5 Cool Refrigerator Features Worth a Look

More doors, better efficiency, and convertible compartments

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If it’s been a while since you bought a refrigerator, it pays to look into the latest innovations, because manufacturers regularly introduce new features to differentiate their wares.

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“From speed chilling to giant touch screens, manufacturers are creating both practical and bold new features to give their refrigerators an edge in the appliance market,” says Joseph Pacella, who oversees Consumer Reports' refrigerator tests. “These innovations give consumers more choice, especially now that they're trickling down into more affordable models.”

If nothing else, being conversant with terms such as “linear compression” and “five-door French-door” will let the salesperson know that you mean business. And don't be afraid to ask for a better price. Our appliance store survey shows that 72 percent of shoppers who haggle for a major appliance save a median of $98.

How We Test Refrigerators

After a refrigerator gets wired up with temperature sensors, we monitor it for more than a month in a temperature-controlled chamber. We collect more than 5.4 million temperature readings for each model to detect warm and cold spots and to determine which refrigerators will keep your food fresh longer.

All that data—and then some—inform CR’s refrigerator ratings, which include more than 400 models.

Below you’ll find some of the most interesting refrigerator features from our latest tests, ranging from practical five-door configurations to bold 21-inch touch screens. For more innovative models, check out our full refrigerator ratings.

Speed Chilling

Adding hot items to the refrigerator (say, a warm pot of chili or chicken stock) can send its internal temperature soaring. Even room-temperature items from the supermarket can cause fluctuations, which is bad for foods already in the refrigerator.

To mitigate those temperature swings, manufacturers have created quick-chill settings, such as the Maytag PowerCold feature. To test it out, we loaded a 24-pack of room-temperature half-liter bottles of water into the French-door Maytag MFT2778EEZ, $3,000.

Without the PowerCold feature enabled, the average temperature in the refrigerator went to 43° F—that's 6° F higher than what's recommended for food preservation. With PowerCold enabled, the average temperature maintained a safe 37° F.

This test was a kind of worst-case scenario, because the refrigerator was empty; if it had been full of chilled items, the temperature swing would have been less dramatic. Still, quick-chill settings can be useful, especially if you often put hot or warm food into the refrigerator.

Five-Door Configurations

Four-door refrigerators are now commonplace. The KitchenAid KRMF706EBS, $4,000, was the first model in our ratings with a five-door configuration: two pantry-style French doors for the fresh-food compartment; two pull-out drawers, including one with multiple preset temperatures; and a pull-out freezer drawer.

The five-door refrigerator also has an unusual interior platinum finish. For the exterior, you can choose between traditional stainless steel and fingerprint-resistant black stainless steel.

Trickle-Down Efficiency

Linear compressors limit temperature swings inside the refrigerator. That not only decreases power consumption but can also help preserve food.

The innovation used to be reserved for pricier models, but we’re seeing this refrigerator feature on less-expensive top-freezers, including the highly rated LG LTCS20220S, $900. Thanks to the technology, this 30-inch-wide top-freezer has one of the best efficiency scores of all tested models.

Convertible Compartments

Some top-freezer and French-door refrigerators, primarily from Samsung, are now flexi-fridges, meaning they offer convertible compartments that you can change from freezer to refrigerator and back again.

The Samsung RT21M6213SG top-freezer, $900, is one such refrigerator, featuring a flexible freezer compartment—in addition to a sleek, black stainless steel finish—that gives consumers extra refrigerator space for party platters and produce with the flick of a switch.

These machines make for great second refrigerators in the garage or basement, and you can even find flexible upright freezers, too.

Giant Touch Screens With Digital Smarts

Samsung pioneered this feature in 2016 with its bold (and expensive) Family Hub French-door refrigerator. Now entering its third generation, Samsung is offering a variety of touch-screen-ladened fridges at ever-lower prices.

Last year’s Samsung RF265BEAESG offers the Family Hub 2.0 touch screen and software at a more palatable $2,400 price (the original model’s price was $5,000). It’s also a strong performer in our ratings, earning high marks across all of our tests.

Not to be outdone, LG will be debuting its own touch-screen refrigerator with Amazon Alexa built in, called the LG LNXS30996D InstaView ThinQ French-door refrigerator, later this year. We look forward to testing the model and learning how these rival smart fridges stack up, when the LG becomes available.

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Home Content Creator Daniel Wroclawski

Daniel Wroclawski

I'm obsessed with smart home tech and channel my obsession into new stories for Consumer Reports. When I'm not writing about products, I spend time either outside hiking and skiing or up in the air in small airplanes. For my latest obsessions, follow me on Facebook and Twitter (@danwroc).