Samsung RF28K9380SG 4-Door Flex Food Showcase Refrigerator review: High-end looks and powerful performance from this four-door fridge
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Last year's fridges are this year's bargains.
The latest case in point: the Samsung RF28K9380SG. It's a beauty of an icebox in black stainless steel and one that features Samsung's "4-Door Flex" styling with elegant, recessed handles, a door-in-a-door Food Showcase compartment and the option to dial the temperature of half of the freezer up into fridge mode. It debuted last year for $4,000, but today, you'll find it marked down to about $2,600.
That's a great price for a fridge that offers both style and substance, especially if you're looking for high-end appliance upgrades on a tight budget (as part of a larger home remodel, perhaps). And though it isn't perfect, the RF28K9380SG delivers where it counts, thanks to its terrific design, powerful performance and attractive slate of features.
A generation ago, French door fridges took the world by storm and got homeowners to upgrade en masse to keep up with evolving styles. From the Chef Collection and Family Hub fridges on down, Samsung's 4-Door Flex refrigerators might be a play at getting some of those same homeowners to forget Paris and upgrade all over again.
But fridges like these aren't really all that different from their French-door counterparts. In fact, the fridge section up top is almost exactly the same, with a pair of swinging doors that open from the middle to reveal what's inside. What's different is the freezer compartment down below -- instead of a drawer or a swinging door, you get another pair of doors that open from the middle, just like those above.
In Samsung's four-door fridges (competitors like LG make them, too), that split-freezer approach is put to practical use by literally splitting the freezer into two separate compartments. This enables Samsung to make the freezer on the right into a "FlexZone" compartment with its own distinct temperature presets. Those include two different freezer settings as well as two fridge modes that'll give you a little extra space for drinks or groceries when needed. As fridge features go, it's one of my favorites.
I also appreciate the strong design touches that help accentuate the four-door build, particularly the striking, recessed handles that run down the center of the refrigerator. The inside looks good, too, with smooth-gliding drawers and glass shelves that slide in or fold up out of the way for more flexible storage.
My only real design complaints are that the French-style freezer doors force you to stoop down to get things in and out -- more so than drawer-style freezers, at least. They also need to be opened more than 90 degrees before you'll be able to fully open the drawers inside. And up top, the 16.3 cubic feet in the fridge compartment is pretty small for a high-end refrigerator -- though the extra 5.8 cubic feet in the Flex compartment can help in a pinch.
And with the icemaker eating up precious shelf space in the fridge and dropping its cubes through a slanted chute in the door, this model does, in fact, come with what we've affectionately termed the "salsa moat" -- an extremely narrow and rather useless little shelf in the door that gets blocked by the ice chute's overhang directly above it. In fact, it's one of the narrowest salsa moats I've seen in any of Samsung's fridges (even more so than the one in the fridge we used in the video above).
Food Showcase and other
Beyond the FlexZone compartment, the RF28K9308SG's other key feature is its Food Showcase compartment, which lets you open the front panel of the right refrigerator door to access the in-door shelves without actually opening the fridge itself. I've long been skeptical of door-in-a-door compartments like these -- they don't make it any easier to use your fridge, and they don't make any appreciable difference in how your fridge performs, either (more on that in just a bit).
Still, Samsung's version is probably one of the least offensive that I've come across. For starters, temperatures in those Food Showcase shelves stayed below 40 degrees Fahrenheit throughout all of my tests, which meets a benchmark for food safety used by the FDA. Few door-in-a-door compartments meet that standard -- in fact, most of the ones I've tested have tended to be the warmest sections of their respective fridges. In the RF28K9308SG, the left, non-Food Showcase door is actually the warmer of the two.
I also like that Samsung doesn't block any of those Food Showcase shelves on the inside with an additional plastic barrier, like you'll find in a lot of LG's fridges. Barriers like those are a futile attempt to keep the cold in -- they've never made a noticeable difference in any of my tests, but you'll definitely notice how much more annoying it is to have to open an extra door in your door-in-door compartment in order to get the milk out. No such headache with Samsung. And, as a nice little extra touch, two of those Food Showcase shelves slide out of the fridge like drawers when you pull on them.
Other features include the aforementioned fridge shelves that slide in or fold up out of the way to make room for tall items below, as well as a removable wine rack in the FlexZone compartment -- pretty handy if you dial up to the 41-degree setting to chill a few bottles for your next get-together.
The RF28K9380SG was a strong performer throughout weeks of testing in our appliance lab's climate-controlled test chamber. Temperatures at the default setting were steady and accurate, with the main refrigerator shelves and crisper bins all averaging to within a degree of the 37-degree target, which is excellent. The only hot spot I found was the top shelf in the left door -- the non-Food Showcase door. It averaged out to 40.2 degrees F, which barely qualifies as a hot spot.
I also kept a close eye on that FlexZone during my tests. It did a great job in its default freezer mode during the 37-degree test. Then, when I tested the refrigerator's coldest setting (34 degrees F), I cranked the FlexZone up to its max setting of 41 degrees. Again, performance was spot on.
I then ran a second test at the refrigerator's default setting -- but this time, I started the FlexZone at that top, 41-degree preset, then dialed it down one preset at a time every 24 hours. The result is that staircase-looking graph up above that shows the FlexZone working to keep up with my daily temperature adjustments.
Though it ran a degree or two warm at the two middle settings, the FlexZone still did admirably well. It offered enough accuracy and enough distinction between the presets for you to use it as Samsung intended. I was also impressed that it was able to switch between those top three settings with relative ease, always stabilizing well before the 24-hour deadline. The fourth setting, freezer mode, is the exception -- it needed an entire extra day before it stabilized at 0 degrees F. That's not surprising at all, given the greater temperature drop. It's also worth mentioning that the refrigerator temperatures matched my results from the first test to a tee, so changing things up in the FlexZone won't affect performance up top.
One last thing: I also ran a 72-hour test where I replaced our twice-daily door openings (those spikes in the graph above) with Food Showcase door openings. My goal was to see if keeping the fridge doors closed and only using the Food Showcase door instead would have an impact on performance.
It did not. The results were almost identical to the first time around, save for a slight temperature increase in the Food Showcase compartment's shelves (probably because, by opening the Food Showcase door, I was exposing them more directly to the warm air of our test chamber). In other words, that Food Showcase compartment doesn't do anything to help your fridge perform any better -- the same as every other door-in-a-door compartment I've ever tested.
$2,600 seems like a pretty decent deal on this fridge. It looks terrific and modern, it offers compelling, high-end features, and it performs about as well as you could hope for. Samsung's 4-Door Flex fridges don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, so if you agree with me that it's a nice-looking design, and you're looking for a style upgrade in your kitchen, I say give it some consideration.