Nobody needs the Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator and its 21.5-inch touchscreen. And its ingredient-tracking fridge-cams. And its assortment of fridge apps. That's a valid argument against this extraordinarily expensive fridge.
We don't buy things just because we need them -- we buy things because we want them. And the best-looking, most fully featured fridge on the market is a perfectly reasonable thing to want.
Starting at $5,600, £4,500 or AU$7,499, the Samsung Family Hub is a beautiful appliance that performs like the high-end fridge that it is, and it's loaded with easy-to-use features you won't find anywhere else. Plenty of those features feel mighty superfluous (I'm just as skeptical of fridge-based web browsing as you probably are), but enough of them offer legitimate utility, convenience, and luxury to earn my approval. Bottom line: it's a top-of-the-line fridge that's absolutely worth wanting -- and yes, worth buying, too, if that's the kind of budget you're rolling with.
Fridge of the future, roots in the past
If Samsung's aim was to create the most modern fridge on the market, then mission accomplished. There's really nothing else like the Family Hub Refrigerator, not even among smart fridges. Samsung's Four-Door Flex build already felt like a logical, desirable evolution from today's near-ubiquitous French door stylings -- the Family Hub fridge takes it and adds in a 21.5-inch touchscreen loaded with apps, inventory-watching cameras on the inside, and an especially attractive black stainless-steel finish. It's a beautiful, futuristic appliance that pushes beyond what we expect from contemporary fridge design.
And yet, even with the futurism, this fridge is rooted in the past. It's right there in the name, "Family Hub." Refrigerators have always been something of a town post for busy families -- a place for calendars, pictures, report cards, to-do lists, and reminders about soccer practice. That's the history Samsung is trying to tap into here.
As a result, you'll find apps aimed at helping this fridge of the future do what fridges have always done. There's a shopping list app, and an app for displaying photos. There's a whiteboard app for drawing a quick doodle or writing a note to Mom. There's a calendar app called StickiBoard that imports everyone's existing calendars into a shared, family fridge calendar. All of it keeps the Family Hub grounded in the sort of normal, everyday use we expect from a fridge -- but it also makes you wonder if any of it is really necessary, given that magnets and scratch paper have gotten the job done for generations now.
Perhaps to that end, other features seem designed solely to let you do things that you could never do with your refrigerator before. The fridge cameras are the most obvious example. They snap a picture of your groceries each time you close the doors -- press the "View Inside" button on the touchscreen, and you'll see the latest set of images, complete with the option to drag little countdown icons over specific ingredients to help track expiration dates. Download Samsung's app on your Android or iOS device, and you'll be able to view the inside of the fridge and all of your timers while you're out at the store. It's a little clunky as far as apps go, but it works.
The drag-and-drop timers are my favorite part of that pitch, and one of my favorite Family Hub features in general. They won't follow ingredients around if you move them, but they're still surprisingly useful -- and you won't find them on any other fridge but this one.
Let's talk touchscreen
At 21.5 inches from corner to corner, the Family Hub's touchscreen is the obvious star of the show, offering a dedicated kitchen command center. It's a huge size upgrade over the comparatively puny touchscreen on Samsung's previous stab at the smart fridge, and one that helps the Family Hub feel fully realized. The calendar, the photos, the web browsing -- none of it would have made any sense with a small screen. It had to be big.
Size isn't everything, though. We've all grown accustomed to smooth, responsive touch controls on our phones and tablets, and it's fair to expect the same from a touchscreen fridge that costs this much. And, while they still aren't as smooth or as snappy as you'd get with a high-end tablet, I found that the touch controls on the Family Hub's screen felt much better than they did two months ago, when I tested out a preproduction model in the CNET Smart Home. Chalk one up for software updates.
Along with the widgets for time and weather that stay locked at the top of the home screen, the Family Hub Fridge comes with the following apps:
- White Board: app for scribbling notes and sketching doodles
- Internet: app for browsing the web
- View Inside: app that pulls up pictures of the interior and lets you track expiration dates using drag-and-drop countdown timers
- Club des Chefs: app with recipes and instructional cooking videos
- Allrecipes: app for organizing personal recipes and finding new ones
- StickiBoard: app that imports calendars from Google and Outlook into a shared family fridge calendar
- Pandora: app for streaming music
- TuneIn: app for streaming podcasts and internet radio
- Photo Album: app for organizing photos into a fridge screensaver
- Shopping List: app for organizing your grocery list
- TV Mirroring: app that displays the picture from current-gen Samsung smart TVs
- InstaCart/Groceries by MasterCard: apps for ordering groceries for home delivery
- Timer: app with timers for things like marinating steak and chilling beer
- Fridge Manager: app for viewing and changing the fridge temperature and settings
Apps like the web browser and the TV mirror seem to offer fringe utility at best, and others simply seem superfluous (two recipe apps? Two grocery delivery apps?) And no, you can't delete any of these apps (or download different ones), but you can at least drag the ones you don't use as much to the second screen.