Samsung announced a refresh of their flagship smart fridge today, debuting a brand new four-door model with built-in Wi-Fi and an integrated LCD touchscreen. Most noteworthy about the new smart fridge is that Galaxy S5 and Note 3 users will now be able to mirror their devices straight onto the LCD screen, and even make calls right from the fridge.
This new level of functionality will come at a cost of $3,600 -- roughly the same high-end price point as the last model, which initially retailed for $3,700. (International pricing and availability has yet to be announced.) The pricing isn't all that's similar. Both models feature the same general design, the same 28 cu. ft. capacity, the same adjustable shelving, the same "Twin Cooling Plus" system, the same "FlexZone" drawer with variable temperature control settings, and the same 8-inch LCD touchscreen.
In sum, there's not a whole lot that's new here, aside from those new Galaxy S5- and Note 3-specific smart features. Essentially, that makes those features the refrigerator's chief selling points -- a potentially risky strategy, given the fact that those features only apply to consumers who happen to use the right kind of smart phone. Still, the idea of essentially letting the user determine how they want to use their smart appliance has us a bit intrigued.
Aside from the addition of phone mirroring and kitchen calling, Samsung's new fridge also boasts a new "Kitchen TV" feature. Owners of connected TVs capable of transmitting to external devices will be able to share their antenna's signal with the smart fridge, and play the broadcast from the kitchen. That sounds like a neat feature for anyone who wants to follow along with a recipe on their favorite cooking show, but it doesn't let you send a signal from a set-top box, which makes it feel pretty limited.
Other apps from last year's model are still front and center, too. You can still browse morning headlines from the Associated Press, or search for a new favorite dish on Epicurious. You'll also still be able to stream music from your favorite Pandora stations -- the refrigerator's built-in speakers are still far from ideal, but they're good enough for casual background listening.
All of these smart features are largely dependent on the quality of the LCD screen, which, much like the speakers, I would classify as "good enough." I was a little disappointed to see that it isn't any bigger than the last model, which debuted three years ago. The resolution isn't noticeably better, either.
As for the touch controls, they're responsive, but basic, with no support for things like pinches and swipes. Compared to the touchscreens on Samsung's own tablets and smart phones, the screen on the smart fridge feels dated, and that's really the problem -- we've been trained to expect more when it comes to touch controls, especially from an appliance that costs thousands of dollars.
Of course, you're not just spending that much money on smart features -- you're spending it on the fridge itself, too. With this particular line, there's a lot to like, from the rearrangeable in-door shelving to the compactly-designed "Ice Master." Still, there aren't quite as many of the sort of small, subtle design and usability touches that I like to see in a high-end refrigerator, like the kind we saw in the less expensive.
It's also worth noting that Samsung seems to have saved many of its newest design innovations for the Chef Collection line of refrigerators,. Those luxurious refrigerators come with features designed with the help of master chefs, things like a built-in marinating pan and smartly segmented climate controls.
There's also a newwhich boasts a fresh take on the door-in-door feature. Priced a few hundred dollars below the smart fridge, it might merit consideration from consumers interested in something high-end and feature rich, but not necessarily something smart feature-rich.
You can currently find Samsung's new smart fridge listed on their website, though you can't place an order just yet. Samsung tells us that the model will be hitting retail floors soon.