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LG found some success with its Door-in-Door models -- fridges where the front of the door comes open to let you access shelves hidden inside. Samsung followed suit with its line of "Food Showcase" refrigerators that do the exact same thing. Both lines are expanding, so the question is, which manufacturer makes the best door-in-a-door fridges?
Samsung's latest stab in the category is an expansion from the debut side-by-side Food Showcase models into French-door territory. That's been LG's turf thus far, with marquee Door-in-Door French door fridges like the $4,000 LMXS30776S. At a list price of $3,300, Samsung's French 3-Door Food Showcase fridge offers nearly identical functionality -- and is the more affordable of the two. (Both fridges are currently available for considerably less from some retailers.)
Still, I'm not convinced that this fridge beats LG at its own game. Door-in-a-door functionality aside, the Samsung Food Showcase French-door fridge wasn't as steady a performer in our cooling tests, and it doesn't make good use of its own storage capacity, with a number of shelves that border on useless due to poor design. Make no mistake, this fridge gets a lot of things right, but overall, it seems like less of a complete package than its top competitors.
The original Food Showcase fridge was a side-by-side model with one of the best-looking designs I've ever gotten my hands on. Its elegant, recessed handles ran flat down the front of the fridge in a stylish stainless-steel groove, giving it the feel of a modern luxury.
This French-door version of the Food Showcase fridge isn't nearly as much of a standout. Gone are the recessed handles, replaced with more traditional curved steel. Instead of splitting the entire fridge door into standard and Showcase sections, the French door model incorporates a secret trigger on the bottom half of the right door handle. You'll need to squeeze it in order to open up the Food Showcase section and expose the condiments, beer and whatever else you've got stored in those in-door shelves.
It's a standard appearance for a high-end French-door fridge -- not a bad one, just not as unique as Samsung's proven itself capable of making. In a police lineup of French-door fridges, it'd be a challenge to pick out the Food Showcase model as the one guilty of door-in-a-door functionality. Of course, I could say the same about the LG Door-in-Door model, which also looks pretty typical for its class.
Open the Food Showcase fridge up, and you'll find a grand total of 27.8 cubic feet of storage space, 18.9 of which are allocated to the fridge. That's a good number in and of itself, and one that falls in line with most French-door models in the $3,000 to $4,000 price range.
To help you make use of that capacity, Samsung did an admirable job of filling its Food Showcase fridge with storage-related features. Many fridges offer shelves that fold up and out of the way, shelves that slide out to help you reach items in the back or shelves that slide in to make room for tall items stored below -- Samsung included one of each.
Samsung doesn't squeeze the entire icemaker into the door, the way some French-door models like the LG Door-in-Door and GE Profile Series do. Instead, it sits in the top left corner of the body of the fridge, with a mechanism that feeds the ice down through the door and out the front. It eats up a decent chunk of space up on the top shelf, but to Samsung's credit, it's slimmer than most icemakers like it. The icemakers in comparable models from Frigidaire and Electrolux run about 8 inches wide -- the Samsung icemaker comes in at less than 6 inches.
There's something else to keep in mind when you've got an icemaker inside of the fridge, and that's the in-door shelves. The inside of the door needs to be angled up to catch the falling ice and feed it out through the front, and that can create a bulky overhang that blocks the shelves below it. Sure enough, the middle shelf inside of the Food Showcase fridge's left door is practically unusable.
It isn't alone. Open up the Food Showcase door, and you'll find a tiny shelf at the very bottom. It tilts out toward you for easier access (and even slides right out of the fridge altogether if needed), but it's simply too narrow to fit much of anything. A similar shelf in the Electrolux Wave-Touch French door fridge was more impressive, as you could actually fit a few cans of soda or a couple of kid-friendly snacks in the thing. No such luck with the Food Showcase fridge.
Drawer-wise, the Food Showcase fridge boasts a pair of crisper bins with adjustable humidity sliders. LG omitted those sliders in its Door-in-Door fridge, which was a bit head-scratching, so points to Samsung. There's also a third drawer called the CoolSelect Pantry that runs the width of the fridge. It offers three temperature presets to help you keep things a little colder or a little warmer than the rest of the fridge, but you'll get even more presets from similar drawers in the French door fridges from LG, GE and Electrolux.
For an additional $600, you can get a four-door version of the Food Showcase French-door fridge that makes the CoolSelect Pantry its own, separate drawer between the fridge and freezer. If that feature tempts you more than door-in-a-door functionality, then consider the $3,700 LG LMXS30786S , too. It's a non-Door-in-Door French-door model with a fourth, temperature-controlled drawer, and a very solid fridge overall.
Performance was the original Food Showcase refrigerator's Achilles' heel, with a number of hot spots that spiked as high as 48 degrees F when we tested it at the default 37-degree setting. I was curious to see if the French-door version would perform any better in the same test.
In the end, it did perform better, although we still saw a couple of hot spots. Like the original Food Showcase, the bottom of the right door was the warmest part of the fridge, and things got warmer than expected in the crisper bins, too. The high temperatures weren't nearly as egregious as what we saw in the side-by-side model, but they still came in north of 40 degrees F, a benchmark for food safety set by the Food and Drug Administration. That's warm enough to merit the dreaded orange tint in our heat maps.
The minute-by-minute graph of the 37-degree test is a bit chaotic to look at, but it tells the story well. Those blue lines represent the body of the fridge, and they did a good job of holding relatively steady. The two darker ones representing the top two shelves overlap for the entire test, hovering right at the 37-degree target. The bottom shelf (the light-blue line) came in about a degree warmer, but still did a nice job. Overall, the average temperature for the body of the fridge is 37.6 degrees, which is an excellent result.
Things were less excellent in the doors and drawers. The right door mirrored the body of the fridge in exaggerated fashion, with the bottom section coming in the warmest and sitting above 40 for the entire 72-hour test. The same was true in the left door, along with the added wrinkle of a top section that came in too cold. That isn't a huge surprise -- that top shelf sits face-to-face with the icemaker when the door is closed.
We also test each fridge out at the 33-degree setting to see how it performs at the just-above-freezing mark. Samsung's fridges only dial down to 34 degrees at minimum, so we tested it at that setting instead.
The results were nearly identical, albeit shifted down a few degrees. The top and middle shelves again scored equally well, with the bottom shelf coming in about a degree warmer. Again, the hottest spots in the fridge were at the bottom of each door, although the lower setting kept things below 40 this time.
As for the freezer, performance was relatively steady throughout both tests, as the averages indicate. In each case, both the main body of the freezer and the upper drawer came in within 3 degrees of zero, our target temperature. During regularly scheduled door openings (a controlled part of our test protocol), temperatures spiked up a bit as you'd expect, but the freezer was always able to bring things back down. My only criticism: a few of those temperature spikes jumped as high as 20 degrees -- we've seen other models hold the spikes to less than 10.
With almost 20 cubic feet of fresh food storage space, I wasn't expecting to have much difficulty fitting our standardized load of test groceries into the Food Showcase fridge. And I didn't. The groceries made it in just fine, and when it was time to add in our six stress test items (a pitcher, a casserole dish, a party platter, a roasting pan, a cake tray and an extra-large pizza box), each one made it in with room to spare.
However, I wasn't quite able to fit all six in at once, at least not before rearranging the shelves a little bit. The cake tray ended up as the odd item out, and I was forced to lower the top shelf a bit to make room. Once I did, though, it fit like a glove.
It's a strong result, though not quite as strong as we saw with the similarly priced LG LMXS30786S . That fridge managed to fit all of the groceries and all of the stress test items with room to spare, even without me rearranging anything. As we saw with that fridge, the storage features make a big difference, especially the shelves that make way for tall items. I like that Samsung gives you two of them, one that slides in and one that folds up.
The shelf that slides out is another good idea. I've been impressed with similar features in other fridges, as they can make it a lot easier to access stuff you're storing in the back of the fridge. It's a little less impressive in the Food Showcase fridge though, as it only spans one half of a shelf (the entire bottom shelf glides out in comparable LG models). It also doesn't glide all that smoothly, with too much resistance each time I tried pulling it out or pushing it back in. A little problem, for sure, but an annoyance nonetheless, and one that compromises the fridge's otherwise luxurious feel.
The Samsung French 3-Door Food Showcase refrigerator offers some key improvements over the side-by-side model. The performance is better, with much milder hot spots than before, and the slate of features is vastly improved. Still, the original model stands alone as a side-by-side with door-in-a-door functionality. The French-door model, on the other hand, has to compete with a nearly identical LG Door-in-Door model that's much more well-rounded overall.
For that reason, I think Samsung made a mistake in ditching the bold aesthetic of the original in favor of something safer and more traditional. To fight off tough competition from LG, this fridge needs to stand out, and unfortunately, it just doesn't quite do enough.