This year's refreshed lineup includes new models with that same Autofill water dispenser, including the $3,000 GE PFE28KMKES. It's a good-looking fridge with easy-to-use touch controls and an understated slate finish (a stainless steel model is also available at the same price, if you like your fridge a bit shinier). It doesn't have quite as many bells and whistles as last year's models, but as a well-refined high-end appliance, there's still a lot to like about it.
First things first: This fridge looks great. It's one of a growing number of slate-finish appliances from GE, and it might be the best-looking one yet, taking full advantage of the style's modern aesthetic and inherent subtlety.
To that last point, I think GE was wise to switch from the full-color LCD touchscreen of last year's models to a simpler, cleaner-looking touch panel. It isn't technically as fancy as before, but it blends right in with the slate finish and seems like a much more appropriate choice than the flashy touchscreen would have been.
That touch panel is straightforward and easy-to-use, too, with all of the obvious buttons for controlling the temperature, the icemaker and the water dispenser. Key among these is the "Autofill" button in the middle. Set a glass, pitcher or pot down below and give that button a press. The fridge will fill it up all on its own with sensors that tell it when to stop.
It's an undeniably cool feature and a surprisingly nice little luxury for your kitchen. I first tested it out a little more than a year ago, and I still "ooh" and "aah" a little bit on the inside whenever I watch it at work. It's the exact sort of "little thing" that I wish more appliances got right.
That said, I wish that this model also offered Precise Fill, an option available in certain other GE fridges that lets you tell the water dispenser to dispense a specific quantity of liquid -- say, four cups for a pot of pasta. In its place, you get a counter in the display that keeps track of how many ounces of water you're dispensing as you're dispensing it. It's a nice touch, but not as helpful as Precise Fill.
The PFE28KMKES is a 27.8 cubic foot refrigerator, 18.6 cubic feet of which are allocated to the fridge compartment. That's pretty much average for a French door model in this price range, so if you're feeding a large family and space is at a premium, know that you can probably find something at least a little bit bigger if you shop around.
It's largely the same interior design as last year's models, which is fine with me. The ice-maker is housed entirely in the door, which frees up space in the body of the fridge. The black rubber slip-mats that line the right door shelves come out for easy cleaning. The "Drop Down Tray" that descends from the bottom of the butter bin offers a sneaky little bonus shelf.
There's also a pantry drawer beneath the crispers called the "TempSelectZone," another hold-over from last year's models. It has its own dedicated thermostat and offers three temperature presets. The range is pretty tight, though, with a total swing of just four degrees separating the coldest setting from the warmest one. The dedicated deli drawer in the Samsung RF28HMEDBSR was more impressive, with a 13-degree swing and better temperature accuracy all-around.
Speaking of temperature accuracy, the PFE28KMKES was a good-but-not-great performer in our cooling tests.
At the default, 37-degree setting, it successfully held the body of the fridge below 40 degrees F (a benchmark for food safety set by the FDA), but only just barely, and not without yielding a couple of hot spots in the in-door shelves. That's still a perfectly decent result, though, and I figured that the fridge would do even better once I dialed it down to its lowest setting of 34 degrees. It actually didn't.
Despite dialing the temperature setting down by 3 degrees, the actual average temperature in each section only tended to go down by about a degree or less. That was enough to pull one of the in-door hot spots down below 40, but it was still a weaker result than I had anticipated (hence the weaker shades of blue on heat map number two).
Down below in the freezer compartment, things stayed consistent. We kept it set to 0 degrees F throughout both tests to see if changing the fridge setting would affect its performance at all.
The freezer wasn't affected one bit, which is good, but it also stayed about 4 degrees too cold throughout the entirety of the tests.
There's a lot to like about this refrigerator and not a lot of notable weaknesses. It looks simple but stylish, it offers a good mix of features, and, at a retail price of $3,000, it's actually one of the more affordable high-end models new to market this year. I wish the inside was just a bit roomier, and that the cooling performance had been a touch more accurate, but it's a fine fridge, overall.
Other, similar GE Profile Series and Cafe Series models offer different mixes of features, including Precise Fill and settings for making hot beverages, so keep those in mind as well. But if you're tempted by that Autofill feature and you like the way this fridge looks, consider it a pretty safe splurge.