Bottom-freezer models reverse the classic top-freezer configuration, placing the refrigerator on top for greater convenience since most people access the fridge more often than the freezer. This type of refrigerator generally has a fairly large freezer -- although it's smaller than in a side-by-side -- and often includes an ice maker. The freezer is typically a pullout drawer with bins and baskets for organization, but some models have a swing-open door instead. Bottom-freezer models have less usable space than top-freezer refrigerators and are more expensive; most cost at least $1,000.
French-door refrigerators are a fairly recent design twist, with side-by-side refrigerator doors atop a single pullout freezer drawer. These models cost more than other types of fridges, with most selling for between $1,500 and $2,500. However, they do offer the space-saving swing of narrow doors like a side-by-side, while still allowing the use of the full refrigerator width for storing pizza boxes or sheet cakes, for instance. At other times, users can open just one door so less cold air escapes. Many French-door refrigerators include the through-the-door ice and water dispensers common on side-by-side models.
Overall, we found the most recommendations for French-door refrigerators from LG. The 24.7-cubic-foot LFX25976SW (*Est. $2,200) gets very good ratings in both professional tests and user reviews. It's Energy Star-rated, and includes a space-saving ice maker and water dispenser built into the door, leaving more room for food inside. In addition to two humidity-controlled crispers, this LG model has a smaller middle bin and a large bin that runs the full width of the fridge, which users say is handy for storing wide items like sheet cakes and full-size pizzas.
Other features include electronic temperature controls, slide-out glass shelves -- including one that folds to accommodate tall items -- LED lighting and an alarm that sounds when the door is left open. The refrigerator comes in white, in black as the LFX25976SB, and in stainless steel as the LFX25976ST for an extra $200 or so. All three models come with LG's standard warranty, which covers parts and labor for one year and the sealed system components for seven years.
The LG LFX25976SW earns high marks in one professional test, with excellent temperature control and very low noise levels. Its energy efficiency is rated very good, although other refrigerators in the same class do better. Users posting reviews at HomeDepot.com and AJMadison.com are enthusiastic about this fridge, praising its ample storage space and sleek looks. While the space-saving design of the ice maker is a popular feature, owners say it has its drawbacks; a common complaint about this LG is the dispenser tends to completely clog with ice if not used regularly. Some users also say the ice bin is too small and the water dispenser is counterintuitive, leading many to spray themselves with water the first time they use it.
A less common but more worrisome complaint is that one of the door bins can sometimes fall out when the door is opened, leading to spills and breakage. However, we saw no reports of actual mechanical problems with this refrigerator. LGs as a class earn above-average marks for overall satisfaction in the annual consumer survey from J.D. Power and Associates, but reports of reliability are mediocre. According to one review, 13 percent of LG bottom-freezer fridges required repairs during the first four years after purchase.
The LG LFX28978SW (*Est. $2,430) is larger than the LFX25976SW, with a stated capacity of 27.6 cubic feet. Otherwise, it shares all the features of the smaller refrigerator, including available color choices. It also receives excellent ratings for temperature performance and noise in professional tests, and its energy efficiency is excellent compared to other refrigerators of this size. While user reviews at HomeDepot.com and AJMadison.com give it very high ratings, we did see some complaints about reliability; some breakdowns occurred in the first week after the one-year warranty expired. Most owners who experienced problems say they got little help from LG's customer service, which one user calls "the worst I have ever dealt with." They report being unable to reach LG by phone, waiting weeks for repairs and losing the entire contents of their fridges to spoilage.
The 30.7-cubic-foot LG LFX31925SW (*Est. $2,700) offers all the features found on the smaller LG fridges plus a smooth-touch control panel, three freezer bins and an automatic freezer drawer that opens when the handle is lifted. In professional tests, it gets very good results for temperature control, and excellent scores for noise and energy efficiency. Even so, testers say its ice-making performance is subpar. Owners posting at HomeDepot.com and BestBuy.com say they love this refrigerator's capacity, organization and design, but find its ice production inadequate. We also read several reports of breakdowns with this model, often involving the ice maker. As with other LG refrigerators, users who experienced product failures sometimes complain that LG's customer service is unhelpful and even rude.
One French-door refrigerator not made by LG that gets good overall reviews is the 26-cubic-foot Samsung RF266AEWP (*Est. $1,450) . It gets satisfactory results in professional tests, with excellent scores for noise and temperature control, and very good energy efficiency. An earlier model, the now-discontinued RF266ABWP, was recommended by PlanetGreen.com as an eco-friendly choice for large families. This Energy Star-rated fridge skips the through-the-door ice maker and water dispenser in favor of internal filtered water and ice dispensers, and includes energy-efficient LED lighting. It's available in white, in black as the RF266AEBP, in stainless steel as the RF266AERS, and in platinum as the RF266AEPN. The stainless-steel and platinum versions cost about $50 and $100 more, respectively, but users say the latter is less likely to show fingerprints and smudges. All versions have a one-year limited warranty.
Users at BestBuy.com and Sears.com say the Samsung RF266AEWP French-door refrigerator is exceptionally quiet, and they praise its performance, styling, capacity and storage options. The crisper performance is singled out, with one user exclaiming, "I just ate a peach that I purchased 12 days agoÉit was as crisp and fresh as if I picked it off a tree today." However, quite a few owners report breakdowns within months, weeks or even days after purchase, and repeated breakdowns over the course of a few years. Like LG, Samsung's customer service gets a thumbs-down from some users. A few say they waited months for their problems to be resolved and, in at least one case, had to buy a new fridge with no compensation.
Although bottom-freezer refrigerators as a group don't perform as well in professional tests as the newer (and pricier) French-door models, this style does have its advantages. Bottom-freezer fridges are generally less expensive and more energy-efficient than French-door types, with some highly rated models costing $1,000 or less. While the editors at ConsumerReports.org review fewer bottom-freezer refrigerators than French-door types, several do earn recommendations. User reviews are less plentiful for bottom-freezer models than for other fridges, but they're often very positive.
Among bottom-freezer refrigerators, we found the best reviews overall for the 22.4-cubic-foot LG LDC22720SW (*Est. $1,400) . It's Energy Star-rated and has two compartments in the freezer drawer for organization. Other features include split, spill-proof glass shelves and the same open-door alarm found on LG's French-door models. In professional tests, the LDC22720SW earns excellent scores for temperature control, and very good scores for noise and energy use. Although users at AJMadison.com and HomeDepot.com are keen on this refrigerator's style, organization and quiet operation, they say the ice maker tends to drop cubes behind the open freezer drawer, where they're hard to retrieve. This fridge comes in white as the LBC22520SW; the stainless-steel LDC22720SW costs about $200 more. Like other LG models, it has a seven-year warranty on the sealed system, and a one-year warranty on parts and labor for other components.
The Maytag MBF2258XEW (*Est. $1,150) bottom-freezer model also gets strong reviews overall. This 21.9-cubic-foot fridge meets not only the Energy Star standards but also the much stricter Tier 3 certification offered by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, which means it exceeds federal standards by 30 percent. Professional tests bear out this claim, giving the Maytag excellent ratings for energy efficiency as well as temperature performance.
Users at HomeDepot.com give this refrigerator high marks as well, praising its temperature control, efficiency and well-organized storage space -- although some find that the 6.3-cubic-foot freezer is a little tight. We also saw a couple of complaints about operating noise, but most owners say the fridge runs quietly. It features a built-in ice maker, electronic temperature controls and organizational features such as slide-out freezer baskets, glass shelves, gallon door bins and a reversible door. It's available in white, in black as the MBF2258XEB, and in stainless steel as the MBR2258XES (*Est. $1,350 *Est. $1,350) . Each comes with Maytag's standard one-year limited warranty.