What Is a Smart Refrigerator, and Is It Worth It?

What if your refrigerator could tell you if its door has been left open, or it's running out of ice? What if you could ask it — while you're at the grocery store — if you need to get more eggs or milk?

(Image credit: Samsung)

Those are some of the features available with "smart" refrigerators that are connected to your smartphone via the internet. This guide will help show what smart refrigerators can do, how much they cost, who makes them — and if they're worth it.

What Is a Smart Refrigerator?

A smart refrigerator is one that's connected to the cloud. Depending on the features built into the fridge, it lets you do such things as use your smartphone to see what's inside; send and receive notes and calendar entries that will appear on the fridge's screen; and even get alerts if the refrigerator's door is left open.

Who Makes Smart Refrigerators?

At the moment, very few manufacturers make smart refrigerators. Only LG, Samsung and GE (under its Café brand) make smart refrigerators, and each has only a couple of models with connected features.

What Can You Do with a Smart Refrigerator?

It really depends on the company. Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator is the most packed, featurewise, with a large display that lets you look at a calendar, leave notes, look up recipes, watch TV, play music and more. However, most other smart refrigerators have fewer  functions — ones that are less splashy but still useful, such as sending your phone a notification if the door has been left open or letting you know if the ice is running low.

MORE: Best Refrigerators Available Right Now

How Much More Do Smart Refrigerators Cost Than Nonsmart Refrigerators?

It's tough to say, because refrigerator manufacturers don't make analogous smart and nonsmart models. In addition, Wi-Fi connectivity is a relatively new feature, so it's only found on higher-end refrigerators, which already command a premium price. Because it includes a large display, Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator has the biggest difference in price. For example, this Samsung three-door French Door nonsmart refrigerator costs $1,699, while a similar-capacity three-door Family Hub refrigerator is $2,499.

Should I Get a Smart Refrigerator?

Refrigerators have been around for 100 years and have functioned just fine without any smart features. At the moment, the features they have, such as a door-open alert, are nice to have, but they're not necessary. Consumer Reports tested the Samsung Family Hub v. 3.0 for a couple weeks, and found that while the fridge itself performed well, its smart features had a number of issues and quirks that didn't make it worth the premium price.

Smart Refrigerator Models at a Glance

GE smart refrigerators

While GE doesn't have any refrigerators with built-in cameras or touch screens, GE's smart refrigerators connect to GE's app and can let you know if the door was left open, the fridge's water filter needs to be replaced or if the ice maker is empty. Other features include the ability to start or schedule the water heater to turn on as well as the ability to adjust temperatures and access other modes. The refrigerators also work with Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT, so you can ask those assistants about the fridge's status or tell it to make more ice.

Credit: GE

(Image credit: GE)

GE Café Series

GE Profile Series

Starting Price: $3,176
Capacities Available: 22, 28 cubic feet

A slightly less expensive model than the Café series, GE Profile refrigerators also have the Keurig K-Cup brewing system but lack the small LCD display of the Café series. This model is a French Door style available in four finishes: Black Slate, Black Stainless Steel, Slate and Stainless Steel.

 

LG Smart Refrigerators

LG is developing a smart refrigerator with a built-in display that will let you order groceries, play music and more. Its current lineup of smart refrigerators doesn't have as many features; like GE's, the fridges can tell you if the door has been left open and let you adjust the temperature using your smartphone. You can access Alexa to monitor and set the temperature, and you can use both Alexa and Google Assistant to turn on the ice maker and air filter.

Credit: LG

(Image credit: LG)

LG InstaView ThinQ

Starting Price: Not released yet
Capacity: 30 cubic feet

LG's answer to the Samsung Family Hub is the InstaView ThinQ, which has a large 29-inch touch-screen display in its upper-right quadrant. Cameras inside the refrigerator let you see what's inside without opening the doors, and you can get recipe ideas, order groceries and look up the weather. Bluetooth speakers in the top of the fridge also let you stream music, and it has Alexa built in and works with Google Assistant. Using the ThinQ app, you'll also be able to adjust temperatures in the refrigerator and freezer and get notifications if the door is left open. This refrigerator is not yet available.

MORE: LG's InstaView ThinQ Alexa Fridge Is the Smart Home Gadget I Want

Credit: LG

(Image credit: LG)

LG InstaView Door-in-Door

Starting Price: $1,999
Available Capacities: 22, 23, 28, 30 cubic feet

While it doesn't have a built-in touch screen, LG's InstaView refrigerator has a tinted glass panel that, when knocked on twice, becomes transparent, letting you see what's inside. A Door-in-Door feature then lets you open the outer section so you can grab frequently used items without fully opening the refrigerator. The InstaView refrigerator is available in several configurations, including counter- and full-depth, 3- and 4-door French Door, and side by side. This refrigerator connects to LG's SmartThinQ app (Android and iOS) and alerts you if the doors are left open. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Other LG Smart Refrigerators

Starting Price: $1,299
Available Capacities: 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30 cubic feet

LG makes a number of other smart refrigerators that lack a display or see-through panel but are connected to Wi-Fi. These include 3- and 4-door French Door, side-by-side and counter- and full-depth models, as well as those with a Door-in-Door feature. Via LG's ThinQ app, you can adjust the temperatures inside, tell the refrigerator to make more ice and be alerted if the door is left open. You can also control them using Alexa and Google Assistant.

Credit: LG

(Image credit: LG)

  

Samsung Smart Refrigerators

Samsung's Family Hub refrigerator, now in its third generation, has come to define what a smart refrigerator should be. It has a large touch-screen display, through which you can do a number of things: 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, stream music, create shopping lists, order groceries and more.

However, Samsung also makes a number of connected fridges without the touch screen; though the refrigerators' smart features are more limited, you can use the Samsung SmartThings app to change the temperature inside them and get alerted if the door is left open or there are any leaks.

Credit: Samsung

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Family Hub

Starting Price: $2,199
Available Capacities: 22, 24, 28 cubic inches

The refrigerator that kick-started the smart-appliances movement, the Family Hub refrigerator, is now in its third generation but still retains its signature 21.5-inch touch screen.

Samsung offers eight different configurations of the Family Hub refrigerator. You can get it in 22, 24, or 28 cubic-inch capacities, and in three styles: a traditional 3-door French Door, a 4-door French Door with a FlexZone drawer or a 4-door Flex Door, which lets you convert one section from a refrigerator to a freezer.

Samsung 4-Door Flex Food Showcase

Starting Price: $2,499
Available Capacities: 22, 28 cubic feet

Samsung's 4-Door Flex Food Showcase refrigerator is a French-door-style refrigerator in which the lower-right compartment can be converted from a refrigerator to a freezer, depending on your needs. The upper-right section doesn't have a touch screen like the Family Hub, but it does have a door-in-door feature, letting you get to items in the door without having to fully open the fridge. This refrigerator is available in two sizes (22 and 28 cubic inches).

Other Samsung Smart Refrigerators

Starting Price: $1,599
Available capacities: 22, 23 cubic feet

Samsung makes French Door refrigerators in both full- and counter-depth size and with either a traditional 3-door French Door style or with a fourth FlexZone, pull-out shelf. One model (RF23HTEDBSR, $2,199) has the Food Showcase door-in-door feature. There's also a 22-cubic-foot counter-depth, side-by-side refrigerator (the left side is the freezer and the right is the refrigerator) that can be configured with a full-length Food Showcase door-in-door.

Credit: Tom's Guide