What every best Refrigerators has:
- A flexible layout.
- Convenient features.
- A well-lit interior.
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.
Topping the charts this year is the Samsung RH25H5611SR (Est. $1,885). It's the latest, and least expensive, model in Samsung's popular Food Showcase Series. What sets the Food Showcase models apart is the door-in-door design that allows you to open a glass front on the main refrigerator door to access frequently used items stored in the door, such as drinks, condiments or snacks, without heating up the entire fridge. Parents of kids love this feature, but some experts say they're not sure it it's necessary. Keep in mind, though, that these professional reviewers are primarily men who are testing in a kid-less environment.
Aside from that convenience, the Samsung RH25H5611SR gets high marks from experts for its terrific performance in reaching and consistently maintaining accurate temperatures. At Reviewed.com Matthew Zahnzinger says, " This Samsung side-by-side does almost everything right: Both compartments are nice and cool (aside from a warm spot down by the crisper), temperatures hold steady over time, and energy consumption is low." ConsumerReports.org agrees, giving the RH25H5611SR a Recommended nod and an Excellent for temperature control, Good for temperature uniformity. Ry Crist at CNET finds that this fridge performs even better than the pricier side-by-side model in this series, the Samsung RH29H9000SR (which we discuss in more detail below).
We saw no real complaints related to temperature issues from owners; in fact, we saw surprisingly few complaints regarding the Samsung RH25H5611SR at all. A few say the water dispenser drips or leaks when not in use -- or continues to dispense even when you pull the glass away -- and others say the icemaker is noisy, but none ding the fridge for these small quibbles. As with all refrigerators, we did notice a few durability complaints; doors not fitting properly, the freezer failing, etc., but not enough to concern us.
One caveat that's common with all side-by-side refrigerators: storage is not always intuitive. This is less of a problem with the Samsung RH25H5611SR than with smaller side-by-sides, simply because it's bigger so there's more room, but, even so, it can be difficult to impossible to store wide items like pizza boxes, or to be able to group taller condiments with shorter ones (think tall ketchup bottles and short mustard containers). Still, those are issues that owners seem to be able to work around just fine.
In addition to the icemaker, water dispenser, digital controls and door-in-door styling, owners particularly love the LED lighting, which they say gives Samsung RH25H5611SR a very space-age vibe. And, while the expert reviewers say its appearance is pretty basic, owners like it a lot, and say it looks great in their kitchen. The RH25H5611SR is stainless-steel, but it also comes in white as the Samsung RH25H5611WW (Est. $1,890), black as the Samsung RH25H5611BC (Est. $1,890) and black stainless as the Samsung RH25H5611BC (Est. $2,000).
Our former Best Reviewed side-by-side refrigerator is the Samsung RH29H9000SR (Est. $2,670), the bigger, higher-end, more expensive sibling to the Samsung RH25H5611SR. It's a runner up now only because the RH25H5611SR did better in recent rounds of testing. Still, if you need a big side-by-side fridge, love the door-in-door design, and want something that looks really high-end, we can certainly still recommend the RH29H9000SR.
When it was tested by Reviewed.com in 2014, Zahnzinger awarded the Samsung RH29H9000SR both Editors' Choice and Best of the Year honors, calling it "A fridge worthy of the hype." Owner feedback is strong too, with users praising the Samsung's features and performance.
Like its smaller sibling, the Samsung RH29H9000SR features Samsung's dual door "Showcase" design, but there are some other noteworthy features on the RH29H9000SR as well. 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.
With a capacity of 28.5 cubic feet, 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. $1,300) 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. $1,200), black Whirlpool WRS325FDAB (Est. $1,200), biscuit Whirlpool WRS325FDAT (Est. $1,200), 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's cabinet 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. ConsumerReports.org gives it fairly low marks, but Reviewed.com likes the performance and loves the value, awarding it Best of Year honors. Users tend to agree with Reviewed.com's findings, and it earns well above average ratings in thousands of reviews spread out among the different available colors.
One glitch with freezer performance on the Whirlpool WRS325FDAM has an easy fix: it 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.