Smart refrigerators have been gradually becoming part of the ever-growing list of appliances and devices under the Internet of Things (IoT). Convenience is, as usual, the central theme, and smart fridges are typically advertised to offer other things that you never thought you needed in the kitchen or dining table.
The most instantly noticeable feature of a smart fridge, (or any smart device for that matter) is its network connectivity. This is important to note in a refrigerator since network connectivity often comes with monitoring and adjustment features. and a fridge would most likely make use of it more often than let’s say, your smart rice cooker. Interfacing is usually available via an app, although lesser “smart” models may opt for a more traditional external panel design.
For the most part, smart fridges work like an average fridge. So, basic tips for buying any kind of refrigerator still applies. However, the convenience features that some smart fridge models could bring can actually integrate differently depending on how they are implemented. Remember, a good smart fridge does not only have a balanced set of connectivity-related features, but it also integrates these features well to how the fridges are used for that particular environment.
As we will see in this list, smart fridges are more than just “fridges that talk to the internet”.
1.) Kenmore 75043 [star rating=”3.5″]
As far as practicality goes in refrigerators, Kenmore always does what it does best. A spacious water and ice dispenser that can accommodate even pitchers and water bottles, a convenient French door assembly with the inefficient door-in-door gimmick, adjustable and/or removable shelves, and great LED illumination to view those would-be forgotten corners.
Temperature flow wise, the Kenmore 75043 performs as expected, with variation levels not getting higher than 38.2 to 39.0 degrees throughout. The bottom freezer segregates items into three different shelves, making frozen foods just a little bit easier to access.
As a smart fridge, it is capable of integrating with your Alexa virtual assistant. You can use voice commands to tweak and adjust any of its settings or operate any of its other features such as the dispenser. Furthermore, Kenmore’s smartphone app makes things even more convenient, with all of the adjustment settings available in just a single view menu, with tiny notifications to tell what exactly is up with the fridge.
- Overall layout provides plenty of space with variable adjustability.
- Extra large dispenser can be used to fill almost any type and kind of liquid container.
- Smart integration is very simple, almost subtle, and non-obtrusive.
- Setting up can be a bit of a hassle.
- Side doors can look deceptively small (Be sure to provide ample space for the fridge).
2.) GE PFE28PBLTS [star rating=”3″]
The GE PFE28PBLTS is a spacious 27.8 cubic feet refrigerator that is very much designed in the same way as the Kenmore 75043. This time, however, instead of a big ice dispenser, users are provided with an integrated water dispenser that has a built-in Keurig K-cup Brewing System, a very much convenient feature to anyone who likes a hot cup of perfectly brewed coffee at any time. In addition, it can also provide hot water as per user settings, potentially maximizing its energy use for whenever hot water would actually be needed.
Smart integration options include Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT. The smartphone app isn’t specially designed for any specific function, but works enough as intended as a monitoring tool and remote control. Take note that it may take a bit more time for the refrigerator to be recognized by your devices than other smart fridge models.
- Amazing temperature control in the form of versatile multi-function hot and cold dispensers.
- Built-in Keurig brewing system can potentially save a lot of countertop space.
- A lot more spacious than it looks.
- Device integration can be time-consuming (compared to other models)
3.) Kenmore 75049 [star rating=”3.5″]
The Kenmore 75049 an alternate version of the 75043. However, it can also be considered a step up from the aforementioned model. It has the same 24 cubic feet of space, has the familiar big water dispenser, and the layout and form factor is also very similar. However, it differs due to one factor: its layout is a bit more flexible overall.
On the bonus side, the Kenmore 75049 also has this clean black finish. Not too shiny, and unlike the stain-prone (pun intended) stainless steel 75043, the 75049 would definitely hold out pretty well for a quite some time before it requires wiping.
As for specs, you can refer directly to the 75043, as it bears similar features, including its iconic Alexa integration enhancements.
- Easier to maintain than the 75043.
- Its balanced layout makes it easier to position.
- Like the 75043, smart integration is simple and unobtrusive.
- Doors can also look deceptively small.
5.) Samsung RF22K9581SG (Family Hub 1.0) [star rating=”2.5″]
When it comes to stacking the most features per cubic feet of space, the Samsung Family Hub takes the virtual cake. Immediately noticeable is the 21.5-inch touchscreen tablet, which interfaces using Samsung’s own Tizen OS. The OS has a built-in suite of apps that help optimize anything that you want to do in the kitchen or dining table.
Aside from the standard fanfare of food management apps like grocery and delivery services, writing boards and recipe guides, the Samsung Family Hub 2.0 also has a camera. Yes, a camera. The idea of snapping photos of your food might sound ridiculous at first, but it actually is quite convenient. One, you don’t have to inadvertently let heat inside as you check on your stuff, and two, you can check the contents of your fridge on your smartphone anytime, anywhere. In addition, it also has other nifty features such as placing markers on your food or listing them, to put labels or expiration dates that countdown in real time.
The fridge itself is quite standard. Opening the French door assembly reveals 16.2 cubic feet of space with all the adjustable shelves drawers you would expect. The 8 cubic feet freezer has at least two separate compartments, so you can pull up the upper drawer for other stuff. There is a separate area in the freezer drawer called the Flex zone, where you can put items and set its temperature separate from the rest of the refrigerator.
- Has a wide range of connectivity options.
- Very precise temperature control. Even has extra space specifically for that purpose.
- App syncing features makes food storage an almost calculative exercise.
- Significantly more expensive than other smart fridges.
- Software updates only last for a couple of years.
4.) Samsung Family Hub 2.0 [star rating=”2.5″]
Samsung introduced a major upgrade for its Family Hub smart refrigerator with its second iteration. Newer OS version, updated features, and new options make this one the newest (and priciest) kid on the block.
As introduced by the Family Hub 1.0 most of its smart features are focused on its 21.5-inch capacitive touchscreen tablet. Entertainment apps, delivery options, saved recipe guides, and the ever-convenient-but-still-weird interior camera.
The Family Hub 2.0 introduces its newest feature, Bixby integration. Yes, Samsung’s very own virtual assistant is now available for this smart fridge. Unlike the Kenmore fridges mentioned earlier which integrate with an existing Alexa unit, Bixby is directly installed within the unit. Voice commands can be given directly, albeit still with the same limitations as the original Bixby box itself.
Oh, and yes, this thing is also a fridge by the way.
- Bixby integrations make its use a wee bit easier.
- Connectivity options are superb as always.
- Directly connects to Samsung’s SmartThings system.
- Still very expensive.
- Some entertainment features may be a bit too unnecessary.
Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Smart Refrigerators
The most widely criticized factor in smart refrigerators is the fact that most, sometimes even all, of its so-called “smart” features are either unnecessary or outright disruptive to the actual purpose of a refrigerator. However, with the correct smart refrigerator model users can realize how integrated its functions can actually be to kitchen and dining room use.
The key is subtlety. If it is a feature that you can do and forget about, or do as a mindless routine, then it is a smart feature worth keeping in the kitchen.
In fact, as a smart version of a widely used basic home appliance, smart fridges could actually have the potential to become a standard in the near future. That is, so long as more and more devices become part of the ever-growing family of connected products.
What are the benefits?
With a good smart refrigerator, the entire household can benefit from its features. Maybe not all of its features for every member, but someone in need of food and drink will occasionally use some of a smart refrigerators features. As for its benefits, smart refrigerators are superior in practical terms compared to a normal one due to:
- High-level information – Knowing what’s in and out of your fridge at a technical, almost ridiculously calculative level is something you can only do on a smart refrigerator.
- Remote control – more than just turning it on or off, or setting its thermostat, smart refrigerators could tweak and adjust many different settings at a remote distance.
- Maintenance – not just unit maintenance, but food maintenance. Information about expiration dates, and even the existence of some well-hidden foodstuffs as well.
- Optimization – potentially save energy that can be instead allocated to any of the three previously mentioned benefits.
- Device Safety – Depending on the model, you might not have to bring your tablet near the cutting board anymore.
- Synchronization – create grocery lists and let your smart fridge know them, or “schematically” coordinate contents for every member of the family
There are also a number of specific minor benefits, such as post-its now taking the form of digital “leave-it” messages, or recipes that can be tailored exactly to the contents of the fridge. There are even delivery apps on more sophisticated models to bring the food to the user directly.
What to look for?
At the moment, there are currently very few smart fridges in the market, so choice isn’t exactly a luxury. At the very least however, you’d want to actively look for these supportive features, characteristics, and options for your smart refrigerator before any other gimmick:
- Voice integration – this is part of the remote access feature that you would typically see in a smart fridge. Incidentally, this is also the easiest to use, and the easiest to see as the most convenient.
- Precise control – Ideally, remote adjustment features should not have simple 1-2-3 settings. Your smart fridge app, for example, should have much more accurate control for tweaking and adjustment.
- Preset control – there should also be the option to save these accurately tweaked modes, or provide a variety of setting options that are nearest to what can be needed for your fridge.
- Non-intrusive notifications – the notifications should be subtle, and preferably won’t set off huge alarms, like when let’s say, your fridge was left open by a household member.
- Relevant information – your smart fridge of choice should provide information that can be easily used or can be directly applied. For example, expiration dates, or item placements.
What to avoid?
Smart fridges are, by inherent design, very prone to have bloated features. After all, they provide so much more information than what your “dumb” fridges can usually give. As a rule of thumb, entertainment features should be kept to a minimum, and any feature that is not directly related to the fridge or its contents should be considered as secondary options. If you think a feature would not be used as often, evaluate. If the entire package doesn’t add up to its price, another model might be a better option.
That, or saving up your budget for a future upcoming smart fridge.
1.) Will my access interface (Wi-Fi connection, tablet display, etc.) last as long as the fridge itself?
- If it is integrated as a control feature, then it is more likely to last. That being said, there is no currently predicted service lifespan for more sophisticated access interfaces (such as a full-tablet display), as even the currently used capacitive touchscreen tablet technology is still yet to be a decade old.
2.) Won’t my smart fridge be hacked and its features compromised?
- That is not a problem that should be directly addressed to an end-point device. Security issues are first and foremost, the concern of the network itself (systems, standards, protocols, encryption type, etc.), not the devices connected to it.
3.) Would repairing smart refrigerators be more expensive?
- Yes an no. Yes, because potentially more hardware will need repairs than an ordinary fridge. No, because the likelihood that a breakdown happens usually falls either when it is still under-warranty (in this case the item is faulty), or relatively late into its service cycle (when the device had already served the terms of its purchase).
4.) Should I buy a new model if a more updated version comes out?
- No. Constantly firmware updates ensure that your smart fridge systems are always at it latest. It could, however, be a different case if the newer models are to feature some shiny new convenience gimmick not available on previous iterations.
Not Just a Toy?
The smart refrigerator market is very much still in its infancy, despite having a number of product lineups over the last few years. But even as consumers continue to be skeptical of its practicality, companies continue to produce more and more models. In the future, we are bound to see newer ideas and better applications to smart fridges, though hopefully prices should begin falling down at that point.