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Top-freezer refrigerators

By: Kelly Burgess on March 05, 2018

Top-freezer fridges are the most reliable and least expensive

Although top-freezer refrigerators are enduringly popular with consumers, they tend to get a lot less love from experts and professional reviewers than other types. Mostly, that's because this type of fridge is thought to be less convenient to use, since you have to stoop to get to the main compartment, and they offer fewer organizational options. However, they also tend to be more reliable and less expensive. If you think that a different style of refrigerator might be a better fit for your needs, see our discussions of bottom-freezer refrigerators, side-by-side refrigerators, French-door refrigerators and counter-depth refrigerators elsewhere in this report. We also cover full-sized freezers in their own report, if you find you need more space for frozen goods than your refrigerator's freezer offers.

Among top-freezer models, the LG LTCS24223S (Est. $1,200) rises once again to the top for this update. It is tested and reviewed at Consumer Reports, Reviewed and CNET and earns recommendations from all three sites. It also gets very good feedback from owners.

We'll start with the biggest feature of the LG LTCS24223S -- its size -- because it's big. At 23.8 cubic feet, it's one of the largest top-freezer refrigerators around. And that can be a good thing, as Ry Crist points out in his review of the LTCS24223S for CNET, "At a price of $1,200, it's one of the biggest and fanciest top freezers you can buy at retail, and yet it still costs less than the cheapest, most feature-sparse French doors." (Also, we want to point out that you can often find this fridge on sale for around $1,000 or less, making it an even better value).

However, that big capacity results in a big footprint as well -- the LG LTCS24223S measures 33.38 inches deep by 68.5 inches high by 32.75 inches wide. While bigger families are very pleased to have that kind of space, a few say it looks odd in their kitchen because it sticks out so far into the living area. It also comes in four colors -- stainless steel, which we review here, and in white as the LG LTCS24223W (Est. $1,100), black as the LG LTCS24223B (Est. $1,100) and black stainless as the LG LTCS24223D (Est. $1,200).

Within the LG LTCS24223S's 23.8 cubic feet are 17.6 cubic feet of refrigerator space and 6.2 cubic feet of freezer space. The storage options are good, too. There aren't a lot of adjustments, but most say there's enough space to organize accordingly. That includes two full shelves, two crispers (with a full shelf on top) and two storage bins in the fridge door that can accommodate gallon-sized jugs. There's a butter compartment as well, but Crist, and a few users, note that it's too small to hold a tub of margarine. An icemaker is included and the freezer also has LED lighting on the interior that owners say is both helpful and attractive. However, Crist and others say that the freezer's contents can block the lights somewhat, making it difficult to see in the back.

As for performance, like all top-freezer models, the LG LTCS24223S gets lower scores for temperature accuracy and consistency than do other styles of refrigerators. At Consumer Reports it earns scores of Very Good for thermostat control and Good for temperature uniformity. In spite of that, the LTCS24223S earns a Recommended nod there. Both Crist at CNET and Kori Perten at Reviewed find the LG's freezer to be an average performer in hitting and maintaining temperatures, but say the refrigerator itself does well. In spite of the experts' reservations, we see very few complaints in that regard from users. A few say the freezer didn't seem cold enough so they solved the problem by just turning down the temperature.

If you like the LG LTCS24223S's features but would like an interior water dispenser, you might want to consider the very similar Kenmore 79433 (Est. $1,780). The 79433's design is based upon the LG LTCS24223S's. As Crist succinctly explains, "Kenmore doesn't manufacture its own appliances -- instead, it purchases existing models from its competitors, rebrands them, and sells them at Sears."

However, that doesn't mean there aren't some key differences between these two refrigerators. Although they're the same size, 23.8 cubic feet, the Kenmore offers a few more features, including dividers in the door shelves. As to whether or not it's a better performer overall, reviews are mixed. At Consumer Reports, it earns Good scores for thermostat control, Fair for temperature uniformity. But Reviewed and CNET both rank the 79432's refrigerator as a better performer across the board in hitting, maintaining and then re-adjusting to the correct temperature after the door was opened (the 79432 is the otherwise-identical white version of the 79433). At CNET, the freezer is also judged to be an above-average performer, temperature-wise, but at Reviewed, Perten had the same complaints about the 79432's freezer performance as she did with the LG LTCS24223S's -- too many temperature fluctuations and inaccuracies.

The stainless steel Kenmore 79433, as well as the other two color options, the white Kenmore 79432 (Est. $1,400), as noted above, and the black Kenmore 79439 (Est. $1,400) are popular with owners, too; although there are far fewer reviews, overall satisfaction is about the same. Users praise the versatile storage options and, as with the LG, the LED lights in the freezer are very popular as is the interior water dispenser.

So, all things being roughly equal, performance and satisfaction-wise, why did the LG LTCS24223S win the top spot over the more feature-rich Kenmore 79433? The deciding factor was the LG's better performance in testing at Consumer Reports, which seemed to back up Perten's findings. Also, both Crist and Perten are less than complimentary about the Kenmore's more traditional design, with protruding pull handles (instead of the flush pocket handles found on the LG) -- which owners say adds to the overall large profile of this fridge. The MSRP was a concern too (we use MSRP in our appliance reports): the LG LTCS24223S's MSRP is $1,200, the Kenmore 79433 (in comparable stainless steel) is $1,780. Of course, you can often find the 79433 on sale -- and it was on sale for less than $1,000 at the time this report was prepared. However, unless you find it on sale at or near that price, and/or really, really want a water dispenser, we judge the LG, overall, to be the better choice for most people.

If you don't need the absolute largest top-freezer refrigerator available, the 21 cubic foot Maytag MRT311FFFM (Est. $1,000) might be a better fit for your family, your kitchen and your budget than either of the behemoths above. At Consumer Reports, the MRT311FFFM earns Recommended status, with Very Good ratings for both temperature uniformity and thermostat control.

Although it's also a 33-inch wide fridge, like the LG and Kenmore models profiled above, its 30.63-inch depth might fit a little better in most kitchens, and like the LG, it features pocket handles instead of traditional pull handles for a sleeker, cleaner look. This is the monochromatic stainless steel version. It also comes in stainless as the Maytag MRT311FFFZ (Est. $1,050), black as the Maytag MRT311FFFE (Est. $900) and white as the Maytag MRT311FFFH (Est. $900).

Regardless of the color you opt for, this Maytag series is well-featured, with a popular PowerCold option that quickly brings the fridge down to the desired temperature if the door's been open for a while. The two shelves are adjustable -- to a point -- and the split produce bins are topped by another shelf. Additional shelving and storage spaces in the door accommodate gallon-sized jugs, butter and other small items. The freezer has one shelf and additional storage space in the door. There is no built-in icemaker, but the optional Whirlpool ECKMF95 Ice Maker Kit (Est. $100) is reported as easy to install.

Owners are largely complimentary about the Maytag MRT311FFFM, although most of the reviews we evaluated were collected as part of a promotion. Still, even with that incentive, no one who is unhappy seems shy about saying so, and the happy reviewers outweigh the unhappy by quite a bit. Many call out the LED lighting in the fridge and freezer as being both "cool" and useful. A few dislike the lack of traditional door handles, while others say the pocket handles give this fridge a sleek appearance.

The Samsung RT18M6215SG (Est. $950) very nearly made it to our top spot for this update. The only thing that kept it out was its relatively small size, only 17.6 cubic feet. As Cindy Bailen at Reviewed notes, "It isn't the right size fridge for a family with major food storage needs, but it could be a good choice for a smaller condo kitchen, a vacation home by the lake, or as a secondary refrigerator that resides in the basement or the garage."

Which is a shame, because Samsung RT18M6215SG does exceptionally well in testing, earning an overall score of 9.0 from Bailen, as well as Editors' Choice and Best of Year designations. At Consumer Reports the Samsung RT18M6215SG is Recommended, with Very Good scores for thermostat control, temperature uniformity, energy efficiency and noise. Ease of use is scored as Good. Owners like it as well, and, while there are fewer reviews overall than for the other refrigerators in this section, satisfaction is quite high. It's also worth noting that this fridge is relatively new to the market, having been introduced in 2017.

The most unusual feature of the Samsung RT18M6215SG is it's "FlexZone" technology that allows you to set the freezer to fridge mode, thus expanding your refrigerator storage. This may be handy if you're having a party, but be warned: you will lose your ice-making capability and you need to be sure to remove any frozen foods and put them in a separate freezer. (We cover standalone freezers in their own report.) Other than that, it's as simple as pushing a button for three seconds to make the switch.

Other features of the Samsung RT18M6215SG include a PowerCold setting to bring the freezer back up to temperature quickly, adjustable shelving, including a handy pantry shelf for oft-accessed items, LED lighting and the afore-mentioned ice maker. The RT18M6215SG also has a twin cooling design that the manufacturer claims keeps foods fresher longer, but Reviewed's testing shows it works no better than traditional designs.

Still, if you're looking for a refrigerator for a small space, small family, or as an extra for the garage, basement or rec room, the Samsung RT18M6215SG looks to be an excellent choice. It's also described as very attractive. The RT18M6215SG is black stainless, it also comes in stainless as the Samsung RT18M6215SR (Est. $850) and white as the Samsung RT18M6215WW (Est. $750).

If you need (or can get by with) an even smaller fridge, the GE GTE15CTHRWW (Est. $630) is a great value. This 14.6 cubic foot refrigerator earns raves for excellent performance, a very straightforward design and enough features for most people.

While this GE is just a solid, basic fridge, it has some nice features that are worth noting. Most popular is the fact that, in spite of its smaller footprint, the shelves in the door are designed to hold gallon-sized jugs. It also features the standard two-crisper design with a solid top for more storage, two adjustable wire shelves, and a single shelf in the freezer. It doesn't include an icemaker, but you can add the GE IM4D Icemaker Kit (Est. $90), which users say is very easy to do.

Where the GE GTE15CTHRWW really shines is in its temperature control performance. According to owners, it gets cold fast and stays that way, with little variation in temperature around the interior. At Consumer Reports, it's both Recommended and a Best Buy, with Very Good scores for thermostat control and temperature uniformity, just as good as many refrigerators costing quite a bit more. It also earns an Excellent score for energy efficiency, adding to its great value. It's estimated that this GE fridge will cost about $40 per year to run, and it is Energy Star qualified.

Owners also like the looks of the GE GTE15CTHRWW, which is white, but also comes in black as the GE GTE15CTHRBB (Est. $630) and bisque as the GE GTE15CTHRCC (Est. $630). We saw plenty of comments about the sleek attractive design and clean lines, something owners say fits well in their kitchen, without standing out.

One of the few complaints we saw about the GE GTE15CTHRWW is that it's too small for some families, but GE has that covered too, with the very similar, 17.5 cubic foot GE GTE18CTHWW (Est. $630). It has the same features, etc., as the GTE15CTHRWW, and comes in the same array of colors, plus a stainless-steel option.

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