Smart refrigerators are an emerging category of appliances that are connected to the internet, and can perform such tasks as sending you an alert when the door has been left open, or if you're running low on ice.
There are relatively few smart refrigerators, but two of the most teched-out models are LG's Instaview and Samsung's Family Hub. Each has a panel in one of their doors that allows for special functions, such as seeing what's inside (without opening the door), viewing family members' calendars and sending and receiving notes.
But the Instaview and Family Hub fridges are more than just their displays, which is why they're some of the best refrigerators around. Here's a quick rundown of what each offers.
LG Instaview vs. Samsung Family Hub: Prices and Specs
Design and Configurations
Both LG's and Samsung's refrigerators have premium stainless-steel finishes, and come in several colors. LG offers the Instaview in three configurations: Side-by-side, three-door French door and four4-door French door.
Samsung's Family Hub also comes in three configurations: three-door French door, four-door French door and a four-door flex door, in which you can convert the fourth compartment from freezer to refrigerator as your needs dictate.
Both LG and Samsung offer their fridges in both full- and counter-depth sizes, but LG gives you more capacity options from which to choose.
The Instaview connects to LG's SmartThinQ app (Android and iOS) and lets you adjust the temperature of the fridge, alerts you if the doors are left open, and informs you if the water filter needs to be replaced. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Family Hub's large 21-inch touch-screen display allows for many more connected features. Through the touch screen, you can look up recipes, jot down notes and send them to family members' phones (and vice versa), peer at the contents inside the fridge (thanks to its interior cameras), control smart-home devices and perform general searches using Bixby. You can also stream music, create shopping lists, order groceries and more.
While you can do a lot more with the Family Hub, it's still best for early adopters who are willing to put up with a few quirks. Consumer Reports tested the Samsung Family Hub v. 3.0 for a couple weeks, and found its smart features didn't perform as smoothly as they should. And, as a voice assistant, Bixby is also well behind Alexa and Google Assistant.
The main feature of LG's Instaview refrigerator is a panel on its upper right-hand door that, when tapped on twice, becomes transparent, letting you see inside. Additionally, this same panel has a door-in-door feature, meaning you can open just the outer part to get, say, a jar of mustard, without having to open the entire refrigerator.
Apart from the large touch screen, one of the Family Hub models has a Flex Door, whose compartment can be used as either a refrigerator or a freezer. Other models have a FlexZone drawer at counter height that's good for storing oft-used items. This way, you don't have to open one of the refrigerator's larger compartments.
On Lowe's website, the least expensive LG Instaview refrigerator is $1,899; it's a side-by-side model with a stainless-steel finish, 26.1-cubic-foot capacity (16.9-cubic-foot refrigerator, 9.2-cubic-foot freezer) and an in-door water and ice dispenser.
The most expensive Instaview is in LG's Signature line, which has more premium finishes and features than its other appliances. Available for $6,299 in either a 30.1 (full size) or 22.8 (counter depth) cubic-foot capacities, this four-door French door fridge has a sensor along the bottom that will open the door when you swipe your foot in front of it. Additionally, the freezer drawers will slide out automatically when the freezer is opened, and slide back in when you close the doors.
Outside of the Signature line, the priciest InstaView refrigerator costs $3,487 for a 28-cubic-foot, four-door French Door model with a fingerprint-resistant stainless-steel finish.
The least expensive Samsung Family Hub refrigerator is the three-door French door, 24.2-cubic foot model, which costs $2,499. The most expensive model is a 22.2-cubic-foot counter-depth four-door flex-door model, which costs $3,599.
Which refrigerator do consumers prefer? To find out, I averaged the ratings for all InstaView and Family Hub refrigerators from Lowe's, Home Depot, and Best Buy. LG came out on top, with an average rating of 4.5 stars (out of 5) to Samsung's 4.1 stars.
Professional reviewers were mixed.
CNET gave the Instaview a rating of 7.2/10 when it reviewed the refrigerator in 2016. However, it called the tap-to-view feature a nifty but "niche convenience at best," and the door-in-door didn't get as cool as it should. Digital Trends found the same issue when it tested the fridge, but gave it an overall rating of 8/10.
CNET gave the Family Hub a rating of 8.5/10 when it reviewed Samsung's fridge in 2016. While it performed excellently as a refrigerator, its smart functions needed refinement. Digital Trends, which reviewed the Family Hub in 2018, gave it a 7/10, having a number of issues with its smart features.
Overall Winner: LG Instaview
|Samsung Family Hub
|Design and Configurations
LG's InstaView refrigerators won four rounds to the Samsung Family Hub's two; LG offers more configurations, a lower starting price, and its models were rated slightly higher than Samsung's.
When it came to the non-smart functions of each refrigerator, we felt they were evenly matched, but Samsung's large touch screen and all that it could do — however imperfect — gave it the edge when it came to smart-home functionality.
MORE: Best Refrigerators 2019
Both the LG InstaView and the Samsung Family Hub perform well as refrigerators; they have a premium look and well-thought out design, both in and out. However, both of these refrigerators' marquee features seem either extraneous or in need of refinement.
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Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.