the best mini fridge
If you need
to chill food in a dorm room or RV, stock cool drinks in the wet bar or a
basement rec room, or find a way for teens to keep their food away from nosey
siblings, you might want to consider a mini fridge. The compact appliances are
small enough to slip into places where a full-size fridge couldn't possibly
fit, and many also have tiny freezer compartments that can hold ice for your
wet bar or, in a few cases, have room for frozen pizzas.
fridges aren't known for their stellar freezing performance, though, and cold
air leaking out of the freezer compartment can sometimes damage delicate foods.
Many also don't have the ability to keep frozen foods at a safe temperature. In
general, it's best to focus on letting that mini fridge do its one job -- keep
unfrozen foods cool -- or to purchase a small fridge that has a separate door
for the freezer compartment. That means the freezer is isolated from the fridge
and better insulated overall, so your frozen items stay frozen and chilled
foods aren't damaged by leaking cold air.
also purchase mini fridges that don't have a freezer compartment at all, which
maximizes your refrigerator space and eliminates the worry about cold air going
places it doesn't belong. If you really need extra freezing capacity, you're
usually best served by purchasing a dedicated stand-alone freezer; we recommend the top choices in all sizes in a separate
use mini fridges to store wine or champagne, but if you are serious about fine
wine, you should consider getting a wine cooler instead. And, of course, a mini fridge can't replace a full sized refrigerator, so if your big fridge is on the
fritz, head over to our latest edition of that report for some great
right cooling system for your mini fridge
mini fridges use compressors to regulate temperature, just like full-size
refrigerators do. Cheaper models rely on thermoelectric (Peltier) coolers,
which use electrical currents to produce their cooling effect. Generally
speaking, mini fridges that use thermoelectric cooling are sufficient for
chilling drinks, but little else. They cannot maintain temperatures below 40
degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's threshold for safe
important to know which type of cooling system a given fridge has before you
purchase, especially if you plan to store food in it. Most thermoelectric mini
fridges are identified as such on their packaging. (They may also be described
as "superconductor" refrigerators.) If you're not sure, check the
product specs: If they state that the unit cools a certain number of degrees
below ambient temperature, or that it must be unplugged intermittently, it's a
thermoelectric style fridge. All of the models in this report use compressors.
maintains the top spot in this year's mini fridge reviews
well-known manufacturers of large refrigerators produce compact models, too;
but they don't always perform well. In fact, little-known manufacturer Danby
has done very well in this report for a couple of years running. However, the
top spot for a larger (though still compact) fridge in this year's report goes
to a model from a well-known manufacturer: the 4.5-cubic foot,
Energy-Star-rated Frigidaire FFPS4533QM (Est. $330).
are well earned. This Frigidaire does a great job of balancing every aspect
that users value in their mini fridges: It's reasonably compact, quiet enough
to operate in enclosed spaces and, most important of all, it keeps your food
consistently cold. Users say temperature adjustments (between 32 and 50
degrees) are easy, and they love having a second, separate door for the
full-width freezer compartment.
the freezer compartment, the Frigidaire FFPS4533QM's compartment is large
enough to have a single, adjustable shelf in it -- and the fact that it's
completely separate from the refrigerator compartment means you don't have to
worry about items placed on the top shelf of the fridge suffering freezer burn
or other damage from cold air leaking out of an in-fridge freezer compartment.
This is the
only model we evaluated that performed well at both refrigeration and freezing,
and users love its auto-defrost function -- not a terribly common feature on
mini fridges. The main refrigeration compartment has two adjustable glass
shelves, an enclosed crisper bin to keep produce fresh, storage for cans and
tall bottles in the door, and interior lighting. One user says there's enough
space to store a week's worth of groceries in the refrigeration compartment.
its excellent chilling and freezing performance, this mini fridge can do
anything: holding food in a dorm room or teenager's room, stocking ice and cold
drinks for a wet bar, or even functioning as a standalone fridge for a small
rental unit. The only real criticisms we found of the Frigidaire FFTPS4533QM
are some mixed reviews of its durability. The manufacturer estimates that it
uses 259 kWh/year, and it's backed by a limited one-year warranty.
Frigidaire FFTPS4533QM is an excellent value. But if you're on a stricter
budget, we like the 4.4-cubic-foot (Est. $150). It's Energy Star rated, with an
estimated energy consumption of 226 kWh/year, and similar internal storage:
Three glass shelves (two that adjust), plus storage for cans and tall bottles
in the door. That storage design is a big part of why this mini fridge won a
top pick from TheSweetHome.com after hands-on testing.
DCR044A2WDD also has a small full-width freezer compartment but, because that
freezer compartment doesn't have its own door, it shares air space with the
rest of the refrigerator. As expected, users say this little unit has trouble
keeping ice cream hard-frozen, and cold air leaking out can freeze produce
that's placed on the top shelf. There's an open cavity meant for produce in the
very bottom of the fridge, but it doesn't actually have a produce bin. Users
also note the lack of an interior light.
said, the Danby DCR044A2WDD does pretty well where it matters the most -- the
actual refrigeration -- as long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions
carefully. You should plug the Danby in for 24 hours before filling it with
food, and leave several inches of air space to the sides and back. If you do
this, users say this mini fridge runs fairly quietly and does a pretty good job
of keeping your drinks or food chilled. In fact, the magnetic door seals so
tightly that you might have to put a paper clip in the seal to make it easier
just mixed enough, however, that if you're planning to store raw meat or other
food that must be maintained at less than 40 degrees, you should plan on
investing in a refrigerator thermometer to verify that the thermostat is
actually doing its job (its temperature range is supposed to be 32 to 50
degrees). Also, although the Danby DCR044A2WDD is backed by an eighteen-month
warranty, users say customer service usually offers refund checks instead of
repairing or replacing the unit.
biggest concern is making the most of limited space, another excellent mini
fridge is the 5.6-cubic-foot, Energy-Star-rated GE GCE06GGHWW Compact Refrigerator (Est. $360).
It has the standard mini fridge organization (two adjustable glass shelves plus
a clear crisper drawer, door shelves and a can rack) plus interior lighting and
a small, full-width freezer compartment. This version is white, but it also
comes in stainless steel as the GE GCE06GSHSB Compact Refrigerator (Est. $380).
the GE mini fridge is very quiet and it can be used as a freestanding appliance
or built in to the under-counter space meant for a dishwasher. It does a great
job of keeping food and drinks cool, although once fully loaded it takes a
while to get back down to its ideal operating temperature.
Danby DCR044A2WDD, the GE GCE06GGHWW's
freezer compartment shares airspace with the refrigeration compartment, so it
struggles to freeze full-size ice cubes (although the smaller ice cube trays it
come with are said to work pretty well). Users are also put off by the need to
manually defrost the freezer compartment every few months; those two
characteristics are enough to keep the GE from displacing the Frigidaire
FFPS4533QM from its top spot. Still, when it comes to maximizing storage, the GE's
5.6-cubic-foot capacity is hard to beat. It's covered by a one-year limited
mini fridges are the smallest available
smallest mini fridges (sometimes called cube fridges) are good for keeping
beverages cool and sometimes storing a small lunch, but not much else. Many of
these models are small enough to fit under a desk and inexpensive, but they
also tend to be made of cheap components that leave them inefficient and
exception to this field is the Energy-Star-rated 2.6-cubic-foot (Est. $140), which has three adjustable
glass shelves, a can rack, and a door shelf that'll hold one tall bottle. Users
say this mini fridge does a good job of keeping things cool, and because it has
no freezer compartment, there's more room for storing food and drinking inside.
(An auto defrost function takes care of any ice that might build up.) It's also
relatively quiet, most say.
delicate items like lettuce may freeze if you put them toward the back of the
fridge, where it tends to be cooler, and the lack of air circulation means you
can get a lot of temperature variation when it's fully loaded. Upsizing your
Danby DAR026A1BDD by just a little bit can help; the extra room allows better
air circulation, which in turn helps maintain consistent temperatures. You can
get the same fridge in several larger capacities: 3.1 cubic feet, 3.2 cubic
feet, 3.3 cubic feet and 4.4 cubic feet, many of which eschew freezer
compartments in order to offer you the most refrigerator space possible. It
even comes in a tiny 1.7 cubic foot model. This fridge is also available in
several bold colors -- red, black, white and stainless steel -- and you can get
the 3.2 cubic foot fridge in a patriotic, Budweiser-branded version emblazoned
with red, white and blue elements from the American flag.
DAR026A1BDD is backed by the company's 18-month warranty, although you'd have
to transport it to the repair shop -- but owners say the company is more likely
to issue a refund than pay for repairs. Like larger Danby fridges, this unit is
meant for freestanding use only -- it needs at least five inches of open space
on the back for air circulation, and a couple inches on the sides.
compartments on tiny, cube-shaped mini fridges are typically even worse than on
large mini fridges, if only because there's less space for storing your
delicate produce or drinks away from the freezing compartment. If you must have
a freezer compartment for storing ice, though, the (Est. $90) offers a half-width compartment that still leaves room
for a tall bottle on one side of the fridge compartment. Its door basket is
large enough to hold a 2-liter pop bottle, too, and the wire shelves slide out
for easy access. On the downside, users say it's too loud for use in living
areas (put it in the garage instead). It's also not particularly energy
efficient, and not terribly durable either -- so if you can, you should go for
the Danby model or, even better, a larger compact fridge.
1.6-cubic-foot (Est. $100) also has a half-width freezer compartment, and this cube-shaped
mini fridge gets a nod from TheSweetHome.com after hands-on testing. "It's
a fine spot to store your lunch for a day or two," writes author Tyler
Wells Lynch, noting that this tiny model is also surprisingly spacious given
its small footprint.
we also found a number of user concerns about this model's noise and
durability. Some complain that it died after just three or four months of use,
and even Lynch waxes lukewarm about mini fridges in this size range, noting
that there's not much variability between them. If you do buy the WHS-65L,
register your warranty as soon as you receive the product. If you don't do so within
two weeks, you lose your shot at the one-year limited warranty -- and if you do
send the fridge in for servicing, you'll have to pay to ship it to the
manufacturer. At this price range,
you might be better off just buying another mini fridge or, better yet, saving
up to go for a slightly larger and more reliable model like our best-reviewed Frigidaire
Expert & User Review Sources
recent multiproduct tests of compact refrigerators come from ConsumerReports.org and TheSweethome.com. Because mini fridges have such a poor reputation
for performance, we also leaned heavily on user feedback from sites like Lowes.com, HomeDepot.com, AJMadison.com, BestBuy.com, ABT.com, and of
courseAmazon.comto evaluate how compact
fridges operate in real-world conditions.