyond just its appearance. It has looks to spare and backs them up with genuinely impressive performance.

The verdict

The GE Artistry ABE20EGHBS bottom freezer model blazes a trail apart from the many modern big-brand fridges with their stainless steel boxy exteriors, and it plays to designer fridge sensibilities without getting the price anywhere near designer levels. In fact, its $1,200 MSRP sits on the low end of the bottom freezer spectrum.

To an extent, GE pulls off this low-cost pricing by staying minimal as far as features are concerned. I'd be very happy to pay a little more if it had a pull-out freezer and spill-proof shelves. I really don't like the freezer on this model at all. It feels cheap and it's tough to use, but the rest of my issues with this fridge are easy to overlook given the price. It might not be the Cadillac of this generation of fridges, but it's hard to argue against a fridge that looks this good and performs this well, especially for a more than reasonable $1,200.



Score Breakdown

Features 6Design 9Performance 8Usability 7
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