Is buying a smart fridge a dumb idea?
How smart does a fridge need to be? And is a connected cooler the key to conquering your kitchen, or is this a fridge too far? It's a great question and one we've heard more than a few times since getting the Family Hub smart fridge on loan from Samsung.
It's hard not to see a lot of what the Family Hub does as gimmicky, especially when the fridge is set up in your office for a trial and not in a typical home usage situation. However, when it is set up in your home and connected to all your other devices, the Family Hub becomes more than a fridge with neat tricks.
When is a door not a door?
At its most basic, the Family Hub is a big fridge-freezer with a 21.5" touch panel on the door. This panel controls the fridge's functions, such as setting temperature zones, but it also does everything you'd expect from a regular tablet – you can browse the internet, listen to the radio, stream music or even watch YouTube.
The Samsung Family Hub is run from a 21.5" touchscreen on its door.
At first glance, the ability to watch videos while you're cooking doesn't seem especially useful, but as we got to know the Family Hub we found it was an, ahem, cool feature. Aside from just keeping the kids occupied, you can use it to refer to cooking shows or follow along with recipes. Using a built-in app, we watched a short clip on cooking techniques, a useful feature if you need a quick lesson while whipping something up in the kitchen. If you have a recent model Samsung smart TV you can also mirror the TV screen on the fridge, so you won't miss a moment of the action while you're making nachos.
'Appy Little Vegemite
Apps allowing you to write lists or notes on the fridge are possibly the best tech feature of the Family Hub. There are a few different apps but they all let you do the same thing: leave big notes on the screen for others to read. This digital version of a notepad stuck to the fridge door has the added value of being able to send messages from the fridge to your phone (and vice versa). What's the advantage of this over just sending someone a text? Well it's great for general notifications in a busy household, so if you've forgotten to take tonight's dinner out of the freezer you can ask anyone who might be passing to grab it for you. We even used this to wish a workmate happy birthday via the fridge.
The Family Hub is a great fridge with plenty of room, but society just isn't ready for a connected kitchen.
The most useful features are the shopping list app and the internal cameras. No, you can't take selfies with the fridge, but one of the doors has cameras mounted in it so you can photograph what's inside remotely. Again this seems like a gimmick, until you're in the supermarket and trying to remember if you already have mustard.
The Food Reminder camera app lets you assign use-by dates to food, which pop up when you need to replace items. The Family Hub's Shopping List app also syncs with your phone. So if someone at home adds a last-minute item, it immediately shows up, which could save you a second trip to the shops if you're already cruising the aisles of your local supermarket.
Overall, the Family Hub feels like a solution to a problem most people don't have, and for now at least, scribbling "got milk?" on a notepad is probably still quicker and easier than tapping it out on a screen. However, in the future, a connected fridge inside a connected home could order food for you via an online store, record your favourite cooking shows and suggest recipes based on what food it can 'see' with its cameras (and maybe even publicly shame you by Instagramming the science experiment that used to be your leftover lasagne). For now though, it's a very high-end and feature-rich fridge, but very gimmicky and incredibly expensive. So if you absolutely must download while you dice then buying a conventional 'dumb' fridge and a separate tablet is probably a better, cheaper option.
- Fridge: 377L
- Freezer: 273L
- Energy Star Rating: 2.5 stars
- Includes: Plumbed water/ice dispenser
- Dimensions: 908 x 1825 x 733mm
- Weight: 159kg
- Touchscreen: 21.5" full HD
- Operating system: Tizen
- CPU: Hawk-M Quad Core (1.3Ghz)
- Memory: 8GB on-board
- Speakers: 2 x 5W
- Includes: Microphone, proximity sensor, Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-enabled
This fridge was loaned by Samsung New Zealand.