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Whirlpool URB551WNGZ review: Whirlpool's skinniest fridge looks great, but runs too warm

It's a narrow refrigerator designed for cramped kitchens, and it looks great. But how's the performance?

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Ry Crist
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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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If you're living with a cramped kitchen, or if perhaps you're shopping for a second fridge for the garage or a back room, then you might consider a compact model like the Whirlpool URB551WNGZ. At less than 2 feet wide, it's designed to take up a small  footprint in your home while still offering enough storage space for your groceries (provided you don't have a full family to feed). The retail price? $1,400, though, as of writing this, you can get it on sale for about $1,260.

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6.6

Whirlpool URB551WNGZ

The Good

Whirlpool's compact fridge looks fancier than it actually is, and even includes a built-in wine rack. At less than 2 feet wide, it'll fit into a lot of cramped spaces while still offering a reasonable amount of room for your groceries.

The Bad

Performance was poor in our cooling tests, with the entirety of the fridge compartment running warm at the refrigerator's default setting. The fridge is also too tall to fit into standard-size enclaves with cabinets overhead.

The Bottom Line

This fridge looks great, but it's expensive for what it is, and not nearly as good at keeping things cold as it should be.

With a clean, minimalist design that seems to echo the industrial aesthetic of designer fridges that cost thousands more, there's a lot to like about the look of this fridge -- but the cooling power left me, well, cold. Specifically, the refrigerator didn't keep things cold enough in my tests, with the entirety of the fridge compartment averaging well above 40 degrees F at its default setting. That, coupled with the fact that you can get better performance from compact competitors that cost half as much, leads me to recommend that you keep shopping around.

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The refrigerator's minimalism serves it well -- you won't even find a Whirlpool logo on it.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Design done right

As compact refrigerators go, this one makes a great first impression. The clean, simple design of the exterior and the sturdy stainless steel handles help it feel fancier than it actually is, and the interior reinforces things with glass shelves, multiple drawers, a surprisingly large butter bin and even a built-in wine rack. Of course, at a retail price of $1,400 -- hundreds more than compact models from competitors like LG and GE -- you would expect more of a high-end feel, but kudos to Whirlpool for delivering.



Whirlpool URB551WNGZ Compact Bottom Freezer LG LTNC11121V Compact Top FreezerGE GBE10ESJSB Compact Bottom Freezer
Fridge capacity 7.9 cubic feet 8.5 cubic feet 7.3 cubic feet
Freezer capacity 3.4 cubic feet 2.6 cubic feet 3.2 cubic feet
Total capacity 11.3 cubic feet 11.1 cubic feet 10.5 cubic feet
Height 74 1/2 inches 66 1/2 inches 60 3/8 inches
Width 23 1/2 inches 24 inches 24 inches
Depth 27 15/16 inches 26 inches 27 3/8 inches
Yearly Enery Consumption 396 kWh 339 kWh 387 kWh
Yearly energy cost ($0.12 per kWh) $48 $41 $46
Yearly energy cost per cubic foot $4.25 $3.69 $4.38
Energy Star qualified Yes No Yes
CNET performance score 4.5 / 10 7 / 10 5.5 / 10
Warranty 1 year parts and labor 1 year parts and labor, 7 years sealed system 1 year parts and labor
Suggested retail price $1,400 $700 $900
Lowest retail price as of 5/7/18 $1,260 $630 $900

In terms of storage space, that interior offers about 8 cubic feet in the fridge and 3.4 cubic feet in the freezer, both of which are right on par with the competition. It's several inches taller than the average refrigerator, though, coming in at 74 1/2 inches high. That's too tall to fit into a lot of standard-size fridge cutouts with cabinets overhead, so make sure to measure before you buy.

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The 7.9 cubic foot fridge compartment up top features glass shelves, plenty of bin space and even a wine rack.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Despite that extra height, things still feel somewhat cramped inside the fridge, which is to be expected with a compact model like this one. There's no good spot for a gallon-size jug of milk, for instance, and I doubt that you'd be able to fit a full-size frozen pizza in the freezer, either. Plan on downsizing your groceries accordingly.

Still, it's a workable refrigerator. I was able to squeeze a two-liter of soda into the bottom door shelf, and the pair of crisper bins offer plenty of space for fruits and veggies. At the top of the door, the surprisingly large butter bin runs the full width of the fridge. Relocate your spread of choice to the butter tray dangling down below (yep, the fridge includes both), and you'll be able to use that bin space for something else. Or you could just buy, like, five different kinds of butter and have room for all of them. To each their own, I say!

My only real gripe with the design: Whirlpool didn't include an ice maker or a water line. That's an understandable omission for a compact model, but a noteworthy one given that LG was able to include an automatic ice maker in the compact LTNC11121V, which costs half as much.

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Average temperatures were too warm at the fridge's default setting.

Chris Monroe/CNET

But the performance

The URB551WNGZ's style is solid, but the performance is not. At the default setting, the average temperatures throughout the entire fridge compartment all came back well above 40 degrees F, a food safety benchmark used by the folks at the Food and Drug Administration. They recommend storing your groceries below 40, but you can't do that in this fridge, at least not at the default setting.

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Dialing down to the coldest setting brought the fridge temperatures down below 40 F, but it also made things too cold in the freezer.

Chris Monroe/CNET

I spent a week testing out the coldest setting, too -- it brings those fridge temperatures right down where you want them, but it also makes things too cold in the freezer, with temperatures plummeting to several degrees below zero. 

All of that is bad, and a little bit surprising, too, since Whirlpool fridges have generally performed pretty well in our cooling tests. The URB551WNGZ didn't follow suit -- and, again, you can do better for less. I haven't tested a ton of compact fridges (there honestly aren't a whole lot of options), but that $700 LG model was able to keep temps in the body of the fridge below 40 at its default setting, and it did so using less energy than the URB551WNGZ does.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

The verdict

The URB551WNGZ is the best-looking compact fridge that I've tested, but it runs several degrees too warm at the default setting. That's a significant weakness for a small fridge that costs $1,400, if not an outright disqualifier given that you can get better performance from compact fridges that cost less. I say save some money and stick with those.

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6.6

Whirlpool URB551WNGZ

Score Breakdown

Features 7Design 8Performance 4.5Usability 8