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.
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.
|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.
If you're looking for the thing that sets this fridge apart from the competition, it's performance. Simply put, the Whirlpool WRT511SZDM is as cold a fridge as we've ever tested, which isn't necessarily a good thing, given that we saw temperatures drop below freezing even at the refrigerator's recommended setting.
Fridges typically default to a 37-degree setting, but with this fridge, your default temperatures are closer to 34 degrees, with a couple of spots that run even colder. That includes the bottom shelf in the body of the fridge, which spent the near-entirety of our 72-hour default setting test below the freezing point, and ultimately yielded an average temperature of 30.1 F. It's the light blue line at the bottom of that fridge graph up above.
We also tested the fridge out at its coldest setting, where things were obviously even colder. That bottom shelf was once again the coldest spot in the fridge, with temperature swings ranging from 28 F to an icy 18 F, with a shockingly cold final average of 22.3 F. Even the butter bin -- typically the warmest spot in a given fridge -- dropped close to the freezing point.
This is pretty much unprecedented in our tests. We've seen the occasional fridge dip below freezing in a single section or two during the coldest-setting test, but never the near-entirety of the fridge, and never anything in the default setting test.
Given that, I decided to run a third test at the refrigerator's warmest setting. Temperatures rose as expected, and perhaps by more than expected -- too much so to recommend the warmest setting for anything other than storing beverages.
That puts the performance "sweet spot" somewhere in between the recommended setting and the warmest setting. If I had this fridge in my kitchen, I think I'd try and find it by placing a jug of milk on the bottom shelf, seeing if it froze, and then dialing up from there. Not the worst problem to have, but an annoyance, nonetheless.
Frigid performance isn't an automatic deal-breaker -- some people would probably prefer it over a fridge that runs a bit warm. Still, it's enough to give me pause before recommending this refrigerator outright. The lack of interesting features and design touches doesn't help much, either.
That said, at $1,100, the Whirlpool WRT511SZDM is a no-frills top freezer with plenty of storage space that won't ever have a problem keeping your groceries cold. If you're not looking for a forward-thinking aesthetic from your icebox and you're comfortable dialing things up a tad to stave off icy milk, then it might merit consideration.