Fisher & Paykel E522BRX Review
The E522BRX may be on the expensive side, but it include a number of features usually only found on larger models.
Counter-depth fridges are a great fit for some kitchens. As the name suggests, they sit flush to cabinetry, freeing up floor space and mimicking the sleek look of a built-in model. The drawback is that most counter-depth fridges increase in price while shrinking in size. For example, the New Zealand-designed Fisher & Paykel E522BRX has an MSRP of $1,609. That's about $400 more than most standard-depth bottom-freezers.
In this case, though, excellent performance, sleek design, and high-end features make that higher cost totally worth it—as long as you're willing to sacrifice a little on space. What disappointed us, however, was the ineffectiveness of Fisher & Paykel's unique "solutions" to problems that other manufacturers eliminated years ago. A water filter and moisture drawer that look like they were jury-rigged by someone's handyman brother-in-law really do detract from this otherwise solid appliance.
Design & Usability
A fridge that takes a traditional layout and modifies it into a sleek, exotic look
This 17.3 cubic foot bottom freezer has a stainless steel finish, unusually slim handles, and a control panel paired with a through-the-door water dispenser (a similar model is available without the dispenser). The surface isn't as bright as some stainless finishes we've seen, but it hides fingerprints well. Be sure you order it with the hinge and handles in the right place, as the door isn't reversible.
The interior of the Fisher & Paykel’s fridge may not be as cavernous as a standard-depth fridge, but it's well proportioned. It's broken up into four full-width shelves, as well as a pull-out rack with two buckets in lieu of more standardized crisper drawers. As an additional perk, it also comes with a removable bottle rack, as well as some removable egg tray inserts for door storage. Unlike many bottom freezers that utilize a pull-out drawer, the Fisher & Paykel's lower section opens on a hinge just like the fridge. At the top is a very shallow tray that's just deep enough to hold an ice cube tray, which is included with the fridge.
The exterior control panel uses a series of buttons that correspond to odd icons on an illuminated panel. We found it less than intuitive, though once you remember which buttons cycle through the various functions and which ones actually change them, you should be fine. Be sure to read the user’s manual, though—some of the more unique features, such as the Bottle Chiller and the Super Freeze, may not be self-explanatory based on icons alone.
The smooth, clean design makes for an accessible appliance, but a few small kinks keep this fridge from earning a perfect score.
The wide-open shelves offer ample storage space that's relatively easy to access, no matter where you put your food. The pull-out tray for the crisper drawer slides smoothly, though having to open the entire thing to get to just one compartment seems inefficient in regard to minimizing moisture loss. The freezer drawers aren’t quite as smooth-sliding as the crisper, while the ice tray comes out so easily you may accidentally pull it clear out of the freezer. Luckily, the large buckets and easy-to-grip handles make up for those small flaws.
The water dispenser is only a small indentation on the front of the fridge, and is operated using a paddle that feels cheap and unresponsive compared to the larger, sturdier designs found on dual water and ice dispensers. It also means you definitely won’t be able to rest your glass while filling it. As unusual as the dispenser is, the water filter is actually one of this refrigerator’s more bizarre design features: It hangs loose outside of the machine, in line with the hose.
This F&P does come with an ice maker, which is located in the rear upper-left corner of the freezer compartment. It’s hard to see, and even harder to get to. Fortunately, direct access isn't required—the ice maker is controlled using the control panel, and it only dispenses bulk quantities of cubed ice, which you've got to scoop out yourself.
Finally, some cool features: A "Bottle Chiller" button sets a timer to let you know when to take that beer out of the freezer before it explodes, and Super Freeze uses all the freezer's powers to bring down temperatures rapidly. Like many higher-end fridges, this one "learns" when you open and close the door, adjusting defrost and cooling cycles accordingly—a feature that Fisher & Paykel calls Active Smart.
Despite some temperature discrepancies and mediocre crisper performance, the freezer really manages to shine.
The Fisher & Paykel's fridge cavity maintains a very consistent temperature over time, but suffers from minor temperature shift the lower you get. The middle was spot on at 37ºF, with the top running a bit cooler and the bottom running a bit warmer. With this in mind, you can make accommodations by storing food that’s more perishable at the top of the fridge, with fruits and veggies at the bottom.
The freezer also remained very consistent over time, and provided nearly perfect temperatures throughout the entire compartment. The internal defrost cycle did send the temperature up a few degrees, but not enough to make a huge difference.
Unfortunately, the crisper drawers in the fridge don't retain as much moisture as we would have liked. Many standard fridges have two drawers, independent of each other, that can be opened or closed individually. While the two nonidentical buckets in this fridge have their own unusual humidity controls—a floating plastic "flap" on top that angles upwards to let moisture out—they rest in a full-width pull-out drawer. This means every time you want to get into one, you have to get into both. While this rolling tray allows for easy access and even easier cleaning, it doesn’t result in fantastic moisture retention.
A counter-depth fridge with performance on par with full-sized models.
For a counter-depth fridge, the Fisher & Paykel E522BRX is a great performer with an even better price. Though its $1,609 MSRP is still significantly higher than a standard-depth bottom freezer, other counter-depths can cost thousands more. We did manage to find some on sale for $1,400—not a huge price break—but it's one of the lowest prices out there for a fridge that sits flush to cabinetry.
Our complaints have to do with Fisher & Paykel's insistence on using proprietary designs that don't work as well as industry standards. For instance, the sliding shelf with plastic-topped buckets, which is supposedly a crisper drawer, or the in-line water filter that hangs lifelessly behind the machine.
The E522BRX is a unique fridge that's great for smaller, high-end kitchens. We're glad that Fisher & Paykel brought it to the US, as there aren't any other appliances like it here. We only wish they'd made it a bit more conventional.
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