After getting a little teaser at the Samsung press conference earlier in the week, we finally had a chance to get our hands on the Food ShowCase refrigerator out on the showroom floor. This new side-by-side appliance boasts some pretty significant design changes, blending door-in-door accessibility with completely revamped and reorganized door storage.
Happy Families through Easy-Access Food
At the press conference earlier in the week, BK Yoon—Samsung's President of Consumer Electronics—explained that there was a key goal designers had in mind when crafting the ShowCase's design: "No more chaos, and a happier home." The concept behind this is that consumers tend to cram their fridges full of food that's easy to lose track of, and that door shelves are thought of as secondary storage for anything from condiments to loose bags of leftovers: essentially, items that aren't used often or will eventually be thrown away.
The Food ShowCase looks to change that by trying to make food storage more sensible and family friendly. The main fridge compartment hasn't really changed: You've still got your traditional arrangement of shelves and drawers, a familiar layout that anyone who has looked into a side-by-side fridge will be familiar with.
It's the door that makes this fridge unusual. If you read our review of the LG LFX31945ST, you're already familiar with the door-in-door concept. For those of you who haven't, it more or less boils down to a fridge door that can be opened twice: open the outer portion (the ShowCase door) to get at smaller shelves for quick access to frequently-used items, or open the full door (the InCase door) to get at the bulk of the fridge's storage space. The ShowCase applies the door-in-door approach to the entire fresh food compartment, sporting multiple drawers each with the designated label.
The labels are meant to break down food storage based on family need. At the top, you've got the sauce and cheese drawers, meant to store that adults might use for cooking. In the middle is a drink case and a snack case, mid-height access for all members of the family. Right at the bottom is the kids drawer, perfectly situated for the littlest member of the household, as well as a multi-bin for all-purpose items. It's not perfect, and relies heavily on consumer shopping that fits within certain patterns—this won't necessarily work as well for folks that don't cook a lot, or consumers without children. That said, for its target demographic, it makes a surprising amount of sense and could have a major impact on the fairly stagnant world of fridge design.
You may be wondering how all of this impacts the freezer. Well, folks, the answer is: It doesn't. The freezer is just the same as ever.
Yes, but does it work?
While we'll have to wait until we get a model into our labs to comment on actual performance, we can say now that the European model found at IFA felt absolutely fantastic. The doors open and shut with surprising fluidity—no grunting or slamming required—though it takes some time to get used to opening the outer fridge door.
Unlike the LG we tested, which had a button release for the door-in-door portion, the Samsung just has you push on a part of the door frame. Recessed handles are easy to grip, and fall more or less halfway between traditional extruding handles and the handle-free kitchen trend we've been seeing at IFA this year.
Drawers slide with all the smoothness you'd expect from a high-end appliance. Even the fridge shelves, which act as drawers when you're using the outer ShowCase door, slide in and out with ease. We really didn't have any issue with this fridge in terms of usability—a good start for a new product.
The controls on this model are very basic, but in an interview with Kevin Dexter, Senior VP of Sales & Marketing for Samsung, it was explained to us that the model being sent to the US is going to be somewhat different from this one. The folks at Samsung know we here on the other side of the pond like our ice and water dispensers, so we're going to get a version of the ShowCase that has those features built in. It'll mean a different control panel, and as such, a different interactive user experience.
As far as aesthetics go, the Food ShowCase was definitely not the most attractive fridge at IFA. (But really, how can you compete with a rainbow of colorful retro fridges, or one with a faux-granite finish?) The stainless finish on the show floor model was still quite sleek, and also incredibly reflective.
In fact, the fridge door interior is also made of metal. While it certainly does make for a nice visual impact—we've seen more than our share of fridges that look great on the outside and cheap on the inside—it apparently has a practical application, too. The door interior is supposed to help keep the fridge cold, since the metal retains the chill found in the air. Again, this is something we'll have to judge for ourselves when we can run some energy tests; Metal Cooling could turn out to be nothing more than market-speak or it could actually have an impact on performance. Regardless of performance, we do know it looks pretty darn good.
Coming to a retailer near you.
Samsung is one of the few companies at IFA that has an equally strong presence in both Europe and the US, which means Bosch products that we see here in Germany might actually make it stateside. That was the case with the Samsung T9000 last year, and apparently that's going to be the case with the Food Showcase, too. Dexter informed us that the Americanized version should hit our stores in the first quarter of 2014—surprisingly soon, given the recent reveal—but he couldn't give us a price point. We'd be pretty surprised if this weren't another multi-thousand dollar product, though; true, it's a fridge geared for a full household (which these days is likely to mean more than one income) but you should still be prepared for some sticker shock.