Retro appliance brand Smeg is crazy popular—but is it worth the money?
You don't always get what you pay for.
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You know that Italian vacation you’ve been dreaming of? The one where you’ll be sipping negronis on a historic terrazza, strolling through cobblestone streets in a wide-brim hat, and munching on fine cheese and stone fruit in your adorable villa kitchen? Luxury brand Smeg might not be able to make your dreams a reality, but they can bring the vacation to you with their line of retro Italian appliances, which cost slightly less than a trip to Sicily.
That’s the promise, anyway. Smeg, which is an acronym for Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla (say that three times fast), has been making its kitchen appliances in Italy since 1948. It’s no wonder that the now-distinctive Fab line, first introduced in 1997, is a total blast from the past—curved edges, bright candy colors, and 1950s-inspired designs on everything from refrigerators and dishwashers to stand mixers and toaster ovens.
Smeg’s products are designer catnip, with the luxury prices to match—but how do they actually perform? I consulted our own product round-ups, Smeg’s online user reviews, and Reviewed’s appliance experts and design buffs to see what they had to say about the brand.
The short answer? Smeg’s appliances are pretty, but they aren’t worth the investment.
You’re paying for novelty, not for performance
According to Reviewed’s Senior Lab Technician Jonathan Chan, Smeg’s steep prices—we’re talking $200 for a pop-up toaster and $2,500 for a one-door, top-freezer fridge—have very little to do with build quality, and everything to do with appearance. “I'm not impressed with what I've seen of their tech,” he says of the Smeg appliances he’s inspected at trade shows. “But what other company makes a full-sized American flag fridge?”
User reviews tend to support this claim. Smeg’s 1.7-liter tea kettle, which retails for around $200, averages three out of five stars on Amazon, with dozens of negative reviews complaining of poor durability, slow boil times, and broken parts. “The inside (fluoride teflon?) coating has disintegrated and is chipping apart after less than two weeks of use,” writes one user.
This form-over-function sentiment is echoed in reviews of the brand’s tabletop blender, which looks straight of the 1950s—and performs like an antique. “This blender looks beautiful but functions no better, perhaps worse than, an inexpensive Oster or Hamilton Beach blender,” writes one user. “These do not blend ice or powders. Like, not at all,” says another, written just three months ago.
Reviewed’s own labs have ruled out testing most Smeg appliances due to their high price point and poor user reviews. We want to test the best of the best, and therefore don’t invest time testing middling products for a niche market. We did, however, test and enjoy the Smeg two-slice toaster, which ranks amongst our favorite pop-up toasters and has over 200 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Their fridges aren’t built to last
Although Smeg’s Fab line began with their iconic fridges, most appliance experts and long-term Smeg owners agree that Fab fridges simply can’t compare to the best refrigerator models on the market in terms of performance and longevity. “I love the look, but not the performance of their refrigerators,” says Cindy Bailen, Reviewed’s editor for major appliances and home design.
The Fab 32 bottom-freezer fridge, which comes in a range of striking pastels, has been plagued by performance issues. On the Autralian review website ProductReview.com, users complain of the fridge’s flimsy plastic parts, poor temperature regulation, and high repair costs. “It never kept a consistent temperature, it leaks frost onto the top of the lower door seal so you see black mould whenever you open the fridge—it’s ordinary all round,” writes own owner.
Many also note that the freezer isn’t no-frost, meaning it has to be physically thawed every few months to keep it in usable shape. And it only has an 11.7-cubic-foot interior. For the same price, you can get our favorite French-door fridge with a 28.6-cubic-foot-interior—over twice the space!
If you’re wealthy enough to afford a fridge that just sits there and looks pretty, Smeg might be for you—but if you need a multi-functional appliance that will serve you and your family for years, you’d be much better off with one of our top-tested fridges.
Some small appliances make perfect accent pieces
Although we don’t recommend most people invest in a large appliance from Smeg, some of their small appliances make excellent conversation pieces that can spice up any kitchen. As previously mentioned, we’re particular fans of their two-slice toaster that’s popular with users.
Smeg has even partnered with other Italian luxury brands like Fiat and Dolce & Gabbana for some of their designs, so if money’s no object, you have a lot of gorgeous products to choose from. The Dolce and Gabbana “Sicily Is My Love” collection at Williams-Sonoma is particularly evocative—and the perfect solution to any Italian-vacation longing.
“When I was writing about multi-million dollar homes, I observed many Smeg appliances in the condos of high-income millennials,” says Bailen. “I like their novelty models, like the hand-painted Dolce & Gabbana stand mixer, and the beer and wine refrigerator made from the front end of a Fiat. It’s the ultimate accoutrement for a man cave.”
If we’re being real, most of us don’t have $650 for a toaster or, ahem, $10,000 for a wine fridge—but we’re not going to stop you from dreaming. If you’re looking for similarly retro but less expensive and/or higher-performing dupes, we recommend checking out the Icona Vintage Collection by Deloghni, the Danby Contemporary Classic Collection, and the Big Chill.
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