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GE GBE10ESJSB Compact Bottom Freezer Refrigerator review: This small bottom-freezer fridge was a big disappointment

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If you're living with a cramped kitchen, or if you just want a small, simple second fridge for a basement or a garage, then you might consider the GBE10ESJSB, a compact bottom-freezer model from GE. It's just 24 inches wide and barely over 5 feet tall, but it still offers over 10 cubic feet of storage space. The cost? $900.

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GE GBE10ESJSB Compact Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

The Good

The GE GBE10ESJSB is a true space saver, and a good fit for tiny kitchens. The stainless-steel design is basic, but fashionable.

The Bad

Performance was all over the map in our tests, with eyebrow-raisingly high temperatures at the top of the fridge and subzero chill in the freezer.

The Bottom Line

Settle for this fridge if you must, but we think you'll be a lot happier with another compact option.

I'd recommend shopping around before buying. To be specific, you'll want to take a good look at the LG LTNC11121V, a similarly narrow, compact top-freezer model. It costs $200 less than GE's compact-size option, but offers better performance, slightly more storage space, a nicer-looking design and even a couple of extra features like a pull-out shelf and a manual ice maker.

GE's smallest bottom-freezer fridge is built for tiny kitchens

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Even in its slim package, the GBE10ESJSB sticks to the bottom-freezer script. Your fridge section is up top for easy access to your fresh ingredients, while the freezer section sits below. You'll get to that freezer by opening a door that swings open, which is typically a little less desirable than one that pulls out like a drawer for easier access.

Still, it's a nice design considering that most full-size bottom freezers start at around $1,200. If you don't need the full-size space, then the GBE10ESJSB offers the same fresh-food access for less money.

Compact fridges: A small-size showdown

GE GBE10ESJSB Compact Bottom Freezer FridgeLG LTNC11121V Compact Top Freezer Fridge
Fridge capacity 7.3 cubic feet8.5 cubic feet
Freezer capacity 3.2 cubic feet2.6 cubic feet
Total capacity 10.5 cubic feet11.1 cubic feet
Height 60 3/8 inches66 1/2 inches
Width 24 inches24 inches
Depth 27 3/8 inches26 inches
Yearly energy consumption 387 kWh339 kWh
Yearly energy cost ($0.12 per kWh) $46 $41
Yearly cost per cubic foot $4.38 $3.69
Energy Star qualified YesNo
Warranty 1 year parts and labor1 year parts and labor, 7 years sealed system
Suggested retail price $900 $700
Lowest retail price (as of 10/7/16) $803 $625

Size-wise, this is a pretty typical compact model, but it gets the job done with more than 10 cubic feet of total storage space. Though things were far more cramped than I'd be comfortable with in my own kitchen, I was able to fit almost all of our test groceries inside -- even two bulky 12-packs of soda that didn't quite fit into the compact LG top freezer I tested earlier this year. That's pretty impressive, given that the LG model actually has the bigger fridge compartment. GE does more with less.

The GE didn't wow us in our performance tests, though. Budget-price compact fridges usually come with at least a couple of hot spots, because they focus their limited cooling power on getting the body of the fridge where you want it. This GE was no exception, and its hot spots were especially egregious, with the top door shelf coming in above 50 degrees F even when the fridge was dialed to its coldest setting.

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The coldest air is focused at the bottom of the refrigerator, which leaves the top shelves awfully warm.

Chris Monroe/CNET

In fact, the entire top third of the fridge or so came in hot (hence all of the orange in that heat map). Meanwhile, the freezer came in with staggeringly low temperatures, near 20 below zero. That's a huge swing from top to bottom, and much more dramatic than in the LG model.

Both fridges have limited hardware keeping things cold, but the LG model -- a top freezer -- is asking the cold air from the freezer to trickle down. GE's asking the cold air to trickle up. That puts it at a clear disadvantage from the get-go, which is why LG's top freezer is able to outperform it while using less energy.

One last point of note: multiple reviews on GE's website call this a pretty noisy fridge, and that was my experience, too. That's more or less par for the course with small fridges like this one, since they typically don't have a whole lot of heft to dampen the noise. Still, it's something you'll definitely want to consider before making a purchase.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

The verdict

If you need a compact-size fridge, and you're dead set on going with a bottom freezer, then you can give this fridge your consideration, but keep in mind that you'll be making a lot of compromises. It's noisy, it's a poor performer and it got beat by LG's compact top freezer at almost every turn -- including the asking price. At $900, it's a tough model to recommend.

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GE GBE10ESJSB Compact Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

Score Breakdown

Features 5Design 7Performance 5.5Usability 6.5