While we found fewer recommendations for side-by-side refrigerators than for bottom-freezer refrigerators and French-door refrigerators, both of which we also cover elsewhere in this report along with top-freezer refrigerators and counter-depth refrigerators. Still, a few perform well enough, or offer a good enough value to bubble to the top among experts, users or both.
Perhaps no side-by-side refrigerator gets more respect than the Samsung RH29H9000SR (Est. $2,400). It earns Recommended status from one top independent reviewer and is named an Editors' Choice and Best of the Year selection by Reviewed.com. Owner feedback is equally strong, with users praising the Samsung's features and performance.
The headline feature on the RH29H9000SR is Samsung's dual door "Showcase" design. Inside the refrigerator's outer door is a glass inner door that gives you a full view of the compartment's contents, plus fast access to two bins where often-used products -- such as beverages -- can be stored. For convenience you can open only the outer door, or both doors at once. This is more than a gimmick, say the testers at Reviewed.com. "After living with it for a week, however, we found that it really did make it easier to access fresh foods," says Matthew Zahnzinger. However, at CNET, Ry Crist says the door-in-door design leads to more variation in temperature throughout the fridge. Testing at DigitalTrends.com comes up with the same conclusion. However, owner reviewers are overall very pleased, and in the hundreds of reviews we found for the RH29H9000SR the vast majority love this fridge, particularly that door-in-door convenience.
There are some other noteworthy features on the RH29H9000SR. Refrigerator controls are located on the outside of the cabinet, and are digitally controlled via a touch screen. If you have young children about, a control lock can prevent curious fingers from changing the settings. There is also a through-the-door icemaker and water dispenser. What you don't get is a lot of interior flexibility. You can't adjust the door storage and there's only one adjustable shelf in the main compartment. Don't forget that side-by-sides have narrow fridge and freezer sections, so you might need to store wide items at an angle.
With a capacity of 28.5 cu. ft., it's not surprising that the Samsung RH29H9000SR fridge has a big foot print -- the cabinet measures roughly 36 inches wide by 35.25 inches deep. However, if you need a fridge for a big family, but are saddled with a small kitchen, the side-by-side design at least means that you won't need to accommodate a massive door as well.
In spite of its size, the Samsung RH29H9000SR is very energy efficient and it earns a top rating in that regard in professional testing. Reviewed.com concurs, saying that based on an electricity rate of $.09 per kWh, the RH29H9000SR should cost just over $50 per year to run. That's not only excellent for a side-by-side (which are not typically energy efficient), but for any type of fridge.
If the Samsung RH29H9000SR is too much of a reach for your budget, the Whirlpool WRS325FDAM (Est. $1,200) is also worth considering. This 25.4 cu. ft. side-by-side comes in stainless steel, but is also offered in a variety of finish options. Those include the white Whirlpool WRS325FDAW (Est. $1,100), black Whirlpool WRS325FDAB (Est. $1,100), biscuit Whirlpool WRS325FDAT (Est. $1,100), and universal silver Whirlpool WRS325FDAD (Est. $1,200). Though the capacity is a little lower than the Samsung side-by-side above, the Whirlpool WRS325FDAM is nearly as large, at roughly 34.5 inches deep by 35.5 inches wide.
As far as performance, we found a split decision among experts concerning the Whirlpool. One independent testing organization gives it fairly low marks, but Reviewed.com likes the performance and loves the value, awarding it Editors' Choice and Best of the Year honors. User reviews say that the latter finding is closer to the mark and it earns better than 4-star ratings in thousands of reviews spread out among the different available colors.
That said, you can undoubtedly find better performing side-by-sides, albeit not at this price point. The freezer had a hard time getting as cold as is ideal using recommended settings in Reviewed.com's tests. But because the freezer and refrigerator have separate thermostats, you can set the freezer down to maximum coldness without adversely affecting the fridge, and all should be well. Some freezer temperature fluctuations are still noted, but well within the norm for "most other budget models." The performance of the refrigeration compartment is strong overall, and the crisper does its job admirably.
There aren't a ton of features, but you will find a through-the-door ice maker and water dispenser. The temperature controls are analog and located on the inside. The shelves aren't particularly adjustable, but seem well placed. Zahnzinger is impressed that the narrow freezer can accommodate a full-sized frozen pizza, albeit stored on its edge.
Elsewhere in this report: