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GE GDE21EMKES Bottom Freezer Refrigerator review: Style meets substance with this GE fridge

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Bottom freezer refrigerators flip the script on the top freezer fridge most of us grew up with. Like the name suggests, bottom freezers move the frozen food compartment down below the fridge, making it easier to access your fresh ingredients.

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7.5

GE GDE21EMKES Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

The Good

GE's slate bottom-freezer sailed through our performance tests and looked good doing it. The slate finish does an excellent job of repelling fingerprints.

The Bad

The GDE21EMKES is smaller, less affordable and less efficient than the competition.

The Bottom Line

This is a good fridge that can be had for less than $1,500, but strong competitors from LG and Whirlpool can be had for even less. Shop around, or wait for a good sale.

At $1,650, the GE GDE21EMKES is a slightly expensive example of such a fridge, and all in all, it's a decent option. The slate finish is a classy change of pace from stainless steel (and one that's a lot better at repelling fingerprints), and the fridge's performance leaves little to complain about. That said, there are other bottom freezers like the Whirlpool WRB322DMBB that we like as much as this one, if not more -- and most of them cost a little less. The GDE21EMKES is a good choice, but shop around a bit before you pull the trigger.

Here's a svelte, slate bottom freezer from GE

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Design and features

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It's a simple interior, and not quite as big as the competition.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Bottom freezers don't differ much from model to model. You get your fridge up top, your freezer down below, and, in most cases, not a whole lot of features to speak of. The GDE21EMKES is no different.

Still, it's an attractive fridge, thanks to the stylish slate finish -- it looks good and repels fingerprints to boot. You also get a built-in icemaker in the freezer and a deli drawer in the fridge that slides left and right beneath a shelf to help make it easier to fit large items below.

That sort of storage-minded feature was definitely appreciated, because, at 20.9 cubic feet of total storage space, this bottom freezer is a little bit smaller than the competition. It wasn't small enough to give me any headaches, though. The in-door drawers are well-sized, offering plenty of room for drinks and condiments, enough so that I had no problem whatsoever fitting our entire load of test groceries inside. I even had room to cram in a couple of our large-size stress test items, as well.

GE vs. the bottom freezer competition

GE GDE21EMKESWhirlpool WRB322DMBMLG LDCS24223SKenmore Elite 79023
Refrigerator capacity 14.9 cubic feet15.6 cubic feet16.4 cubic feet14.8 cubic feet
Freezer capacity 6.0 cubic feet6.5 cubic feet7.7 cubic feet7.3 cubic feet
Total capacity 20.9 cubic feet22.1 cubic feet24.1 cubic feet22.1 cubic feet
Finish SlateStainless SteelStainless SteelStainless Steel
Icemaker YesYesYesYes
Yearly energy consumption 572 kWh584 kWh608 kWh589 kWh
Yearly energy cost (@ $0.12 per kWh) $69 $70 $73 $71
Efficiency (yearly cost per cubic foot) $3.30 $3.17 $3.03 $3.21
Energy Star Certified YesYesYesYes
Retail price $1,650 $1,500 $1,600 $2,000
Best price (as of 9/9/16) $1,480 $1,095 $1,200 $1,255

Cooling power

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The GDE21EMKES offers accurate, consistent temperatures.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The GDE21EMKES was a performance standout, with accurate, consistent temperatures throughout the entirety of the fridge. The one exception was the bottom in-door shelf, which, at the default 37-degree setting, yielded an average temperature up above 40 degrees F, an FDA food safety benchmark.

The bottom of the door is a pretty common hot spot, though, and not an egregious one given that you're typically only going to store non-perishable or preservative-heavy ingredients there. And, if you need things a little colder, rest assured that the orange disappeared as soon as we dialed the fridge down to its minimum 34-degree setting.

One other performance consideration worth mentioning: efficiency. The Energy Star-certified GDE21EMKES draws 572 kilowatt hours per year, which will add about $69 to your yearly energy bill, on average.

That's less than the competition, but keep in mind that this fridge is smaller than those, too. To account for that, take the yearly energy cost and divide it by the size of the fridge to see how much it costs to cool each cubic foot. By that metric, the GDE21EMKES is actually the least efficient of all of the bottom freezers we've tested, despite the fact that it uses less energy. To put it another way, it's getting less out of the energy it uses than the competition does.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The verdict

The GD21EMKES isn't the biggest bottom freezer you can buy, nor is it the most feature-rich, but it's good at the important stuff: performance and design. That makes it a recommendable model, but at a retail price of $1,650, you might want to shop around a bit, or wait for a good sale. Well-reviewed competitors like the LG LDCS24223S and the Whirlpool WRB322DMBB were both recommendable, too -- and each one costs less.

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7.5

GE GDE21EMKES Bottom Freezer Refrigerator

Score Breakdown

Features 6Design 8Performance 8Usability 7.5