If you’re in the market for a mini fridge, you’ve probably already realized that none of them can approach the quality and performance of a standard-sized refrigerator. That being said, mini fridges can have a wide range of applications—whether it’s to chill beer in your man-cave, stash bagged lunches in the office, or store White Castle burgers in your dorm room.
We’ve tested and reviewed four of the top-selling mini fridges, sold at some of the most popular big-box retailers around the country. The data is clear: The best all-around mini fridge is the Magic Chef MCBR415S ($239, sold at Home Depot).
The Magic Chef is Good for Dorm Rooms
When it comes to outfitting your student housing, you’re probably in the market for a versatile machine that performs well over time, since students tend to use their mini fridges for long-term storage more than, say, office workers. In that regard, the Magic Chef MCBR415S ($239) is the best option.
It’s spacious, offers a variety of storage compartments, and boasts some of the strongest moisture retention performance we've seen (even among standard-sized fridges) with an average moisture loss of just 0.12 grams per hour. This makes the MCBR415S ideal for storing fruit, vegetables and other perishables. We realize that most students aren’t huge on fruits and vegetables, but the presence of a freezer and can dispenser makes it an otherwise solid general-purpose fridge. It is worth noting, though, that it’s one of the worst-performing mini fridges when it comes to energy efficiency, with an average yearly operating cost of $27.11.
As a backup option for extremely cash-strapped students, the Haier HNSE045BB ($145, sold at Walmart) offers consistent long-term temperature performance and quick freezer chilling. Its design isn't great, with a tightly packed freezer unit and oddly spaced shelving. The temperature is also inconsistent within the fridge; we recorded roughly 5 degrees difference between the top and bottom. But hey, it's dirt cheap.
The Magic Chef is Good for the Office
Most employers won't sweat the $80 difference between the Magic Chef MCBR415S ($239) and our second-favorite mini-fridge, the Black & Decker BCD33B ($160, Sold at Walmart). Since price doesn't matter, the Magic Chef is the clear choice for an office environment. Workers just aren't as worried about long-term storage. They care if there's enough room among a dozen coworkers' lunches, and whether the darn thing will keep their food cold through the day. For this purpose, the Magic Chef MCBR415S is still your best bet, thanks to its high storage capacity, moisture retention, and temperature uniformity.
But if your boss is a cheapskate, the Black & Decker should be fine for most small offices. It offers less storage than the Magic Chef, but still enough for a several brown bags and plastic containers.
The Magic Chef is Good as a Back-up Fridge or Beer Cooler
The Magic Chef is also the best option as an all-around secondary fridge, as it offers both consistent performance and ample storage capacity. If you anticipate that you'll need to cool something more than beer bottles, it's an obvious choice.
But if your only concern is chilling a 30-pack of Natty Light, any of these units will do the trick. And if your bar is set that low, the most logical suggestion is to go with the cheapest of the four: the Haier HNSE045BB ($145). We wrestled with the idea of recommending the Danby DCR88BLDD ($278, sold at Sears) here, since it can fit the most beverages. But it's also the most expensive model we tested (though prices on these fridges fluctuate regularly), and since it's hamstrung by inconsistent temperatures and a tiny freezer compartment, it's tough to recommend under any circumstances.
Based on our scientific lab tests, here's how we rank the mini-fridges in this roundup (price is not a factor in these rankings).