Samsung RF265BEAESR French Door Family Hub Refrigerator review: Samsung's abnormally smart fridge has a new, normal price tag

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The Good Samsung's cheapest Family Hub fridge has all of the same smart features as before, and it offers decent performance for the price.

The Bad The build feels a little flimsy in places, the touchscreen still feels a little underdeveloped and the temperature-adjustable Cool Select Pantry drawer didn't actually offer much variance from setting to setting. Also, with just 16.2 cubic feet in the fridge, it might not offer enough storage space for larger families.

The Bottom Line The cheapest Family Hub fridge is surprisingly affordable and comes with enough smart features to merit consideration.

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

Samsung swung for the smart fridge fences with the Family Hub, an out-and-proud connected refrigerator with ingredient-tracking cameras and a whopping 21.5-inch touchscreen on the door. I liked that fridge a lot more than I thought I would, but with retail prices starting at more than $5,000, it was much too expensive for most folks to justify a purchase.

Enter Family Hub 2.0, which sees Samsung expanding the fleet in year two to include new models that are less fancy -- and less expensive -- than before. The cheapest of the bunch is the RF265BEAESR, a basic French door model in plain stainless steel. Originally priced at $3,299, the model has enjoyed regular discounts since its debut. As of writing this, Samsung has it listed on sale for $2,299, which is downright reasonable for a dumb French door fridge, let alone a smart one.

The trade-off is that you no longer get a luxurious, four-door build or a "Flex Zone" capable of switching between fridge and freezer settings depending on what you want to put in it, but those are acceptable sacrifices for people who just want those touchscreen smarts at the lowest price possible. The good news: those smarts are just as smart as before -- which is to say that they aren't perfect, but they're a little better than you might expect. And, with Samsung's Bixby voice assistant set to arrive in Family Hub fridges via software update at some point in the future, those smarts stand to improve with time.

The cheaper Family Hub isn't the stunner that its predecessor was, and it isn't a must-have by any stretch, but it's still a decent refrigerator with compelling features you won't find anywhere else. If it fills you with skepticism, then feel free to skip it, but if that touchscreen inspires fridge envy, it's never been more affordable. I say anything under $2,500 is a pretty fair price for it.

What can a smart fridge do?

The Family Hub's touchscreen offers plenty of apps, and plenty of opportunities for personalization.

Chris Monroe/CNET

In the case of the new, cheaper Family Hub, the answer is everything that last year's more expensive Family Hub can do. Some of the highlights include:

  • Viewing the inside of the fridge on the touchscreen, or on your phone using a companion app
  • Displaying photos, memos, to-do lists and family calendars
  • Browsing recipes
  • Creating shopping lists and ordering groceries from Instacart or Groceries by MasterCard
  • Setting cooking timers
  • Mirroring video from Samsung smart TVs
  • Streaming music, podcasts and radio stations from Pandora, Spotify and TuneIn

The better question might be what can't the Family Hub do yet. The big omission is Bixby voice controls, which Samsung has long been promising. They'll arrive sooner or later, and when they do, there's a chance that they make the Family Hub a lot easier to use, but for now, they get an "incomplete" grade.

One problem is that we're starting to see voice-activated touchscreen gadgets like the Amazon Echo Show make their way into people's homes, which raises the bar for a dedicated display like the Family Hub's. Eventually, I suspect that it'll basically serve as a king-sized, Bixby-powered Echo Show for your kitchen, but we aren't there yet, and I wouldn't fault anybody who wanted to wait until we were before buying in.

You can still drag expiration timers over top of the fridge's camera feed, but they live in a separate "Food List" now.

Chris Monroe/CNET

That said, there are still some nice year-two refinements to the user interface. You'll find a few more apps, for instance, including a Nomiku app that can control smart sous vide gadgets. Samsung's existing apps are better-designed, too, with things like cartoonish avatars for each family member. They're also better-integrated with each other. For instance, after picking out something to cook from the Allrecipes app, you can select specific ingredients to add to your shopping list, or set timers specific to a particular part of the recipe.

Like the original Family Hub, you can open the camera feed and drag expiration timers over top of specific things in the fridge, but they won't live over top of that feed like before. Instead, they're relegated to a separate list. I'm not a fan of that change, as it puts those expiration reminders out of sight and out of mind, where they're less helpful. 

There's also still no app for the Samsung-owned SmartThings connected home platform. The ability to toggle lights on and off or lock your door by tapping on the fridge might offer questionable utility at best, but it's still strange that Samsung hasn't done a better job of integrating its ecosystem by now.