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Samsung RH29H9000SR review: Don't judge Samsung's Food Showcase fridge by its cover

Samsung's flashiest side-by-side looks terrific, but inconsistent performance and a lack of features have us thinking twice.

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Ry Crist
Ryan_Crist2.jpg

Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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8 min read

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.

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6.4

Samsung RH29H9000SR

The Good

Samsung's Food Showcase fridge looks terrific and offers quick, easy access to items stored in the door. The main shelves inside the refrigerator held steady, accurate temperatures throughout all of our tests.

The Bad

The Food Showcase door's novelty wears off fast, and like other door-in-door designs, it leads to warmer temperatures than you'd like throughout all of the in-door shelves. The fridge drawers ran surprisingly warm, too.

The Bottom Line

This fridge dials up the cool factor, but it's an uneven performer that lacks compelling features beyond the Food Showcase door. A slightly smaller version that retails for $1,000 less is the better value.

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.

Showing off Samsung's Food Showcase fridge (pictures)

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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.

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The lower Food Showcase drawers make a great, kid-friendly spot for refrigerated snacks and drinks. Ry Crist/CNET

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.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

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Jared Hannah/CNET

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.

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The main shelves (blue) held very steady, but the drawers (red) and in-door shelves (green) ran warm. Ry Crist/CNET

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.

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Ry Crist/CNET

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.

On the usability side, we make sure to spend some time moving each refrigerator's shelves around. Many are a pain to get in and out, but the Food Showcase shelves, which simply sit flat atop grooves in the refrigerator walls, are a complete cinch to move around. Of course, you don't get very many of those grooves, which severely limits the customizability of the interior.

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Along with dripping down the sides, water from our spill test wound up trapped beneath the glass shelves, too. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Another shelf concern has to do with spills. Most fridges these days -- especially ones in this price range -- offer some from of spill-proof design element that promises to contain spills to the shelves on which they occur. Not the Food Showcase Fridge, though. Each shelf is a flat panel of glass with no raised edges on the sides, meaning that there's nothing to stop a spill on the top shelf from dripping down below.

Perhaps worse is that spilled liquid tends to get trapped between the shelf and the groove holding it up, like that bubble in the GIF posted above. That makes it even harder to clean things up -- presuming you notice the problem in the first place.

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Ry Crist/CNET

Capacity testing

Inside of the Food Showcase refrigerator is 28.5 cubic feet of storage space, 18.4 of which are dedicated to the fridge. That's a very good number -- by comparison, the largest non-counter-depth side-by-side from GE offers 17.5 cu. ft. in the fridge. With Kenmore, the most you'll find is about 16.5 cu. ft., the same as what you'll find from Whirlpool's biggest side-by-side. Even LG's "ultra-capacity" side-by-side clocks in with under 17 cu. ft. It's worth mentioning, though, that all of those models cost significantly less than the Food Showcase fridge.

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All of our test groceries fit into the Food Showcase fridge with room to spare. Ry Crist/CNET

To test fridge capacity out, we start by loading each model with a standardized set of groceries, everything from soda and beer to bologna and string cheese. The Food Showcase fridge had no trouble here, easily accommodating everything with plenty of room leftover.

The next thing we look at is just how much leftover room there is, and to do that, we break out our stress test items -- six of the biggest, bulkiest things we could realistically imagine someone wanting to store in their fridge. There's a cake platter with a tall lid, a full-size party platter, a lemonade pitcher, a casserole dish, a roasting pan and an extra-large pizza box.

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The extra large pie didn't stand a chance, but I was able to squeeze this large pizza into the Food Showcase fridge -- just barely, though. Ry Crist/CNET

The first step is try squeezing each one in individually without moving any of the groceries around or rearranging the shelves to optimize storage space. The extra-wide, extra-large pizza box was an obvious no-go (I'll be utterly shocked if we ever fit that thing into a side-by-side fridge), and I wasn't able to fit the party platter, roasting pan, or cake tray in either. Only the pitcher and the casserole dish made it in, although I was able to fit both in at once.

Next, we repeat the process, but this time, we're allowed to move groceries around and reconfigure the shelf layout. After cramming as many groceries into the shelves as I could, I freed up enough space in the fridge to make room for everything except the pizza box, even when I tried putting them all in at the same time. That's a great result for a side-by-side, and not too surprising, given that the Food Showcase is about as big a side-by-side as you'll find.

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We squeezed the pitcher and the casserole dish in without rearranging anything. Once we started moving stuff around, we were able to squeeze the cake tray, the party platter, and the roasting pan in, too. Ry Crist/CNET

On the freezer side, things are a bit more cramped, which is par for the course with a side-by-side. You'll have plenty of room for TV dinners and bags of frozen veggies, but bulkier items like frozen pizzas will be more of a squeeze.

I was able to fit a relatively small one onto the shelf if I placed it diagonally, but I wasn't able to fit a larger-sized pie in without taking a shelf out altogether. Like the fridge, there simply aren't enough grooves to give you the sort of wiggle room you might want, and none of shelves slide inward or fold up and out of the way.

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The verdict

Samsung was likely wise to release a model with door-in-a-door functionality. The similar "Door-in-Door" feature from LG was a big hit for the brand, enough so that it now offers several models in a variety of styles that all offer it. You can't blame Samsung for wanting a piece of the action.

To the brand's credit, its spin on in-door accessibility is a supremely stylish one, but it's much less impressive once you open the fridge up and start using it. There's plenty of storage space, but relatively few features to help you take advantage of it. The performance is also too inconsistent -- solid in the freezer and in the main compartment of the refrigerator, but too warm in the drawers and in those in-door shelves. $3,000 is a lot to spend on a side-by-side, even one that looks as good as the Food Showcase does, and at that price, I think you deserve more.

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6.4

Samsung RH29H9000SR

Score Breakdown

Features 6Design 8Performance 6Usability 6
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