The Kenmore 51122 (MSRP $1,279.99) is a sleek white side-by-side fridge with a roomy interior, through-the-door ice and water, and a sale price under $900. The Kenmore 51123 is the same thing in stainless, and both are nearly identical to the excellent Whirlpool WRS325FDAM
Both feature through-the-door water and ice, straightforward interiors, and displayed great temperature consistency in our lab tests. Both are also among the lowest-cost side-by-side refrigerators on the market—so pick whichever one is on sale, or whichever brand matches your other appliances.
For a budget product, the fit and finish of the 51122 actually feels pretty sleek. The glossy exterior looks clean and elegant, plus the white coloring is resistant to fingerprints.
The interior is much of the same—and also 99 percent identical to the Whirlpool it's based on. The Kenmore sports less white plastic trim, but it has the same LED lighting that makes everything look bright and spacious. That's unusual—most fridges at this price point use incandescent bulbs. The crisper slides in and out smoothly, though the deli drawer was stiff.
That said, the fridge and freezer don't offer much for customization—each compartment only has a single open slot available for shelf adjustments. The fridge door manages to pick up some of that slack, where three of the five shelves are highly adjustable. Other than that, you’re pretty much stuck with things as they are.
The nebulous controls inside the fridge were an unexpected disappointment. Given the number of affordable side-by-sides on the market that have Fahrenheit displays, finding one that uses a “cold” to “colder” range is very much a downside.
The external controls—which handle the ice and water dispenser—look like a touchscreen, but are just backlit switches covered by a plastic panel. The ice and water dispenser cavity is also shorter than average, and the accompanying bright green lights glow all the time.
Warm, but consistent
The temperatures we measured in the fresh food section got as low as a chilly 34.35ºF, and as high as a warm 41.49ºF. But the average was a perfect 37.34ºF. Temperatures were extremely consistent over time, however, so you can always keep things in the same place.
Despite setting the freezer to the manufacturer recommended setting, average temperatures hovered around 6.72ºF instead of the ideal 0ºF. They never got any cooler than 3.26ºF, and during defrost cycles warmed all the way up to 10.43ºF. Those kinds of swings are a recipe for freezer burn, so make sure you turn down the thermostat as low as it can go. Your energy use may increase very slightly, but your frozen foods will last longer.
All around, it does alright.
Although we calibrated the 51122 at the manufacturer's recommended "normal" setting, both fridge and freezer got a little warmer than ideal temperatures. The fridge got a little too warm, while the freezer never got any cooler than 3ºF. Freezers should stay below 0ºF to reduce the risk of freezer burn. Luckily, you might be able to correct the temperatures by adjusting the separate fridge and freezer controls, since both compartments kept temperatures even over time.
The crispers did a decent job retaining moisture and the freezer didn't take too long to get room-temperature food below 32ºF. However, thanks to chunky shelves and a large icemaker, usable storage space was lower than average for a 25.4 cubic foot side-by-side.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
The 51122’s lone crisper drawer wasn’t bad, but it certainly failed to impress. Losing 0.18 grams of moisture every hour over the course of three days, it’s around average. Combine that with the temperature issues in the fridge, though, and you’ve got less than ideal conditions for produce preservation.
The Kenmore’s freezer did manage to chill our test materials at a rapid pace: Room temperature to 32ºF in one hour and 16 minutes is extremely fast, and beats the average by around 15 minutes. That means the foods you freeze should taste great when you thaw them.
Another high point: Our power loss test showed that after 36 hours without electricity, the internal temperature of the freezer had warmed to just 28.38ºF.
The Price is Right
This Kenmore's low price tag is appealing—there aren’t many other side-by-side models available for under $900.
It's also not a bad performer at all. Though the freezer stayed warmer than we'd like to see, temperatures were even over time. For a fridge in this price range, it's one of the two best values out there. The other one? The Whirlpool WRS325FDAM, which is almost identical to this Kenmore.
If you don't want through-the-door ice and water, the Kenmore 41152 is a great bet, and sometimes sells for as low as $900. The stainless Frigidaire Gallery FGHS2655PF—one of our Editor’s Choice award winners—retails for around $1,000, another great deal.
Not the best fit for large families
Kenmore’s 51122 isn’t cramped by any means, but it’s far from the roomiest fridge on the market. Four shelves and three drawers in the fridge are pretty standard, but customization options are scarce. The fridge door holds four shelves and a dairy bin, three of which are adjustable and deep enough for gallon storage. It adds up to a modest 10.69 cubic feet of usable space.
The freezer is much simpler, with the top chunk taken up by a bulky icemaker. Three wire shelves provide the bulk of the storage, with one sliding drawer at the bottom. A victim of through-the-door ice and water design, the freezer door has four shelves, all of which are quite shallow and immovable. The design produces just 4.45 cubic feet of usable storage, fewer than other similar models and much less than the advertised 10.
At an average electric rate of $0.09 per kWh, we determined that this fridge would cost you $38.50 per year to run with the icemaker on. It comes out to 0.08 kWh per usable cubic foot. It's not bad, but a lot of other fridges do better.
Meet the testers
Logistics Manager & Staff Writer@ReviewedHome
Matthew is a native of Brockton, MA and a graduate of Northeastern, where he earned a degree in English and Theatre. He has also studied at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin and spends most of his free time pursuing a performance career in the greater Boston area.See all of Matthew Zahnzinger's reviews
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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email