Samsung RF263BEAESR review: Samsung's midrange French door fridge: Not bad, not great

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The Good The Samsung RF263BEAESR is an above-average performer among midrange French door models, with accurate and appropriately cold temperatures in the body of the fridge. It scores well for its efficiency, too.

The Bad The interior construction feels cheap and cramped, and the temperature-adjustable CoolSelect Pantry was an erratic performer in our tests.

The Bottom Line As a midrange model that gets the basics right, this fridge deserves a look, but it might not be enough of an upgrade over less expensive French door models.

6.8 Overall
  • Features 7
  • Design 6
  • Performance 8
  • Usability 6

French-door refrigerators vary wildly in price, from basic units that sell for around $1,500 to feature-rich, king-size models that go for $4,000 or more . At a retail price of $2,400, the Samsung RF263BEAESR sits in the middle. With a clean-looking design, passable performance and nice-to-have features like sliding shelves and a pantry drawer with its own temperature controls, there's plenty to like about it, but its cramped interior and cheap construction keep me from recommending it outright.

On looks alone, the RF263BEAESR is pretty shrug-worthy. With its modern, tastefully inoffensive build, it won't jump out from the crowd on the showroom floor, but it won't have any trouble fitting in with your kitchen decor, either. For something a little more striking, you can upgrade to a dark-tinted stainless-steel finish, but you'll need to spend an extra $200.

You'll find temperature controls and fridge settings on an LED touch display that sits above the ice dispenser. It doesn't do anything to set this fridge apart from the countless other French-door models with similar displays (unless you prefer blue lights to green ones), but it is one of the reasons this fridge is more than bottom-tier.

Inside the fridge, you'll find 16.6 cubic feet of storage space for your groceries -- a number that doesn't beat very many French-door models in this price range. By comparison, the $2,600 Frigidaire Gallery FGHB2866PF offers 18.5 cubic feet of fridge space; the $2,500 LG LFX28968SB boasts 17.9 cubic feet. That isn't to say that the RF263BEAESR is small, but if you're looking for the most storage space for your buck, look elsewhere.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The fridge's two main shelves are each divided into two sections, and each of the four sections is movable. The top left flips up and out of the way to make room for tall items stored below, while the bottom right slides in for the same purpose. The other two each slide out, making it easier to grab items stored in the back.

I like the flexibility of that approach, but wish that the shelves themselves were more, well, flexible. None of the moving parts actually moves that easily, all of them requiring more than a comfortable amount of force to push in, pull out or fold up. A quick blast of WD-40 might be all they need, but I'd rather not need to worry about how well-lubricated my fridge is in the first place.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Even worse is the CoolSelect Pantry at the bottom of the fridge. It's a nice feature in and of itself: a pantry-style drawer that runs the width of the fridge interior and offers its own distinct temperature presets. As with those shelves, though, the problem comes when you open and close it. It offers far too much resistance, often sliding back in crooked and jamming, forcing you to rattle it back on track before shoving it the rest of the way in. I hated opening and closing this drawer, enough so that I would actively avoid using it if this were the fridge in my home kitchen.

You'll find the icemaker sitting in the top left corner of the fridge. It drops its ice down into your glass through an angled opening in the inside of the door. It's not an uncommon approach to ice-dispensing design, but this type of design blocks off the shelf below, rendering it more or less unusable -- I much prefer LG's Slim SpacePlus approach, which relocates the entire icemaker into the door.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Poor interior execution aside, the RF263BEAESR was a better-than-average performer in our cooling tests. At the default setting of 37 degrees F, it held nice and cold in the body of the fridge, all of the main shelves averaging out comfortably below the target temperature. The doors both saw hot spots above 40 degrees F, a food safety benchmark used by the FDA, but that's not uncommon with refrigerator door shelves, where you'll likely be storing drinks and preservative-heavy condiments.

As for the CoolSelect Pantry, we dialed it down to the minimum setting of 34 degrees F -- 3 degrees colder than the rest of the fridge. In the end, it yielded an average temperature of 36.2, which was actually warmer than the majority of the refrigerator's main shelves. That's not a great result, but it still came in under 37, and within a few degrees of the target. I'll call that a C minus -- a passing grade, but not a respectable one.

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