What’s great about a side-by-side refrigerator? Well, if you’re not a fan of bending down, it is wonderful to have your most commonly needed freezer items at hand height as well as your juice, eggs and packed lunch.
They’re easier to organize than top-and-bottom freezers, yet still have acres of door space. If your kitchen is wide but not so deep (say just a few steps between units in a U-shaped set up), then it’s great to have doors which don’t intrude so significantly into the limited preparation space. Side-by-side refrigerators also tend to have more freezer space, which is very valuable if you work long hours and prefer to operate on a batch-cooking process during the week.
Wanting a side-by-side which is counter-depth, namely, for your fridge to not be protruding a full four inches past the counter edge, is increasingly common among those looking to refit their kitchens for a newer, more spacious look. Counter-depth refrigerators can be neat, sleek, and generally offer a high-end appearance to your units and appliances overall.
The range of side-by-side counter depth refrigerators has improved significantly from 2018 onwards. There’s a couple handfuls of models to choose from. What they all have in common is between 21-22 cubic feet of space, and an ice and water dispensing feature. Those features can be considered standard. They nearly all have a coating which is resistant to finger/hand-prints lingering, ruining that elegant exterior.
To make your search easier, we’ve narrowed down the options to our favorite five across a range of budgets. We’ve followed an account of our favorite choices with a reminder list of the priorities you might have when choosing the best refrigerator for your home. Finally, we’ve answered some of your most frequently asked questions.
In a hurry? Here are our top five.
Top 5 Best Side-by-Side Counter Depth Refrigerators
OUR TOP PICK
Two light raps of your knuckles on the InstaView door will light up the door within the door to show you which of your most commonly-grabbed items need a quick top up. Not sure if you’ve got enough milk? Carry out your instant inventory, or remove what you need several times a day without having to lose heat inside the main refrigerator.
This feature cuts annual energy costs, prolongs the life of your refrigerator, and makes the footprint of this appliance even smaller. It already has an energy star rating for efficiency.
A second great feature of the entire unit is that it’s Smart-enabled. You can run diagnostics you’re your phone if the temperature controlled by the linear compression system is not doing as it says on the box, or if you get overly chilled or warmer spots.
The freezer space is nicely arranged, the SlimSpace ice maker set into the top of the door to make the most of your limited frozen storage capacity.
And if we needed any more reasons to love this, the water dispenser on this appliance is a foot tall—great for pitchers and sports bottles as well as glasses or cups.
There are a couple of features of this refrigerator to be aware of, however. Firstly, though the main freezer and fridge compartments come with door-open alarms, this feature is not set up for the InstaView door, which is not as easy to shut.
Secondly, some have found the set-up of the water dispenser not quite as intuitive as it could be.
Temperature and odor control both reliable
Spacious, particularly in freezer
Smart Diagnosis is a stress-saving feature
The icemaker switches quickly between crushed and cubed ice
Non user-friendly water dispenser
Automatic light in InstaView window overly sensitive to sound, turning on more often than necessary
As with the LG model, the KitchenAid refrigerator features an in-door ice system which gives you so much more shelf space back in your freezing compartment.
This is often a problem with top-and-bottom freezers; either the ice maker takes up a good 40% of one drawer, or it narrows the available space of two bins. Not so, here. The ice-maker is popular with customers, delivering good-sized chunks frequently and refreshing itself fast.
But it’s not quite as popular as the water dispenser, which is a distinguishing feature of this refrigerator. You can preset the panel to dispense specific volumes in ounces, cups or liters, which means you can put a cup into the dispenser and do something else while you wait for your icy water.
You can also create two custom presets for your favorite sports bottle, decanter or carafe.
KitchenAid presents an unfussy but reliable food care system called Preserva. It consists, of course, of the two independent evaporating cooling systems for both fridge and freezer, constantly monitoring and sustaining ideal temperatures for both.
Preserva also manages the FreshFlow air filter system for odor control and Produce Preserver to prevent food from over-ripening.
It’s a nicely laid out interior with very bright lighting and a nice combination of white and metallic accents so that you don’t get the impression of staring into a personality-free arctic wasteland. The wine rack (removable) contributes to the pleasant interior aesthetics, to match the sleek, unfussy exterior.
Though extremely tall, it’s also a very easy fridge to keep clean, with the coated, anti-spill shelves and removable bins. The one downside of the interior design is that what you see is what you get.
There are pre-set shelving and bin positions and your opportunities to customize the space are very limited beyond removal of layers for taller objects. Overall, it’s a beautiful addition to your kitchen.
Very clever water dispensing facility
Good use of limited interior space
Very bright throughout fridge and freezer interiors
Expensive, given the lack of smart features
There’s a running theme of customers having difficulties with repairs within the standard warranty package. An extended warranty is widely suggested.
This is widely considered to be one of the best-value side-by-side counter depth refrigerator units you’ll see on the market. Cheaper than the next least expensive option (the LG InstaView) by over $500, this refrigerator is reliable, sleek on the outside, and has an impressive amount of space.
What makes this Frigidaire stand out? Well, other than the price—which is a unique selling point in itself—the Frigidaire Gallery has the most versatile interior.
You can rearrange the shelves and bins in 100 different ways. If you need to have things just-so, then this is the fridge for you. It’s also beautifully lit with multiple placements of LED light throughout the interior so there’s no holding the door open for a minute at a time while you hunt out this condiment, or that cheese. This, of course, is a great help for your energy bill.
Another nice feature is the chill drawer in the refrigerator section. This drawer receives discrete blasts of cold air to keep your vegetables and salads crisp at a slightly lower temperature than the prevailing levels in the fridge.
The Pure Source filter is both reliable and accessible, giving you that continuous supply of clean, revitalizing ice and water. The ice dispenser is neatly placed top left in the freezer, leaving plenty of storage on the shelves and in the bins and drawers.
However, not every product is pure gold, and the thread which runs through the comments about this fridge concerns the noise. People have very different notions of what they consider to be loud, but reviewers seem united over the high pitch of the noise.
This problem isn’t unique to the Frigidaire as most high-efficiency refrigerators run on high-speed compressors which can seem to whistle or pulsate. It eases off during defrost cycles, but this is not quite enough for some customers. Most have said that the noise doesn’t bother them unless they’re prepping a lot of food, or if they’re working in the kitchen.
Overall it’s a great freezer for a smaller family, leaving room in your balance for a further appliance if need be.
Edge-to-edge shelves for maximum storage
Flexibility of bin and shelf rearrangement
Easy to clean
Excellent price point for the size
The noise is too high-pitched for some
This Smart fridge is in the middle of the price range of this selection, even though it boasts some features you would usually associate with premium price points.
The Samsung Family hub refrigerator comes with an Energy Star efficiency certification and a 94% recommendation rate to new customers by reviewers at Home Depot. The refrigeration itself is uncomplicated and reliable with multi-vent technology providing all-round cooling and consistent ambient temperature monitoring.
The interior isn’t as easy to adapt to your personal needs as the Frigidaire Gallery, but the in-door icemaker and generous shelving will help you make the most of the available space in both sections of your unit.
The standout feature is, of course, the Family Hub itself. It’s Bixby enabled and features Bixby vision, which enables you to see the immediate, front-row contents of your fridge without opening the door.
You can upload digital photos onto the screen or leave messages for each other on the note pad. You can even play music from the control panel from your stored playlists. If someone at home adds to the shopping list, then your phone will notify you while you’re out of the house.
Balancing the picture just a little, the dispensing units could do with a little more engineering. There is no light with the water dispenser, for example, which can be a pain if you need a cold glass in the middle of the night.
Who wants to switch a light on when they want to shamble back to bed with their eyes still half shut? The ice dispenser is more reliable than plentiful in its offerings. It’s absolutely fine for a family of three, but if you’re entertaining, you’ll want to supplement the supply.
It’s quietly impressive on the outside and brightly welcome within.
Excellent value for money
Great family connectivity
Great food storage
The black stainless steel is easy to keep clean but also easy to noticeably scratch
The ice production isn’t particularly fast or voluminous
The inner fridge cameras for the Bixby Vision only show what’s right at the front. You’ll need to store your food that way if you’re using it to form an inventory-based shopping list.
We’re back with Samsung for the final entry on our list, but with an entirely different beast of a refrigerator. Like the LG unit, this has a door-in-door to grab your most common items without refrigerating the whole kitchen. What LG calls their InstaView, Samsung calls their Food Showcase.
It’s a welcome feature for day-to-day convenience, but it’s the four-door flex system which makes this refrigerator stand out for innovation. In standard mode, you still have two refrigerator compartments and two freezer units.
However, you can use the Flex Zone behind the bottom right door to choose between 41°F, 30, 23 or frozen temperatures at the touch of a button. Total flexibility would be awesome (38° is generally considered the upper levels of warmth for a fridge) but if you’re entertaining, then you might just want that space for cans and bottles.
The 3-evaporator system works throughout for effective and sustained freshness.
Although the interior looks a little sterile, the shelving space is great for a side-by-side (compared to a French door design) because the door bins are so generous. You can even get a 2-gallon carton in there. It’s a bright, lively design geared toward unpredictable lifestyles.
- Versatile use
- Great for entertaining
- Good storage flexibility
- Generous ice capacity
- Door open alarms
- Energy Star certified
- The price point
- The icemaker is said to be over-aggressive, freezing blocks into clumps
Best Side-by-Side Counter Depth Refrigerators Buying Guide
Those are some of our favorite counter depth side by sides available at present on the market. You might have taken a liking to one of them already. However, these are brief summaries of extensive product specifications.
Each unit has many more features than listed, since we were looking at what distinguished each design. You may even want to expand your search a little wider.
To make that more straightforward, we’ve produced a little checklist of things to think about and ask yourself when considering the pros and cons of the refrigerators that appeal to you the most.
Are you good with taking the unit as it comes, or will you need to make adjustments for your favorite baking and storage pans? Does the nature of your day job mean that you typically store more drinks than food? If so, you can get away with the smaller units (the 21cb ft) as opposed to those which are closing in on 23cbft.
Reliability and warranty
It is always worth investing in the extended warranty on white goods, especially when the warranty provided is on limited terms. How long are you expecting your fridge to last in a perfect world? Are there any parts which you’d be prepared to sacrifice if they gave up the ghost earlier than expected? (for example a crack in a door bin).
Some brands are better at living up to the terms of their warranties than others. You also get brands which aren’t as hot on initial quality control but provide brilliant customer service.
It’s worth doing a quick check to see the proportion of units sold versus units serviced, and then checking out the extent to which the customer service teams behind major brands respond directly to criticism.
Open reach-outs with both telephone numbers and email addresses are a good sign.
Are these necessary to your life?
Long hours and limited face-to-face connection with those you live with could make the communication options of a Smart fridge a necessity for good relationships rather than a cool bonus.
How much do you want to spend? You can filter your results in most search engines to fix an upper level.
From there, select side-by-side refrigerators and then eyeball the results for the counter depth options.
Do you work from home a lot? If so, can you work away from the kitchen routinely? If not, then pick a model which is conspicuously quiet. Those with compressor systems tend to be louder.
If you wear hearing aids, it’s more important to pay attention to comments about pitch than volume. Persistent high pitch is a no-go with Tinnitus or Acousma, for example.
Every product specification will give you a range of the amount of ice to expect on a day to day basis. If you entertain a lot then go for a model which is reliable more than generous in output.
You can always buy a bag to top up, but you don’t want your machine to jam under pressure.
Other factors to consider are whether you’ll be using the dispenser or ice maker in the dark, whether it produces the right kind of ice (lumps, crushed or both), and whether you need pre-set dispensing programs for the water. Keeping the dispensers simple will bring your overall costs down. A lot.
Finally, the Refrigerator’s Aesthetics
Is the look of the inside as important as the outside? Do you want stainless steel, or black? Is there an option?
Black print-resistant coatings are more expensive overall. For example, the black LG is nearly $100 more than the stainless steel exterior model.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do food preserver systems in fruit and vegetable chill boxes work?
Refrigerators with these systems absorb the ethylene gas which is released as the fruit ripens. Bananas kick out a huge amount of ethylene (which is why you usually place under-ripe fruit next to the banana in the fruit bowl if you want to hurry things along a little).
A system which absorbs the gas increases the lifespan of both the ripening item and the other fruits around it.
How are side-by-sides different from French Door refrigerators?
With a side-by-side design, both freezer and fridge continue vertically from the top of the unit to the bottom, alongside one another. Any intermediary doors (like on the Samsung Flex unit) are purely incidental.
A French door refrigerator has a separate freezer compartment at the base and refrigerator doors which open outwards from the center of the same section.
What should a Smart Refrigerator cost?
The LG listed is a welcome appearance outside its usual price range, but this is perhaps because the emphasis is on the ability for diagnostics to be run from your phone rather than leisure or time-saving apps to be deployed to the full.
If your refrigerator is able to obey voice commands, communicate with your phone or tablet devices or itemize foods it recognizes through a visual reference bank, then you’ll be looking at anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 depending upon the extent of the Smart capacity.