Fancy a new fridge? Have six grand? Then, behold, the Samsung Chef Collection Refrigerator, model RF34H9960S4. Priced well above anything else offered by the top manufacturers, the Chef Collection fridge is as high-end as refrigerators come -- at least before you start throwing around names like Viking and Sub-Zero.
That last bit is the really important part, as the Chef Collection seeks to bridge the fridge gap between high end and ultra-high end. Competing top-of-the-line models from the other major brands typically cost thousands less, but put the Chef Collection fridge up against the niche fridges from those aforementioned luxury brands -- which cost thousands more -- and the appeal of this Samsung unit starts to appear.
Along with a bevy of unique features drawn from the input of world-class chefs (per Samsung's marketing, at least), the Chef Collection fridge boasts a whopping 34 cubic feet of storage and a premium, "t-type" build. Though it wasn't as strong a performer as I would expect from a $6,000 fridge, it's steady enough (and stylish enough) to deserve strong consideration alongside fancier fridges that sell for even more.
Design and features
Almost every refrigerator is going to be a big, blocky behemoth in your kitchen, but the Chef Collection fridge is downright monolithic. Cue the orchestra.
At 36 inches wide, 36 inches deep, and 6 feet tall, this thing is a kitchen Goliath, ringing in with a total capacity of 34.3 cubic feet, 19 of which make up the refrigeration compartment. If that's not enough of a space odyssey for your needs, you can transform the bottom right quadrant from freezer into fridge with just a few taps on the in-door control panel.
Those in-door controls were a sticking point for some in our test lab, as they require you to open a door in order to use them. I was less bothered -- you'll probably rarely use the controls, and basic info like the running temperature is available right on the front of the fridge by means of a slick-looking set of LEDs that disappear altogether when not in use.
Make no mistake, the focus here is on design, and Samsung is betting that design-minded shoppers would rather have those controls neatly out of sight at a slight inconvenience than have them cluttering up the streamlined build for usability's sake. Given that this is a $6,000 fridge, I think that's a smart bet. People are going to buy this thing to make their neighbors jealous, not because they need their refrigerator to be more intuitive. It's a rare instance where form over function was probably the right call.
The Chef Collection's emphasis on design is literally front and center here, with a semi-unique "t-type" build that splits both fridge and freezer right down the middle, creating a sort of hybrid between French door and side-by-side stylings. Recessed handles only serve to reinforce the split-faced design, an especially elegant touch that immediately gives the Chef Collection fridge a good deal of luxury cred. Looking it over, it's a challenge not to be impressed.
Other features, on the other hand, are geared almost exclusively towards usability. Though you won't find a touchscreen or any other marquee smart features, the Chef Collection fridge does quietly boast smart grid compliance for users who live in areas that allow you to automate your refrigerator's defrost cycles to run when the energy rates are at their lowest.
The fridge also comes with a pair of stainless steel "Chef Pans" that slide neatly into place below the refrigerator shelving -- a product of the Chef Collection's "Club des Chefs" brain trust. Use one to marinate a steak, and you'll be able to transfer the entire pan straight into the oven, then on into the dishwasher after your meal.
You'll notice other foodie-friendly features throughout the fridge, too, including the "Chef Basket," an in-door shelf designed to hold grated cheese, sliced veggies and other prep ingredients. When you're ready to start cooking, it comes right out to join you. There's also the "Chef Pantry," a wide drawer below the crisper bins that's designed to hold delicate items like meat and fish at an optimized temperature.
You can even load a SodaStream carbonator directly into the fridge door, then dispense sparkling water on demand. Switching carbonators is a quick, easy process, though you do need to wait 20 minutes or so before you can begin dispensing the stuff. Flip the sparkling water lever back up, and you'll be back in ice-dispensing mode, with an ice maker that, to my ear, seemed a bit quieter than the average fridge.
All in all, the Chef Collection refrigerator claims about as many high-end features as you'll find in a fridge, including enough unique ones (and enough that seem legitimately useful) to keep things compelling. Pair that with a design that swings for the fences, and you've got an appliance that looks and feels farther ahead of the curve than almost any other model we've looked at.
Performance and usability
Let's say you currently own a fridge that you spent $1,500 on, and that you're more or less happy with its performance. How much better would you expect a $6,000 fridge to perform?