If there's one thing I've learned in the last few years of covering appliances at CES, it's to keep an eye out for the proliferation of doors.
First came LG's Door-in-Door refrigerators, followed soon by Samsung's "Food Showcase" fridges, both of which let you open the front panel of the door without opening the door itself so you can access the shelves inside without actually opening the fridge. We've even seen Samsung trot out a dual door, "Flex Duo" oven and a door-in-a-door washer built for errant socks.
Now, Whirlpool's jumping in on the trend with the new "Door-Within-Door" French door refrigerator. Like the name suggests, it showcases the same door-in-a-door feature as we've seen from LG and Samsung -- but Whirlpool claims theirs is better, thanks to dedicated cooling designed specifically to keep the bottom section of that Door-Within-Door compartment nice and cold.
They might be onto something. I've tested and reviewed several door-in-a-door refrigerators over the past few years, and almost all of them run a little warm in those in-door shelves. That's not uncommon for refrigerators at all, but it's also not ideal if you're pitching those door shelves as an especially convenient place to put everyday necessities like milk. After all, why pay more for a fridge with a special compartment in the door if that compartment is the last place you'd want to store your perishable groceries?
Aside from the promise of a colder in-door compartment, Whirlpool's Door-Within-Door fridge offers a lot of the same design touches that we saw a year ago from the Wi-Fi enabled French door model the brand showed off at CES 2016. That includes Whirlpool's movable "Infinity Shelves" -- really just narrow, sliding shelves that can slide out of the way to make room for oversized items in the center of the fridge. It also boasts the biggest crisper bins of any Whirlpool fridge currently on the market.
There's good reason Whirlpool is mounting such a direct and obvious challenge to its Korean competitors, Samsung and LG. Both have made significant inroads into the American appliance market in recent years by introducing high-end designs with flashy features. As a traditionally top-selling brand, Whirlpool has plenty to lose if it doesn't defend its turf.
Pricing and availability for the new Door-Within-Door fridge isn't locked down yet, but given what we've seen from the fridges it seeks to compete with, I'd expect it to cost at least a few thousand dollars. We'll know more when it makes its retail debut sometime later this year.