A pretty face

At face value, this Kenmore has a lot going for it. The bright white finish is quite vibrant, and should lighten up even the darkest of kitchens. Fingerprints are nigh invisible on the glossy front, making this a great fit for consumers with small children. Stainless is available on the otherwise-identical 51173 if you want to pay extra—about $100 more if a sale is on.

On the inside, you’ve got bright LED lights that offer tons of interior illumination, shelves and drawers with classy steel trim, and an on-the-door icemaker that’s both spacious and very easy to access. Kenmore even includes two optional racks for can and bottle storage.

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The controls are easy to read and use thanks to a highly responsive touch screen. All the high-end fridge features are there: control lock, fast ice—called Acceler-Ice—and an off switch for when you're away on vacation.

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Oddly, this Kenmore has three different ways of dispensing water, each of which serves a unique purpose. First, you’ve got the usual paddle. Second, you’ve got the Dispense Water button on the front of the panel, helpful when trying to fill containers that can’t reach the paddle, such as gallon-sized jugs. Both of these methods allow you to track how much water has been dispensed. The third option is Measured Fill, which will dispense a preselected amount of water in units of ounces, cups, or liters.

As far as layout is concerned, only the freezer uses its available shelves and drawers wisely. The fridge lost points when it came to accessibility. Despite the fact that there’s plenty of room for even shelf distribution, the available slots are designed in such a way that—no matter what—at least two of the available shelves had to be put almost comically close together. Short of removing one, you could only fit eggs or yogurt there, and it would be impossible to easily reach anything stored in the back.

Too much flux in the freezer.

The main fridge compartment in the Kenmore wasn’t bad, but it didn’t offer the kind of performance we’d expect from an appliance this expensive. It was slightly warm throughout, and had some noticeable consistency issues over time at the top.

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When it came to the freezer, though, temperatures fluctuated a great deal more. It got cold enough, but degree shifts of almost two degrees repeatedly put temperatures above 0ºF. There’s a strong chance that you’re going to see freezer burn.

What’s more, the crisper drawers failed to retain acceptable amounts of moisture. Losing almost three times more water than the best crispers we’ve tested, you may very well notice your carrots and lettuce spoiling before their time.

We did find the 51172 to be very energy efficient, and its massive 29.8 cubic feet interior—19.39 of which proved to be usable for storage—is hard to be in a side-by-side. That said, it also turned out to be one of the few models we’ve tested that failed our 36-hour power loss test.

For in-depth performance information, please visit the Science Page.

Save your money.

Despite its visual flair, energy efficiency, and spacious freezer, the Kenmore Elite 51172's temperature flaws and disappointing crispers simply don't justify its $2,119.99 MSRP. Sure, it’s huge, and sale prices often hover around $1,600, but you'd be better off buying a slightly pricier French door or a somewhat smaller side-by-side that will cost less and perform better.
Even with energy efficiency working in its favor, our test results paint a rather disappointing picture of the Kenmore Elite 51172 (MSRP $2,119.99). Poor storage optimization, an unsteady freezer, and sub-par crispers hurt this fridge in our tests.

Balmy fridge, burnt freezer

With average temperatures clocking in at 38.44ºF near the top, 38.9ºF in the middle, and 42.99ºF at the bottom, this fridge clearly ran warm despite being set to 37ºF on the controls. You can always turn the fridge down to compensate, and a little extra warmth at the bottom can be good for produce—but six degrees is too much. Two thirds of the fridge exhibited average temperature shifts over time of about 0.3 degrees (which is quite good), while the top averaged a shift of 0.68 degrees. That’s more than twice the rest of the compartment.

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Unlike the fridge, the freezer managed to hit our chilly expectations, with temperatures at the top and bottom coming in around -1.25ºF and -0.73ºF respectively. Unfortunately, it couldn’t maintain those levels: The lower half of the freezer shifted an average of 0.71 degrees, while the top showed huge shifts of 2.41 degrees. That’s incredibly inconsistent, and definitely takes temperatures well above and below 0ºF on a regular basis. That leads to freezer burn, which leads to spoilt food, which leads to wasted money.

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Crisping veggies in a bad way.

Almost as disappointing as the freezer were the crisper drawers in the fridge compartment. Our test materials lost an average of 0.28 grams of moisture per hour over the course of three days, and that was on the most retentive setting. For an average-quality drawer, we’d expect a loss of moisture almost half that. If you typically stock up on salad greens, they may not last as long as you’d like.

Fast freezing, fast thawing.

On one hand, the 51172 did a great job freezing our test materials, taking just one hour and 27 minutes. By that same token, however, this is one of the few high-end products we’ve tested to fail our power loss test. We unplug a fridge for 36 hours to simulate a power outage, and most full-sized models are able to keep everything frozen at least that long. After only about 27 hours without power, however, the test materials inside this Kenmore had officially thawed.

Very roomy, and fairly efficient.

The 51172’s design lent itself to an ample amount of available storage. The five shelves and three drawers in the main fridge compartment, plus the dairy bin and four other shelves on the fridge door, all offered up a sizable 12.98 cubic feet of usable space. In calculating this number, we took into account room taken up by elements such as the air and water filters, but excluded the two removable bottle racks. Also, keep in mind that the available shelf racks are going to leave you with at least two that offer unusually cramped space.

The freezer proved to be very spacious indeed. Inside, you have four shelves and two drawers providing the bulk of the storage. The icemaker was relegated entirely to the door, with only three small shelves on the bottom to supplement the main compartment. All in all, the frozen total came to 6.41 cubic feet of usable space, very impressive especially for a side-by-side.

All that space means this product turns in a fairly energy efficient performance. Using a rate of $0.09 per kWh, we determined that it would cost you $56.66 per year to operate, and that’s with the icemaker running. Spread that energy out across the entire fridge and freezer interior, and it amounts to just 0.09 kWh per usable cubic foot.

Meet the testers

Matthew Zahnzinger

Matthew Zahnzinger

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

Checking our work.

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.

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