Anyone who’s lived in a college dorm will probably experience flashbacks to their younger days when thinking about a mini fridge. Small refrigerators were – and still are – ubiquitous in dorm rooms and common areas; the soda or beer, the yogurt or leftover pizza, the fruit or ice cream kept inside mini fridges have long been the key to surviving all-nighters and weekends on campus.
Once college kids become grownups, they find there are many uses for compact refrigerators in the real world as well.
Mini Fridges For Everyone!
They’re perfect for small offices, small studio apartments or outdoor patios; they provide additional food storage for parties or visits from out-of-town family; they’re handy to have in a media room; and they’re as important to a man cave as a big-screen HDTV or an electronic dart board. In fact, some “superconductor” or “thermoelectric” mini fridge models are marketed for man caves and outdoor spaces because they’re specifically designed to keep beverages cold, although most won’t do a good job maintaining the proper temperatures for meat and vegetables. Your House Garden prefers models with traditional compressors which can handle food as well as brewskis.
Energy Start Certification is Critical When Considering a Mini Fridge
There’s one big issue with most small fridges: they’re energy hogs. Because of their size, there’s not enough room for the amount of insulation used in full-sized models and extra power is needed to keep them cold. That makes Energy Star certification important. A common but less-crucial issue is that the freezers on most mini fridges are sub-standard. Most buyers aren’t buying small refrigerators for their freezers, though, so we didn’t consider that to be a key consideration when creating our best mini fridge brands top 5 list. The Your House Garden Review Team has included one option for those to whom the freezer is equally important.
The Right Size Mini Fridge For You
Mini fridges are almost always purchased because of their size, so the key measuring stick for most shoppers is whether a model is big enough to hold what they need refrigerated – and small enough to fit into their available space. If you have the luxury of choosing between a larger and smaller fridge, you’ll usually do better with the larger one. Not only can it hold more food, but it will maintain temperature better and will be more energy-efficient.
Other Important Factors When Looking at Mini Fridges
Other important variables – aside from price, of course – include whether the refrigerator has solid or wire racks (the former are easy to clean), its interior configuration (including whether the shelves are adjustable), whether there are dedicated compartments or special areas in the door for soda cans and water bottles, the overall look of the appliance and how much noise it makes. One consideration that’s often overlooked: some mini fridges require empty space around them so excess heat can be dissipated. Those models won’t be appropriate if you’re planning to squeeze your fridge into an enclosed space or under a counter.
Enough of the preliminaries. Let’s take a look at the coolest mini fridges available from various brands that you can put in your kitchen.
1. Danby DAR017A2BDD Compact All Refrigerator
If you need freezer space in your mini fridge, skip to our next review because the DAR017A2BDD doesn’t have a freezer. That could be inconvenient for some, but it makes this Danby a much better refrigerator. It has more room for fresh food than do competitive models with a small freezer, and since the unit doesn’t have to maintain two separate temperatures, the temperature in the refrigerator remains consistent over long periods of time.
You may never have heard of Danby before, but it’s a Canadian company that’s been producing appliances for 70 years and is now one of the biggest manufacturers of refrigerators in the West.
The energy-efficient (although somewhat noisy) compressor in the DAR017A2BDD uses environmentally-friendly R600a refrigerant and is able to get up to temperature as quickly as any mini fridge we’ve seen, with cooling settings handled by a high-quality mechanical thermostat. The combination means you’ll get reliable temperatures without having to worry about food alternatively freezing and defrosting, as happens in many small fridges.
We’ve mentioned that there’s no dedicated freezer on this model, but the highest temperature setting will actually freeze food in the refrigerator if that’s required, and there’s an auto-defrost system built in which is a great advantage if you choose to use the coldest setting.
This Danby fridge has 1.7 cubic feet of refrigeration space with two adjustable wire racks, and the door is built with a compartment to hold a two-liter soda bottle (or a wine bottle) plus a CanStore beverage dispenser that holds six standard beer or soda cans. The exterior of the mini fridge is equally impressive with a stylish black finish, a scratch-resistant workspace on top, and a reversible door with integrated handle. There is a flat back.
Unless you absolutely must have a freezer or want a mini fridge devoted to beverage storage, the Danby DAR017A2BDD is a clear choice. Its reasonable price makes it even more of a winner.
Facts and figures for the Danby DAR017A2BDD Compact All Refrigerator:
2. Haier HC40SG42SB Refrigerator/Freezer
If you have more space available than the Danby requires and you want a lot more room inside your mini fridge, Your House Garden recommends the Haier HC40SG42SB with a full four cubic feet of combined refrigerator/freezer space. This unit is 1.5 times the size of the Danby so you might not consider it a “mini” fridge, but it’s roomy and versatile.
The Haier has three easy-to-clean adjustable glass shelves; the top fifth of the fridge is mostly occupied by a small canister-style freezer which can fit a few items, with a small shelf to the side suitable for a few jars or cans.
What’s really cool about the layout of the HC40SG42SB, though, is the organization of door space. You can store several large items like a two-liter soda bottle and a gallon of milk on the bottom shelf, and above that are a six-can beverage dispenser, a shelf for several bottles of water and a smaller shelf for yogurt-sized containers.
The cooling is done by a relatively-quiet compressor and a mechanical thermostat, and the refrigerator section holds temperature quite well. The freezer is prone to developing frost pretty quickly, though, as are all mini fridge freezer canisters – so as long as you don’t count on the freezer for storing anything important, you’ll be fine. Unfortunately, this unit doesn’t have an auto-defrost function, its only major drawback.
If you don’t need a unit this large, there are five sizes of the HC40SG42SB available: 1.7, 2.7, 3.2 and 4.0 cubic feet, plus one that’s larger at 4.5 cubic feet. There are also three colors to choose from, black, white and stainless. Your House Garden wouldn’t call this a beautiful appliance, but it’s attractive and will fit with just about any surroundings.
No mini fridge with a freezer is going to be without flaws. This Haier comes closest to an ideal, providing a lot more storage space than the Danby for only an extra small incremental price.
Details for the Haier HC40SG42SB Refrigerator/Freezer:
3. Black+Decker BCRK25B Single Door Mini Fridge With Freezer
Black+Decker offers four sizes of this well-made compact refrigerator, from 1.7 to 4.3 cubic feet in size. We’ve chosen to look at the BCRK25B, a 2.5 cubic foot model, because it’s the most versatile choice with design features that create lots of storage space.
There’s a single door on this B+D unit. It insulates a full-width (but understandably small) freezer compartment, the main refrigerator section with two full-width removable, adjustable glass shelves, and door storage with a shelf for small items that’s located above a soda can dispenser and a dedicated cut-out for a two-liter bottle.
The compressor for the BCRK25B runs quietly and the mini fridge holds temperature well; like almost all small fridges it is not self-defrosting, though, so it may get noisier as frost builds up over time. There’s the standard 1-10 adjustable thermostat, the unit has leveling legs and a reversible door, and it’s available in white, grey or black.
This mini fridge isn’t extraordinary – but you don’t expect one of these appliances to be extraordinary. You buy them to perform a function, and the Black+Decker does just that.
A closer look at the Black+Decker BCRK25B Single Door Mini Fridge With Freezer:
4. SPT RF-244SS Compact Refrigerator
There are six different sizes of this SPT model, ranging from 1.6 cubic feet to 4.4 cubic feet, and the prices don’t necessarily correlate to their sizes – the 3.5 cubic foot unit costs more than the 4.4 cu. ft. model, for some reason. We’ve reviewed the 2.4 cubic foot mini fridge because it’s the right size to tuck into small areas.
Most of the usable room inside the RF-244SS is taken up by the refrigerator, with a small 0.18 cubic foot canister freezer that’s really only suitable for frozen snacks or a pint of ice cream. That’s just as well, as the freezer is prone to frost as you’d probably expect. There are two adjustable wire racks in the refrigerator with room for two two-liter soda bottles in the door.
The compressor is a little noisier than on the models Your House Garden looked at previously, but it maintains refrigerator temperatures well. There’s no auto-defrost feature. One important note is that you do need to keep 6-8 inches of clearance around this mini fridge, so you can’t tuck it into a tight space without running the risk of overheating.
This isn’t the best model on our list (as you’d guess since it’s listed at #4), but it does the job well for most uses.
More info on the SPT RF-244SS Compact Refrigerator:
5. NewAir AB-1200 126-Can Beverage Cooler
We referred earlier to people who use their mini fridge exclusively to keep beverages cold. This model is designed with that purpose in mind. The compressor-cooled, 3.4 cubic foot interior can be chilled to 34 degrees and it holds 126 cans on five removable chrome racks and in a dispenser storage bin at the bottom of the unit. If your taste runs in a different direction, the NewAir can accommodate about six wine bottles. This fridge runs very quietly.
Like the SPT mini fridge, this unit vents in the rear so it can’t be tucked against the wall. But the Your House Garden Review Team couldn’t find any other major negatives unless you want to nitpick about things like there not being an integrated handle in the door, or the door not being reversible. It’s built to do one thing, and it does it well – and we like the NewAir better than thermoelectric competitors because its thermostat has seven settings which can be used if you want to store appetizers or other food inside.
This model is pricey, but it looks like a commercial unit you’d see in a restaurant or bar, so it’s perfect for that man cave where price isn’t a major concern.
Specifications for the NewAir AB-1200 126-Can Beverage Cooler:
Avalon By Keyton A1-31CFDDBLK Refrigerator And Freezer With Double Doors
* Unfortunately it looks like this model Avalon might not be available right now, so please consider another mini fridge for now.
This unit is an inch taller than the Haier, at 35 inches high, so whether you’d still call it a “mini” fridge is up to you. We call it a terrific small refrigerator/freezer (if you have room for it) and worth the #3 ranking on our best mini fridge top 5 list because it comes with separate refrigerator and freezer compartments with individual doors.
It’s not the right model for folks who use their mini fridge primarily for beverages and don’t really need a freezer, since the freezer section eliminates a lot of potential refrigeration space. But the energy-efficient construction means that each section stays right at the temperature you want it to be.
You’re not going to pack a ton of food into this unit since the total of 3.1 cubic feet of space is split between refrigerator and freezer. But there’s ample room in the fridge for the groceries you’d usually have in a dorm room or office. The fridge has one removable glass shelf, a surprisingly-large transparent fruit and vegetable drawer, and a five-can dispenser and two-liter bottle rack on the door. The freezer is also roomier than we would have expected, using about one-third of the total storage space to accommodate a normal person’s stash of ice cream, frozen dinners, and bags of fries. There’s a small shelf on the freezer door, too.
The quiet compressor uses energy-efficient R600a refrigerant and maintains temperatures quite well, thanks in part to the separate freezer and refrigerator. The Avalon will ensure that your ice cream and ice cubes stay frozen while your drinks are staying cold.
A closer look at the Avalon By Keyton A1-31CFDDBLK Refrigerator And Freezer With Double Doors: