We may be approaching a point where the term "smart appliance" won't be necessary. Rather than focus on a few flagship models, manufacturers are increasingly packing connected features into a wide array of fridges, ranges, dishwashers, and the like. LG has even said it's working on bringing smarts to each and every model it sells. We might just call them "appliances" soon.
Case in point: the LG LFXS28566M. You wouldn't know that it's a smart fridge to look at it. There's no gigantic touchscreen or even a tiny touchscreen, nor is it equipped with grocery-tracking fridge cams. It looks just like other Door-in-Door fridges from LG, and at $3,350, it costs about as much as they do, too.
The smarts are there, though. After connecting with the fridge's Wi-Fi radio, you'll be able to adjust settings on your phone or turn on energy-saving features that cut usage during off-hours. The fridge can also send you a notification whenever your kid leaves the doors open. If you're a fan of voice controls, you can sync the fridge up with the Google Assistant, too.
Performance was very, very steady during the hundreds of hours of testing we put this fridge through, but -- as they almost always are -- temperatures were too warm in the Door-in-Door compartment. Specifically, those Door-in-Door temps averaged up above 40 degrees F, a benchmark for food safety set by the Food and Drug Administration -- and we found hotspots even with the fridge dialed down to its coldest setting. The thin Door-in-Door panel seemed to compromise performance in the body of the fridge, too.
If you're willing to accept all of that and keep perishable groceries such as milk and cheese out of that Door-in-Door compartment, then you might like this fridge quite a bit. For me, those performance trade-offs are simply too steep.
The "M" at the end of this refrigerator's model number stands for "matte." That's matte black stainless steel, to be specific, a new, smudge-resistant finish that LG's team calls "PrintProof." That's a tad hyperbolic, perhaps, but I actually think they're onto something. The fridge did an outstanding job of repelling fingerprints and it was easy to keep clean.
It looks nice, too. Darker-tinted finishes are in fashion right now, existing in sort of a Goldilocks zone between regular stainless steel and straight-up black. They largely seem like a way to show off that you bought your fridge within the past year or so, but I can't deny that I like the style. It's worth noting that you can get up to $250 off the retail price by downgrading to non-matte black stainless steel or plain ol' silver stainless steel.
Color choice aside, the design doesn't do much to set this fridge apart from its counterparts, or its competitors. It's a standard French door build with the usual array of features that you'd expect to see in a higher-end model. There's a slimmed-down ice-maker packed into the left door, a slide-in shelf in the body of the fridge that makes room for tall-sized items below and a temperature-adjustable drawer, too. All are nice inclusions, but they're also more or less standard fare at this price range.
As for the smarts, the refrigerator boasts its own on-board Wi-Fi radio, which connects with the LG SmartThinQ app on your Android or iOS device. You can use the app to turn on energy-saving modes that cut usage during off hours. That's a nice option, given that your fridge will typically consume more energy than anything else under your roof. Features such as remote access to temperature settings and a manual grocery manager seem less useful.
I do appreciate that the app will notify you if someone leaves the fridge doors open (it works for the freezer door and the Door-in-Door compartment, too). Also good: The alert doesn't push through until the doors have been left open for 10 minutes, which should all but eliminate false alarms.
In addition to that, the fridge can connect with the Google Assistant, letting you check or change its temperature or control other settings using only your voice. I don't really see much point to the integration aside from an accessibility argument, but it's hard to blame LG for wanting a place on the voice control bandwagon. My real gripe is that you need to tack "talk to LG" onto your command, as in "OK Google, talk to LG to set refrigerator temperature to 35 degrees." The syntax doesn't even make sense.
This is also one of LG's growing number of Door-in-Door refrigerators, meaning you can press a button to open the front panel of the right door and access the in-door shelves without technically opening the door itself. It's a popular feature that's pitched as both a convenience and an energy-saver, but the thin door and the extra seam tend to compromise performance -- and, as you'll see in just a second, this fridge is no exception.
Temperatures were much too warm in the LFXS28566M's Door-in-Door compartment. That's the same result I've seen from just about every door-in-door refrigerator I've ever tested -- including, I should note, models that weren't made by LG.
The problem is the design. The only thing separating that Door-in-Door compartment from warmer air outside the fridge is a thin, poorly insulated panel surrounded by a seam. The only way for a Door-in-Door fridge to keep that compartment as cold as the rest of the fridge would be to re-direct cold air directly from the compressor to the compartment itself. Some models, including upcoming fridges from Whirlpool, are choosing to do exactly that -- but at that point, you're fixing the problem by sacrificing efficiency. There's really no good answer.
At the refrigerator's default setting of 37 degrees F, the average temperature across the five Door-in-Door shelves was 42.2. Harmful bacteria such as Listeria can start to grow at 40 degrees F, so you'll want to keep your hot dogs and cream cheese elsewhere and stuff that Door-in-Door compartment with non-perishable beverages and preservative-heavy condiments, instead.
You could bring that average down to about 38 degrees by dialing down to the refrigerator's coldest setting but the two shelves inside the Door-in-Door panel would still return average temperatures up above 40. That's not good, especially since there's no indication that the Door-in-Door compartment is any warmer than the rest of the fridge. You could dial the temperature all the way down and assume that things are cold enough in the Door-in-Door compartment for whatever you want to store in there -- you'd be wrong.
Another problem: the Door-in-Door shortcomings seem to affect the rest of the fridge, too. The crispers are the giveaway -- see how the one on the Door-in-Door side is about two degrees warmer than the one on the left in each test? That's a red flag that temperatures are warmer in the entire right half of the fridge.
It's a shame, too, because this refrigerator is an otherwise steady performer. Temperatures in the main body shelves were right on target in all of my tests, and I didn't notice any unusual spikes during defrost cycles or door openings, either. It's solid performance spoiled by a gimmicky feature.
The Door-in-Door compartment is this refrigerator's marquee selling point, but it's also the reason I wouldn't buy it. In the end, you're still just opening a door and grabbing your groceries. Except now your fridge is warmer. And more expensive.
LG has had years to improve upon Door-in-Door and make it less of a compromise for those that like the feature (and for stubborn reviewers like me that don't). That hasn't happened yet -- and now, the competition is starting to crank out door-in-door fridges, too. That alone makes it very difficult to give this refrigerator my recommendation.
Still, lots of folks love Door-in-Door -- and more power to them. Your fridge is a big, expensive purchase that you'll use every day, and it's worth having one that you like. But for $3,350, I'd rather have one with stronger performance and features (smart or otherwise) that don't feel like they're just checking off boxes. Short of that, I'd rather just buy an older Door-in-Door model that costs less.