There's a growing number of refrigerators that let you access items stored in the door without actually opening the door itself. One of the most luxurious of them all is the $3,000 Samsung Food Showcase side-by-side refrigerator, model RH29H9000SR (nearly identical models sell in Australia and the UK for about AU$3,900 and £2,500, respectively). Pull from the top, and you'll open the fridge door; pull from the bottom, and you'll open just its front panel, exposing whatever you've got stored on the in-door shelves.
It's a clever design, and combined with the recessed handles and LED display, it makes for one of the best looking side-by-sides money can buy. But as good as the outside looks, the inside underwhelms, lacking features as basic as spill-proof shelving or a even a butter bin. What's more, door-in-a-door designs tend to compromise those in-door temperatures, and the Food Showcase fridge is no different, with warmer temperatures than you'd like across all of those in-door shelves. All told, the shortcomings outweigh the appeal of the design, which leads me to recommend you pass on this pricey side-by-side.
Design and features
For the past two years, Samsung's appliances team has given the Food Showcase refrigerator the spotlight treatment at the Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas, right alongside the ultra-high-end Chef Collection line of appliances. Looking the thing over, I really can't blame them -- it's an admittedly slick-looking side-by-side, with classy, recessed handles and an attractive LED display.
Of course, it's the eponymous Food Showcase feature that's front and center. Run your fingers along the recessed handle on the right, and you'll find that's separated into two sections. The top section pulls the fridge open per usual, but pull the lower "Showcase" section, and you'll open the fridge's front panel, exposing the in-door shelving (and the food held within) without opening the entire door.
Many of those exposed shelves slide out like drawers -- a fairly innovative way of accessing your food. If you've got small children, those lower drawers make for a pretty handy spot to store juice boxes, pudding cups, and other kid-friendly chilled snacks.
Aside from those sorts of specific usage cases, though, the Food Showcase feature has the feel of a novelty. After all, is opening a Food Showcase door to access the in-door shelves any more convenient than opening a standard refrigerator door to do the same thing? Not terribly.
In truth, it's a feature that really feels more like a design element. More than anything, its real function seems to be to put a fresh spin on side-by-side exterior stylings. There's nothing wrong with that, just don't expect the Food Showcase door to transform the way you use your fridge.
The inside of the fridge is spacious for a side-by-side, but I was surprised not to find the sorts of unique build touches that might help the interior keep pace with the high-profile exterior. For a $3,000 fridge, it's a a pretty basic build, lacking simple things like a butter bin or humidity controls for the drawers. Though one of the shelves slides out, none of them slide in or fold up and out of the way. If you want to rearrange things, you'll find fewer racks to hold the shelves than with other fridges, and zero extra rack options for the in-door shelves.
Feature-wise, the pressure really falls to the Food Showcase door to sell this thing, and while it looks good on a show floor, I can't say that it's compelling enough on its own to tempt me into plunking down three grand. Even if I were totally smitten with the in-door access, I could find the same basic functionality in LG's Door-in-Door and Kenmore's Grab-N-Go models, many (if not most) of which cost less. Samsung itself even sells a slightly smaller version of the Food Showcase fridge for about a thousand bucks less. With so many other options, the $3,000 RH29H9000SR needs more than just a door in a door to justify the asking price.
Performance and usability
The chart above shows the average temperatures in each region of the Food Showcase refrigerator and freezer over the course of a three-day test. The fridge was set to 37 degrees F (about 3 C), while the freezer was set to 0 (about -17 C).
Things look pretty good on the freezer side and the main refrigerator compartments held nice and steady, too -- but check out all of that orange there on the right. That's the in-door shelving, and it's a lot warmer than you'd like, particularly in the lower compartments. The bins at the bottom of the fridge are warmer than you'd expect, too, each one running at an average above 40 F (about 4 C), a benchmark for food safety used by the FDA.
You get an even more detailed look at the performance concerns in the minute-by-minute graph. Those blue lines represent the main shelves inside of the fridge -- they sit right above 37, and fall almost perfectly in line with one another, which is a very good result. But things get worse when you turn to the drawers (the red lines) and worse still with the in-door shelves (the green lines). All of them spent nearly the entire run above 40 degrees. That pale green line at the top represents the temperature in one of the bottom in-door shelves -- at one point, it spends nearly two hours above 50 F (10 C).
We repeated the test, this time, cranking the refrigerator down to the Food Showcase's lowest setting, 34 F (about 1 C). The results were the same -- the main shelves were right on the money, but the door and the drawers ran warm, with the bottom of the door hitting an average more than ten degrees north of the target.
We also added an extra day to the 34 F test to test out the impact of the Food Showcase door. During these tests, we open the fridge door for 30 seconds at a time at regularly scheduled intervals to help approximate real world use. For this extra day of testing, we replaced those door openings with Food Showcase door openings. The result wasn't much different, save for temperature fluctuations that were ever so slightly less turbulent. That suggests that the Food Showcase door plays a pretty insignificant role in the refrigerator's overall cooling performance.