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Samsung RT21M6213SR Top Freezer with FlexZone review: Samsung's top freezer fridge is a simple, stylish bargain

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Samsung refrigerators are typically aimed at shoppers willing to spend extra for fancy designs and lots of tempting features. Not the RT21M6213SR, though. It's just a boring, ol' top-freezer fridge -- one of the first Samsung has ever sold in the US -- and though it debuted at an asking price of $1,100, you can currently get it for well under a thousand bucks.

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7.9

Samsung RT21M6213SR Top Freezer with FlexZone

The Good

The Samsung RT21M6213SR top-freezer refrigerator comes with a feature that converts the freezer into an extra fridge, along with recessed handles and the option of a black stainless steel finish. Performance was strong in both the main body of the fridge and in the freezer.

The Bad

You have to run the fridge at its coldest setting to keep the crisper bins below 40 degrees F. Also, the ice maker will cost you an extra hundred bucks.

The Bottom Line

This is a simple, stylish fridge with features you don't normally see in top freezers, and that makes it a good budget pick.

In fact, at its current price of $850, Samsung's top freezer is right on par with full-size, entry level fridges from names like GE, Whirlpool and Kenmore. But hey, this is Samsung we're talking about, so it also comes with a couple of classic Samsung temptations to help set it apart -- namely, recessed door handles, a "FlexZone" feature that lets you dial the freezer up into fridge mode, and for an extra hundred bucks, the option of a black stainless steel finish.

That's a pretty decent pitch as far as top freezers go, and in the case of the RT21, it comes with passable performance, too. That makes this fridge a good pick for shoppers on a tight budget who still want something that feels like an upgrade. With the RT21, Samsung pulled it off.

Simple style with this affordable Samsung top freezer

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Design and features

The RT21M6213SR makes about as good a first impression as you can reasonably expect from a top freezer. The sturdy recessed handles at the top of the fridge door and the bottom of the freezer door give the refrigerator a modern, minimalist aesthetic. The optional black stainless steel finish is a nice touch, too, and a rarity in the top-freezer category. Even in standard stainless steel, it looks and feels nicer than it is.

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It's hard to see what's in that "Slide & Reach" drawer without stooping down.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Inside is a total of 21.2 cubic feet of storage space, 15.4 of which are allocated to the fridge compartment. If that's not enough, you can take advantage of Samsung's "FlexZone" feature to convert the freezer into additional fridge space -- the same feature found in Samsung's high-end French door models.

In addition to the standard set of crisper bins at the bottom of the fridge, you also get a "Slide and Reach" drawer up top. The placement feels a little awkward since you have to stoop down a bit to see what's inside, but it's still a nice feature considering that the space up above the top shelf typically goes to waste.

One weird note, though: Samsung's product page for this fridge claims that it comes with "adjustable shelves," and uses a picture of a shelf sliding in to make room for a tall wine bottle below. That's not accurate. You can rearrange the shelves in this fridge up and down by moving them to different racks (like with almost every fridge), but they don't slide in or flip out of the way at all. Maybe Samsung meant that you could upgrade those shelves by purchasing slide-in versions as a separate accessory, but that isn't an option, at least not on Samsung's website. Hopefully someone clarifies the listing.

Something else worth knowing: the fridge doesn't come with an ice maker, though you have the option of adding one in the freezer for an extra $100. This fridge doesn't dispense water, either -- for a top freezer that does, consider a model like the Kenmore 79432 that hides a dispenser inside of the fridge, or even the GE GAS18PSJSS, which automatically fills up a special water pitcher every time you dock it into place.

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At the default setting, the temperatures in the body of the fridge were right where you want them, but the crisper bins ran a little bit warm.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Performance

When it comes to cooling power, the bar's a bit lower for entry-level top freezers, but you should still expect your fridge to hold temperatures below 40 degrees F on the main body shelves and crisper bins at its default setting. The RT21M6213SR almost gets there -- its main shelves all stay acceptably cold, but the crisper bins run warm.

Dialing down to the coldest setting eliminated all of those orange hot spots save for the butter bin, but it also only brought the temperatures throughout the fridge down by about 1 degree. That's too tight of a swing -- ideally, those settings would offer a greater impact on performance.

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The "FlexZone" setting switches the freezer into an extra fridge, but it took about thirty hours to make the change, and the bottom shelf didn't quite rise above freezing.

Ry Crist/CNET

As for the freezer, I kept it locked at its own default setting for both rounds of testing. The performance stayed very steady regardless of what setting the fridge was at -- strong evidence that Samsung's "Twin Cooling" design, with independent cooling mechanisms for the fridge and freezer, works as advertised.

The FlexZone setting performed well, too, raising the average temperature in the freezer to about 35 degrees F without affecting the performance of the fridge (again, Twin Cooling seems legit). You'll need to give the freezer some time to adjust, though -- in my tests, it took about 30 hours for the temperature to rise and stabilize.

My only other quibble with FlexZone: the bottom half of the freezer stayed just below freezing, with an average temperature of 30.7 degrees F. That's a little too cold for long-term storage of fresh ingredients, but you'll probably be fine if you're just using the FlexZone as a makeshift beverage cooler at your next party (and I'll point out that beer typically won't freeze at anything above 30 F).

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Chris Monroe/CNET

The verdict

Samsung was smart to lean on its strengths in order to set its inaugural top freezers apart from the competition. From FlexZone to the recessed handles to the optional black stainless steel finish, this fridge offers top freezer shoppers a taste of the sorts of extras typically reserved for higher-end French door models. There's a lot to like about that approach.

Performance wasn't perfect, but it was passable -- and at $850, the price is just right. If you're in the market for a new top freezer, put a star next to this one.

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7.9

Samsung RT21M6213SR Top Freezer with FlexZone

Score Breakdown

Features 8.5Design 9Performance 7Usability 8