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GE ABE20EGHBS review: Groovy performance from this retro GE fridge

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MSRP: $1,200.00
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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.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Features 6
  • Design 9
  • Performance 8
  • Usability 7

Review Sections

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Availability

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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