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Refrigerators packed with must-have features

New models go far beyond cooling—and are sleeker than ever

Published: June 11, 2014 12:30 PM

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Refrigerators aren’t just where you store the goodies for your next party. Some of the latest models are part of the party, with Bluetooth-enabled sound systems, wine-chilling compartments, and even café-worthy dispensers that serve more than just water. Here are some of this year’s top trends:

Built-in music. The Whirlpool WRF991BOOM, $2,900, and Whirlpool WRF990BOOM, $2,700 French-door bottom-freezers, which will be sold exclusively at Lowe’s, can fill your kitchen with dance music on Saturday night—and late-breaking news over Monday morning coffee—via built-in Wi-Fi speakers. Called CoolVox, the feature may be expanded to additional retailers later this year.

Beyond ice and water. Superb temperature control and energy efficiency helped put the four-door Samsung RF31FMESBSR, $2,900, among our top picks. Care for a wine spritzer? The Samsung can serve sparkling water from its on-the-door dispenser. The GE Café CFE29TSDSS, $3,000, and GE Café CYE23TSDSS, $3,100, add to those choices with hot water for coffee, tea, or soup. Hidden door-within-a-door compartments, such as those on the high-scoring French-door LG LFX32945ST, $3,000, and the Kenmore Elite72193, $4,150, can also hold an extra six-pack on game day. Expect to see more of those extra doors on side-by-side models, including the ones in Samsung’s Showcase series, which we’re currently testing.

Forgot to chill that bottle of chardonnay before your guests arrived? The blast chiller compartment on the LG LFX31935ST French-door fridge, about $3,000, comes with a promise to do that in just 8 minutes. Opt for the newly tested Whirlpool WRX988SIBM four-door model, $2,600, and you get a middle drawer with adjustable temperature controls for everything from lettuce to beer. This Whirlpool narrowly missed our winners’ list but did well overall.

GE Artistry ABE20EGWS

Go big. For $3,500, the four-door Samsung T9000 (top image) offers almost 23 cubic feet of usable space—the most ever in our tests. And unlike most four-doors, it lets you switch one of those compartments from freezer to refrigerator to cool extra beverages or hors d’oeuvres.

Or go slim. Column refrigerators, which range from about 18 to 30 inches wide and don’t include a freezer, fit spots too narrow for most refrigerator-freezers. You can also pair one with a column freezer, available in similar widths, for added flexibility. You’ll see several this year from such tony brands as Miele, Sub-Zero, and Viking for about $6,000 and up—more than most refrigerator-freezers.

You don’t have to pay a cool six grand for slimmer storage, however. The new Kenmore Elite 79023, a $1,450 top pick, squeezes a bottom-freezer design into a svelte 30-inch width. The retro-looking GE  Artistry ABE20EGWS bottom-freezer, $1,100, adds 1960s-style horizontal handles, chrome trim, and an old-school logo plate. It didn’t make our Recommended refrigerator list because it lacks adjustable shelves, among other modern features. But consistent temperature control and impressive energy efficiency make it worth considering.

—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)

Kitchen Planning Guide

Replacing your appliances? If you haven't bought any new appliances in a few years, you'll be amazed at all the fancy features on today's models. Find out which ones work and which aren't worth the money in our Kitchen Planning Guide.

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