When most people picture a fridge upgrade, they don't picture a top freezer. It's the most basic of styles -- the classic freezer-on-top, fridge-down-below approach that many of us grew up with. If you're upgrading your fridge, there's a good chance that a top freezer is the very thing you're trying to replace.
Don't be too quick to move on, though. For the same price as a low-end French door unit, you could get a high-end top freezer, one that offers better features, better performance, and more space for your groceries. Take the Kenmore 79432. At a retail price of $1,420 (you'll find it closer to $1,200 on the floor at Sears), the 79432 offers a best-in-class 23.8 cubic feet of storage space, along with a bevy of useful features that help it feel the part of a legitimate upgrade.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look the part. The build is basic and boxy, available only in plain white or black finishes. There's a stainless steel version (the 79433), but it retails for an excessive $1,780 -- several hundred more than comparable top freezer upgrades from brands like Whirlpool, GE, and Frigidaire that all come with stainless-steel finishes by default.
Also cheaper: the newest stainless-steel version of the LG model this Kenmore fridge is based on (Kenmore doesn't manufacture its own appliances -- instead, it purchases existing models from its competitors, rebrands them, and sells them at Sears). That cheaper LG model offers the same capacity, the same features, a much better design, and an uptick in efficiency. As much as I like the Kenmore 79432, it's a poor value by comparison. If you catch a particularly good sale price, jump on it, but I can't recommend it otherwise.
Nothing much to look at
The Kenmore 79432 has a lot of strong points, but exterior design isn't one of them. There's very little style at play here, even by top freezer standards. If you're looking for something that'll make your kitchen look a little more modern, then you'll be better off with better-looking top freezers like the slate-finished GE GTE18GMHES or the stainless steel .
Fortunately, things get better on the inside. You'll find glass, spillproof shelves -- a nice upgrade over the wire racks that you'll find in cheaper top freezers. There's also a pantry drawer that runs the width of the fridge, a fancy feature more commonly found in French door models. The crispers and in-door shelves feel fancy, too, with a pleasant-looking diamond contour lining the bottoms (it's a staple of LG fridge design, and a dead giveaway of this model's origin).
You'll also see plastic sliders in each of the in-door shelves, another LG design touch that carries over. They feel a bit flimsy, but actually come in handy when you want to start sectioning things off -- condiments on the left, beer and wine on the right, etc.
All in all, it's a nice interior, and one that makes good use of this refrigerator's ample storage space (17.6 cubic feet in the fridge alone). The shelves were easier than expected to reorganize -- even that pantry drawer can be relocated if needed. And while there aren't any shelves that slide in or fold up out of the way to make room for tall items, I found I didn't need them thanks to the abundance of vertical clearance above each of the in-door shelves.
Other features include a water dispenser stashed along the inner left wall of the fridge cavity. It's a little odd having to open the fridge to dispense water, and I'm not sure that I'd use it that often, especially if my groceries were at all in the way. Still, I suppose it's better to have it than to have no dispenser at all.
You'll also need to open the door if you want to adjust settings, which isn't at all uncommon for a top freezer model like this. You won't get any advanced controls or a slick-looking touch panel -- instead, just a single dial to adjust the temperature between "cold" and "coldest" settings. We set it right in the middle (the default setting) and wheeled it into our test chamber to see how well it performed.
Most refrigerators default to a 37-degree setting, and some hit the mark with more accuracy than others. The Kenmore 79432 hits it with more accuracy than almost all of them. After tracking the minute-by-minute temperature in each region of the fridge for three days, we got near perfect averages in the body of the fridge, each main shelf coming in within a degree of that 37 degree target.
The door and crisper bins ran a few degrees warmer, which is typical, but the averages all stayed below 40 degrees, a benchmark for food safety set by the FDA. Only the butter bin crept up into orange territory, but that's what butter bins are designed to do. It's obviously a pretty terrific result -- one of the strongest I've seen from any of the dozens of refrigerators we've tested this year.
The minute-by-minute graph of the default setting test offers a closer look at how the 79432 operates. Those blue lines -- the three main shelves in the fridge -- all sit tightly at 37 degrees F, with the doors staying steady around 39 degrees. Interestingly, the fridge seems to overcorrect a bit during our regularly scheduled door openings, which we do to simulate real-world usage. Usually, those door openings result in noticeable temperature spikes, but with the 79432, the fridge blasted the cold and actually drove the temperature down below the target. Instead of needing a few hours to cool things back down after a door opening, the 79432 actually needed a few hours to warm them back up.