When shopping for a refrigerator, what are some of the first things you look for? Perhaps it’s ample freezer space or shelves that gracefully fit gallons of milk and a stack of leftovers. Maybe you even look for a proper crisper drawer that excels at preserving your food. Certainly, these are all valuable features to keep in mind while shopping, but would you ever consider buying a fridge with a built-in, 21.5-inch tablet on the front of it?
Samsung is hoping the answer to this question is a resounding yes, considering its recently released Family Hub refrigerator boasts this very innovative (and over-the-top) feature. So, while it still operates like a traditional refrigerator, the fact that it also has an integrated touchscreen controller firmly plants this beast in rarified territory. But is its inclusion of the tablet a little too outrageous? While some may be quick to say yes, we took the Family Hub for a spin over the course of a few weeks at our Digital Trends headquarters to determine if Samsung’s latest model is indeed the wave of the future or too smart for its own good.
The future of refrigerator tech has arrived
To create the Family Hub, Samsung took its Four-Door Flex refrigerator and added not only the 21.5-inch touchscreen to the top right door but also cameras inside. The Four-Door Flex is already a bit unique, because it has one compartment that can either be a fridge or a freezer, depending on how you set it. With 27.9 cubic feet of capacity, it’s a big, black stainless steel beauty.
What’s in a touchscreen?
To be honest, when Samsung announced its Family Hub refrigerator and promised to send one our way for review, we were skeptical. What could possibly be the point of installing a massive touchscreen onto a refrigerator? Nevertheless, as stewards of honest appliance reviews, we kept an open mind. Not only is a touchscreen an ambitiously innovative addition to Samsung’s high-quality line of refrigerators, but it doesn’t take long with the device to see its immense value. It’s not merely a mechanism for streaming music while you cook; it’s much, much more than that. Sure, it does stream music via Pandora and TuneIn but the sum of its parts makes it one incredibly valuable tool for families looking to stay organized.
Connect and serve
Granted, this doesn’t come without a few quibbles but before we jump into those, let’s talk about what it does. Obviously with a name like “Family Hub,” Samsung’s futuristic food chiller is geared toward keeping families in sync and connected. To accomplish this, the fridge lets owners upload and manage their daily calendars by way of an application called Sticki. Whether they choose to configure their schedule on the fridge itself, or by way of the app, everyone using the fridge has the ability to stay up-to-date with their daily routines. A clever add-on, no doubt, but our time with the fridge showed a desire to interact more often with the smartphone application than the fridge itself due in large part to the fact typing on the fridge is a bit clunky. Perhaps having spent years typing on a smartphone predisposes us to preferring a phone keyboard to a vertical touchscreen, but doing anything more than creating a quick reminder felt like a chore.
To a further extent, there are far more efficient calendar apps than Sticki, though a centralized calendar is certainly a step in the right direction for Samsung. Merely having the ability to easily share calendars, post photos, or write notes from the application (which then shows up on the fridge) is an incredible way for a family to stay connected. Additionally, having access to stored grocery lists and snapshots of what’s actually inside the fridge make the Family Hub’s suite of apps even more useful.
Outside of Sticki, Samsung’s Family Hub also provides users with the ability to build shopping lists; however, there doesn’t seem to be a way to send these to your smartphone at the moment. A great feature, sure, but it would be nice to have the ability to send these to yourself on your way to the store instead of being relegated to writing it down or snapping a photo of it with your phone. You could reasonably still send shopping lists via Sticki, though if Samsung wants to make a family’s life easier, having to access a separate app for one action is a bit unfavorable.
Embracing the on-demand lifestyle
Perhaps a remedy for this is the fact Samsung includes partnerships with Groceries by Mastercard and Instacart, meaning you can forget going to the store altogether and simply order groceries online — from your fridge. Alas, we ran into yet another issue with this as neither of the two services operate in Portland, Oregon as of yet. Despite this, it’s not hard to see the worth in accessing on-demand groceries from your fridge, especially when you consider the one place you’ll most likely notice the need for more groceries is in the kitchen. Near the fridge.
For Samsung’s Family Hub, the magic is in the touchscreen.
Ordering groceries is one thing but what are you to do once you actually have them? Well, unsurprisingly, Samsung’s Family Hub has an answer for that, too. Featuring built-in access to two cooking applications — Samsung’s own Club des Chefs as well as All Recipes — this is perhaps where the touchscreen shines brightest. Instead of fumbling with a tablet or smartphone for recipes, the large screen on the front of the Family Hub makes it easy to not only find a great recipe to cook but also to navigate through it while cooking. Though the app takes a few moments to load, the scrolling is incredibly fluid, which helps quickly referencing quantities and cook times a breeze.
A window into its insides
You know what’s better than opening your fridge to see what’s inside? Clicking a button on the door to get a snapshot of its interior without having to budge the door whatsoever. By making use of three high-quality cameras secured to the inside edge of the Family Hub’s left door, Samsung has created a way for owners to get fresh images of the inside of their fridge every time they close it. Furthermore, an innovative tagging system allows anyone to attach, for instance, a “5 Days” tag to a carton of milk to keep track of its expiration date. The downside? The tags don’t move if you move the carton. Nevertheless, this entire feature is still cutting edge in terms as far as refrigerator tech goes.
While this function performed admirably during our time with the Family Hub, it was the ability to access the images of the fridge’s interior via Samsung’s Smart Home Appliance app that really wowed us. From literally anywhere — though, most likely the grocery store — a simple load of the companion application allows for a quick view of what’s inside the fridge. No more “did we run out of milk?” questions or “are we sure we have the correct ingredients for tonight’s dinner?” Having access to the captured photos while on-the-go is as useful as it is innovative.
Odds and ends
Rounding out the touchscreen’s impressive slate of features is its compatibility with Pandora and TuneIn to stream music or radio stations, its inclusion of a full-featured web browser, along with the ability to leave handwritten notes on the tablet’s home screen via its Whiteboard application. Local weather access, Wi-Fi connectivity, and Bluetooth functionality are also standard fare with the Family Hub, though it’s worth pointing out the Bluetooth feature only works as a Bluetooth out function for its Pandora and TuneIn apps — i.e. you won’t be able to sync your phone with it.
The Family Hub also allows for TV mirroring with compatible Samsung TVs, so if you feel the need to catch up on Game of Thrones while cooking dinner, the Family Hub’s got your back. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a compatible Samsung TV in-house while reviewing it so we weren’t able to enjoy this (somewhat) useful feature. Still, having the ability to watch your favorite show, or simply have the news on in the background while you cook, is a welcome feature, even if it does feel a little odd.
Tech aside, how good is it at being a fridge?
As is the case with many of Samsung’s fridges — including this Digital Trends-recommended Samsung 4-Door model — the Family Hub excels at its ability to maintain a consistent temperature in its refrigerator, freezer, and patented FlexZone compartment. Furthermore, the appliance’s onboard touchscreen allows for easy customization of any of those three areas, as owners have the ability to set the fridge between 34 and 44 degrees Fahrenheit or the freezer between -8 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. As for the FlexZone, this innovative fourth compartment features settings such as Meat/Fish, Cheese/Vegetables, White Wine, Soft Freeze, and Frozen, which allow for ultimate flexibility, turning the space behind the bottom right door into a fridge or freezer on command.
Cooler than the other side of the pillow
Boasting tech called Triple & Metal Cooling, Samsung took extra care in assuring the Family Hub correctly monitors its humidity to offer precise temperature readings at all times. To make sure this continues to be the case — even if someone leaves either of the doors open for an extended amount of time — the Family Hub features an intuitive temperature control panel which allows for quick adjustments of the fridge or freezer’s temperature, while also giving owners access to alter the Flex Zone.
During our time with the Family Hub, we wanted to see how quickly the fridge and freezer compartments have the ability to revert back to their normal temperature. To do this, we left the doors of the refrigerator and freezer open for roughly 15 minutes. After closing the door and being prompted of how much temperature was lost — 5 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge and 6 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer — we shut each door to see how long it took for the temperatures to right themselves.
What we found was that after losing around 5 degrees of temperature, the refrigerator took roughly 15 minutes to get back to its set temperature of 38 degrees. Concerning the freezer, we originally had it set to -8 degrees Fahrenheit and after it rose to -3 with the door open for 15 minutes, it took just 10 minutes to get the temperature back to normal. Perhaps the fact the freezer remains at a cooler temperature normally is the reason for it cooling down quicker but 10 and 15 minutes for the fridge and freezer to revert back to normal, respectively, isn’t all that bad.
The crisper drawers get it done
The bane of some refrigerator’s existences, the crisper drawers native to Samsung’s Family Hub particularly shined during our testing. To give it a true run for its money, we first dunked a sponge in water to get it nice and soaked before placing it on a plate inside the drawer. Prior to placing the sponge in the fridge, we weighed it sopping wet to have a solid barometer for how much moisture the crisper drawer was able to maintain.
Checking in at an even 4 lbs., we placed the wet sponge in the drawer. After giving the crisper 48 hours to get its moisture-saving on, we pulled the sponge from the drawer and plopped it back down on our scale — 3.8 lbs. For what it’s worth, a touch of water dripped from the sponge as we transferred it to the scale, though despite this, the crisper drawers appeared to do quite well in retaining moisture.
You’ll never go thirsty
Located on the Family Hub’s left front panel are its water and ice feeds, granting users the ability to pour fresh glasses of water with either crushed or cubed ice. During our time with the Family Hub, we found it incredibly easy to switch between the two ice modes and even easier to actually fill a cup with ice. Located a matter of inches above of the water button, using the ice press required nothing more than simply pressing the glass up against it, then sliding the glass down to the water spout area.
Warranty and Elite Service
As is typically standard with Samsung refrigerators, the company offers a one-year parts and labor warranty with the Family Hub, as well as a five-year parts and labor warranty for its sealed refrigerator system — i.e. the unit’s compressor, evaporator, condenser, drier, and connecting tubing. Additionally, Samsung also provides a 10-year parts and five-year labor warranty for its Digital Inverter Compressor. To make parts or labor claims easier, Samsung lets customers live chat via its website, call into its customer service line, or email the company directly.
The Family Hub excels at its ability to maintain a consistent temperature in its refrigerator, freezer, and patented Flex Zone compartment.
A solid warranty is great and all, and the Family Hub’s is no different, but where this cutting edge fridge really stands out is with Samsung’s complimentary Elite Service. Anyone who splurges on a Family Hub receives a free in-home demonstration of the fridge, including complete setup, tech support, and a variety of tutorials. In essence, a Samsung Elite Service employee leads new owners through every nook, cranny, and otherwise the Family Hub has to offer, allowing them to hit the ground running once they begin using the fridge. The company even offers extended coverage after the visit via phone calls or emails to follow up on any questions or concerns an owner might have.
Though it sounds a bit excessive to physically send someone with the fridge to help with setup, we found the Elite Service to be incredibly helpful upon receiving our review unit. Despite the fact we’re a tech site and review tablets and refrigerators often, it was still valuable to get professional help — it being completely free makes it even more of a no-brainer for buyers to take advantage of.
For Samsung’s Family Hub, the magic is in the touchscreen. A solid refrigerator in terms of holding its temperature, retaining moisture, and providing added flexibility via its FlexZone, the real MVP of the unit is its 21.5-inch interactive display. No doubt a tad on the excessive and outrageous side but after spending a hefty chunk of time with the thing, we can’t help but think the Family Hub is the future of refrigerators (once the price comes down).
The DT Accessory Pack
It’s clear Samsung developed the Family Hub with an eye toward making life incredibly easier for families. As the name suggests, it aims to literally function as a home’s central hub, allowing everyone access to schedules, shopping lists, or daily reminders. With an entertainment factor which includes Pandora streaming, TV mirroring, and a fully-functioning web browser, Samsung didn’t skimp on making the Family Hub more than just a logistics assistant. Its built-in access to services like Club de Chefs, All Recipes, TuneIn radio, and local weather reports only strengthen its already impressive resume, making it one of the most appealing fridges on the market. One of the best features of the fridge is that Samsung can always make software improvements, so we’d only expect its lineup of apps to get more robust.
That is, if you can afford it. Topping out at $5,999, with other variants ranging from $5,599 to $5,777, the Family Hub costs a pretty penny. If you can stomach the price, you surely won’t be disappointed as the sum of its features and benefits — it has a 21.5-inch HD touchscreen, after all — makes it an appliance that’s as cutting edge as it is useful.