A new take on a classic top-freezer design

This Whirlpool is designed like your standard top-freezer, with the fridge taking up most of the real estate. The glossy white finish gives it a fresh look, though it is less likely to hide fingerprints than the textured exteriors of yore. Inside, Whirlpool has updated the template they've been working from for decades, with sleeker clear plastic shelves on the doors, sleeker drawers and more light.

...Whirlpool has updated the template they've been working from for decades...

The freezer portion features a single wire shelf that divides the compartment; it does not, however, have an ice maker. There’s a single control at the top of the fridge compartment to determine the temperature of both the fridge and the freezer, so you may find one compartment is at the mercy of the other.

This Whirlpool isn't very customizable, and there are lots of places for food to get lost.

We like the look of Whirlpool's new entry-level interior, though it's not without drawbacks. It's easy to wipe fingerprints off the sleek surfaces, both inside and out, but food that spills or drips on its way to freezing will invariably get stuck on the ridges at the bottom of the freezer. In the fridge, liquids that spill on interior shelves can run down the back of the fridge and beneath the vegetable drawers, making it very difficult to clean. The wide, heavy glass shelves are also difficult to adjust. Consumers with limited mobility could have trouble reaching down to get items at the rear of lower shelves, but that's often a problem with any top freezer.

Liquids that spill on interior shelves can run down the back of the fridge and beneath the vegetable drawers...

There’s a single temperature control, located inside the fridge compartment. Unfortunately, it controls both the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer, and doesn’t have any corresponding temperature scale. We calibrated our model at the manufacturer's “recommended” setting, which ended up being great for the freezer, but not so great for the refrigerator.

Impressive freezer performance, but poor controls doomed the fridge.

On its "recommended" setting, the Whirlpool’s fridge ran warm. That’s a consequence of a single temperature control for both compartments: If we were to reduce the temperature in the fridge, the freezer would’ve been too cold, something that may not impact your food but could cause increased energy consumption. Either way, temperatures were best in the middle of the fridge, so keep highly perishable items like dairy towards the center.

Up top, the freezer did a great job keeping food consistently cold, barely varying over time or space. Like the fridge, temperatures also didn’t vary over time. Consistency is very important in a freezer, as constant changes in temperature can cause freezer burn and ruin food. Altogether, the whole unit was also quite energy efficient for the space it offers.

The vegetable drawers defied the temperature issues and delivered results that very average—a good thing, at this point. Produce should remain fresh for a couple of days, no more than you might generally expect.

For the money, this is a surprisingly good fridge.

With wide shelves, consistent temperatures and efficient energy use, the Whirlpool WRT351SFYW only suffered from a few flaws not uncommon to entry-level fridges. The full-width shelves that comprise the interior aren't made for customization, but—more importantly—the lone temperature control makes it impossible to get an ideal temperature for both compartments at the same time. Some of these drawbacks can be forgiven since this Whirlpool has a relatively cheap MSRP of $850, and sale prices that fall as low as $770. For list price, it's a good deal. If you manage to find it for less, it's a serious bargain.

While this Whirlpool isn't an outrageously fantastic fridge, it did a pretty excellent job with most of our tests. The single control meant temperatures were a bit flaky, but you can take a look at the numbers and see for yourself.

Unbalanced temperature is the price one pays for a single control knob.

On its recommended setting, the Whirlpool’s fridge ran a bit warm. It's an easy fix handled by turning down the thermostat. At the very least, we found that the temperatures, regardless of what they were or at what point in the fridge we looked at, rarely moved more than half of a degree over time.

Unlike the fridge, the freezer was more or less spot on. We'd be curious to see what happens when you turn down the thermostat to get better results in the fridge, since the colder a freezer gets, the more fluctuation you typically see over time. As it is, there's already about a degree of fluctuation overall, which is getting close to the poor end of the spectrum.

The vegetable drawer is merely average on this fridge, so buy your fresh produce accordingly.

A vegetable drawer is meant to keep its contents at a constant humidity, but that’s not always the case. Over the course of four days, we measured how much water a synthetic vegetable lost inside the Whirlpool’s vegetable drawer, and found it to be about 0.19 grams of water per hour. That’s about average for a fridge, but it means your vegetables may dry out fairly soon.

Fast freezing and slow thawing; you couldn't ask for anything more.

No consumer refrigerator will come with a freezer that can flash freeze food. “Flash Freezing” ensures that food goes from room temperature to frozen as quickly as possible to prevent ice crystals from forming, which may affect taste when the food is thawed. That said, the Whirlpool took just 1 hour and 15 minutes to freeze food from room temperature, which is pretty impressive. It also managed to hold on to that cold air, only reaching an internal temperature of about 28 degrees Fahrenheit after 36 hours without power.

Plenty of storage space in both fridge and freezer, with some really fantastic efficiency ratings.

While not very customizable, the interior of the fridge did manage to offer up a total storage area of 11.02 cubic feet. The wide shelves may not be conducive to a highly adjustable layout, but that's pretty darn spacious for a budget top freezer. The freezer, with even fewer options for storage and no customization to speak of, provides another 5.15 cubic feet. That's also quite good, given you a spacious product all around.

Power consumption was reasonably low: In total, the Whirlpool WRT351SFYW would cost about $32.66 to run per year, assuming that power sells for $0.09 per kW-h. When we set up a ratio of power consumption to available storage, we found that this fridge only required a mere 0.06 kW-h per cubic foot. That's exceptionally low, making this a very efficiency product no matter how you look at it.

Meet the testers

Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Former Editor in Chief, Reviewed Home

@itskeithbarry

Keith was the Editor in Chief of Reviewed's appliance and automotive sites. His work has appeared in publications such as Wired, Car & Driver, and CityLab.

See all of Keith Barry'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.

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