Whirlpool WRT511SZDM Top Freezer Refrigerator review: The forecast is frosty for this Whirlpool fridge

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The Good The Whirlpool WRT511SZDM is the most powerful top freezer we've ever tested, with consistently low temperatures throughout the entirety of the fridge.

The Bad Those temperatures were often too low, with main shelves falling below the freezing point even at the default setting. The design is also pretty plain, and there aren't any features worth getting excited about.

The Bottom Line If your refrigerator's cooling performance matters more to you than fancy features or design flourishes, then this Whirlpool workhorse deserves your consideration.

6.8 Overall
  • Features 6
  • Design 6
  • Performance 6.5
  • Usability 8

If you were to list the habits of highly effective refrigerators, pumping out cold air would sit right at the top. Thankfully, that's what you'll get from the $1,100 Whirlpool WRT511SZDM top freezer, and then some -- it's actually the coldest refrigerator we've ever tested.

How cold is too cold, though? The freezing point (32 F) seems like a fair place to start, and sure enough, this Whirlpool blows right past it, with an average body temperature of 26.4 F at the coldest setting. Even at the default setting, the refrigerator's bottom shelf comes in at 30.1 F.

That said, it's tough to fault a fridge for being too good at its job -- especially when you can dial it up a setting or two and save a little money on your power bill. If cooling performance that errs on the cool side is what matters most, then this no-frills top freezer fits the bill. Just don't blame me when your milk freezes.

There's a whole lot of storage space in those in-door shelves.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Design and features

The WRT511SZDM is a sturdy-feeling stainless-steel fridge that's also available in white or black for $100 less. It's a very basic build that passes on significant design flourishes in favor of a safer, more traditional aesthetic. In other words, it's a token top freezer.

Open it up, and you'll find a grand total of 21.3 cubic feet of storage space, 15.2 of which are in the fridge compartment. That's a decent amount of room as far as top freezers go, but it's not as much as you'll get with the king-sized LG LTCS24223S -- that fridge beats Whirlpool by 2.5 cubic feet. Still, it was big enough to fit all of our test groceries, along with five out of six of our king-size stress test items (I couldn't quite jam the party platter and the extra large pizza box inside at the same time.)

By the way, the MVP of those storage tests was the in-door shelving. The shelves are sizable enough to hold a surprising amount of groceries, and there are enough of them to make it easy to section things off and organize everything just how you like. I also appreciated that there were plenty of different spots into which I could rearrange the shelves.

Top freezer fridges for around $1,000

Whirlpool WRT511SZDM LG LTCS24223S Frigidaire FGHT1846QF GE GAS18PSJSS
Fridge capacity 15.2 cubic feet 17.6 cubic feet 14.2 cubic feet 13.5 cubic feet
Freezer capacity 6.1 cubic feet 6.2 cubic feet 4.1 cubic feet 4.0 cubic feet
Total capacity 21.3 cubic feet 23.8 cubic feet 18.3 cubic feet 17.5 cubic feet
Finish Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel Stainless Steel
Available in Black Stainless Steel No Yes (+$100) No No
Energy Star Certified No Yes Yes No
Yearly energy consumption (kilowatt hours) 443 kWh 501 kWh 363 kWh 399 kWh
Yearly energy cost ($0.12 per kWh) $53 $60 $44 $48
Energy efficiency (yearly cost per cubic foot) $2.49 $2.52 $2.40 $2.74
Suggested retail price $1,100 $1,200 $1,100 $1,000
Lowest retail price (as of 7/19/16) $900 $1,075 $850 $900

Feature-wise, there isn't much else worth mentioning, save for the "Flexi-Slide Drawer," which is just a drawer that slides from left and right beneath the top shelf to make room for tall objects below. That's really about it. No water dispenser, no spill-proof shelves, no extra bells or whistles whatsoever.

Despite the sturdy exterior, certain parts of the interior also felt a bit flimsy to the touch. The crisper bins don't glide out as smoothly as you'll see in nicer refrigerators, and some of the door shelves didn't snap into place as tightly as I'd like. The bar that blocks off the bottom in-door shelf was particularly annoying, popping out of place enough times during my tests that I was forced to tape it into position.

It all adds up to a fridge that doesn't do very much to set itself apart from the competition. That's somewhat forgivable in the top-freezer class, but still disappointing given that this is a $1,000+ refrigerator we're talking about.

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