As a whole, side-by-side models are the least reliable type of refrigerator. This is partly because nearly all of them have a through-the-door ice and water dispenser, which experts say is the single most problematic part of a fridge. Still, consumers with tight kitchens often like side-by-side units for their narrow doors, which require less clearance to swing open or closed. This configuration also offers more freezer space and lets homeowners place more commonly used items at eye level. Side-by-side refrigerators are less expensive than French-door types, but usually cost more than standard top-freezer refrigerators; most run between $900 and $1,600.
We found fewer recommendations for side-by-side refrigerators than for bottom-freezer and French-door types. Although many models did well in professional tests, none get really solid support from users. One fridge that scores fairly well with both experts and owners is the Samsung RS265TDWP (*Est. $1,340) . This 26-cubic-foot model is Energy Star-rated and features separate cooling units for the fridge and freezer, which helps maintain the moisture level in the refrigerator to keep produce fresher. Other features include LED lighting, digital controls, humidity-controlled crispers, glass shelves and an open-door alarm. It comes in standard white or in black as the RS265TDBP; the stainless-finish RS265TDRS costs an extra $100 or so, and the platinum-finish RS265TDPN is roughly $50 extra. All models have a one-year warranty for parts and labor, with the sealed system covered for an additional four years.
In professional tests, the Samsung RS265TDWP gets very good scores for temperature control and energy efficiency, and its noise level is extremely low. Users at BestBuy.com and Sears.com praise its looks, capacity and "whisper quiet" operation. However, quite a few complain about its ice maker, which breaks down frequently and tends to spill ice on the floor. Other owners say this fridge's lighting is inadequate and its shelves are unstable; one reports having a shelf come "crashing down" when the door was opened. Still, we saw fewer reliability complaints for this refrigerator than for other side-by-sides. In the J.D. Power and Associates annual appliance survey, Samsung refrigerators rate higher for overall satisfaction than most other brands, but it doesn't evaluate specific models.
The Frigidaire Gallery FGUS2632LP (*Est. $1,080) costs less than the Samsung above, but its reviews aren't quite as strong. It's also 26 cubic feet and is Energy Star-qualified, but it has few features beyond an electronic control panel and the through-the-door ice and water dispenser that's standard on side-by-side fridges. It's available in white or in black as the FGUS2632LE; the stainless-steel version is the FGUS2642LF (*Est. $1,260) .
Professional reviewers say the Frigidaire has excellent temperature control and very good efficiency, although it's much noisier than the Samsung model and has less usable space. We found only about 25 reviews for this refrigerator on retail sites, and they were a mixed bag. At Sears.com, owners say the FGUS2632LP is spacious and attractive, with large and well-lit produce bins. However, they also complain of operating noise and problems with the water system. A user at BestBuy.com describes an electrical malfunction that a repairman was unable to fix and claims that after a month, Frigidaire had "not made any effort to make this situation right." Problems like this may explain why Frigidaire refrigerators as a whole have one of the worst overall satisfaction ratings in the J.D. Power and Associates survey.
Another side-by-side worth considering is the GE GSH25JSCSS (*Est. $1,150) . Along with the filtered through-the-door water and ice dispenser, this 25.3-cubic-foot refrigerator has a nice array of features including temperature sensors, adjustable-humidity drawers, adjustable glass shelves and a stainless-steel exterior. It's also Energy Star-rated and has a one-year limited warranty. It performs extremely well in professional tests, earning high marks for temperature control, efficiency and meat-keeper performance. Yet few user reviews exist to back up these results. A handful of owners say at HomeDepot.com and AJMadison.com that this fridge offers plenty of space and is a good value, but even that small sample includes one report of a botched installation and another describing a mechanical failure in which "about five major parts stopped working all at once" after a few years. As a whole, GE side-by-side refrigerators are among the worst in terms of reliability, with nearly one in five requiring repairs in their first four years.