For instance, our tests showed cold temperatures, but they weren't quite accurate. The design looks pretty sleek, but it's not as easy to configure as other models in the same price range. And with retail prices hovering just below $1,470, it’s not even cheap enough to be a bargain.
Elegant looks, but lacking in usability
The aesthetic qualities of the 51162 are some of its best. A glossy white, fingerprint-resistant finish will brighten up any kitchen, while the blue lighting on the external console gives it an air of cool sophistication. The inside is just a sharp, with bright LED lighting and stainless trim on the shelves to make this fridge look more expensive than it is.
Unfortunately, the interior isn't quite so sleek. The customizability of the shelf layout isn’t terribly expansive. No matter how we arranged the shelves and drawers in the fridge, there was always at least one that was cramped and too short to hold anything taller than a carton of eggs. The freezer was a little better, but there was still no way to arrange the shelves to easily store a large frozen pizza.
Doesn't fail, but doesn't stand out
In our lab tests, the 51162's temperatures varied a bit over time, and the external display wasn't accurate: Our measurements showed the freezer was a bit colder and the fridge was a bit warmer than the numbers on the Kenmore's display.
Other performance points were a decidedly mixed bag: The lone crisper (the other drawer in the fridge is a temperature-controlled compartment) was essentially ineffective when when it came to retaining moisture.
Size-wise, it's small enough to feel cramped with a family's worth of groceries in there. On the plus size, energy efficiency was fantastic and freezing times were incredibly fast.
We were pleased that Kenmore included a few extra features on the through-the-door ice and water dispenser, such as a measured fill option. That said, we didn't like how the Kenmore made us hold down buttons on the touch display to both access special features and perform regular functions like adjusting the temperature.
For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.
Unable to stand out in a crowd
In a vacuum, the Kenmore Elite 51162 is a decent, low-cost side-by-side. We don’t live in a vacuum, though, and this Kenmore has some stiff competition. On sale, the 51162's $1,467 price tag is pretty low, but for $300 less, you could get one of the best budget side-by-sides we’ve ever reviewed: the Kenmore 41152.
Alternatively, the Frigidaire Gallery FPHS2699PF—our 2013 Best Side-by-Side of the Year award winner—costs almost exactly the same amount as the 51162, and it’s in stainless! For a stainless version of the white 51162, you’d have to spend an extra $250.
If the Kenmore Elite 51162 (MSRP $1,839.99) did just a little better in our performance tests, it could have been a solid product worthy of a recommendation. As it stands, this fridge is just passable—not enough to hack it in the cutthroat world of mid-priced side-by-sides.
Missing the mark
Neither section in the 51162 managed to deliver temperatures that matched the thermostat display, but the fridge came pretty close. Average temperatures clocked in at 37.84ºF at the top, 37.93ºF in the middle, and 39.86ºF at the bottom. That’s very close to the ideal 37ºF (a little extra warmth around the crisper is better for produce), but an average fluctuation of ±1.09ºF is a much wider spread than our top-ranked fridges. That much variance is going to take the temperatures too high or too low.
The freezer was both colder and less stable. Average temperatures alone aren’t bad, with readings of -2.18ºF at the top and -1.36ºF at the bottom. Unfortunately, a degree shift of ±2.62ºF will bring temperatures above and below 0ºF on a regular basis everywhere in the freezer. That will accelerate freezer burn.
This drawer is dried up
It may be just as well that there's only one crisper in this Kenmore, as it didn’t do a whole heck of a lot as far as retaining moisture. Set to its most retentive setting, our test products lost an average of 0.25 grams of moisture per hour, much more than average. That leads to prematurely spoiled salads and wasted food.
Kenmore’s 51162 did an excellent job freezing food quickly. Room temperature to 32ºF in one hour and 8 minutes is no small accomplishment, and will preserve the texture and quality of fresh meat and fish that you’ve decided to freeze.
The 51162 hangs on to that cold air with a firm grip, too. After 36 hours without power, the internal temperature of the freezer had warmed up to just 28.83ºF.
Average room, above average efficiency
The layout of the 51162 may not be the most intuitive in terms of shelf height, but at least it is roomy. The fresh food compartment has an assortment of shelves with varying heights between them, as well as a deli drawer, crisper bin, and temperature-adjustable compartment at the bottom. The fridge door boasts four shelves—two of which are gallon-sized—and a dairy bin. With all of those compartments combined, it adds up to a solid 12.35 cubic feet of usable space—some of which is rather cramped.
The freezer has five shelves and a drawer at the bottom comprising almost all of the usable storage. There are three small shelves on the freezer door below the icemaker, but they don’t add a whole lot. Totaling 6.62 usable cubic feet, the 51162 offers an average amount of storage.
It also offers an above-average level of energy efficiency. The 51162 requires just $39.48 per year to operate, based on a fixed rate of $0.09 per kWh. That means it only needs 0.06 kWh to chill each usable cubic foot.
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