The tale of the turbulent freezer

Fancy French door fridges are all the rage, but if you don’t care so much about design and just need something simple that’ll keep your groceries cold, then a good ol’ top freezer like the one you probably grew up with will still do the trick.

And, if you’re in the market for a top freezer, then Whirlpool hopes you’ll consider the WRT541SZHV. At a suggested retail price of $1,299 — which is just about as expensive as top freezers get — it offers 21 cubic feet of total storage space and an attractive, black stainless steel design.

All things considered, I think there are better values to be had elsewhere. For instance, at that same $1,299 price, the black stainless steel version of the LG LTCS24223S offers a bigger design with recessed handles, and better performance, too. For a few hundred less, the equally large Samsung RT21M6213SR gives you much sharper performance in the freezer and a better set of features. I’d buy both of those before spending my money on the Whirlpool WRT541SZHV.

Design and features

I’ll keep this section pretty quick, because there’s honestly not much to talk about. The WRT541SZHV is, quite simply, a very traditional top freezer build. The black stainless steel finish looks fine, and helps it blend in with more modern appliances on your retailer’s show floor — but at the end of the day, this is still a pretty old-fashioned appliance.

Inside, you’ll find a total of 21.3 cubic feet of storage space, 15.2 of which are allocated to the fridge compartment. Those are decent numbers by top freezer standards, but not quite as big as the extra large-sized LG LTCS24223, which clocks in at a total of 24 cubic feet.

As for power consumption, the WRT541SZHV is Energy Star-certified with a total energy draw of 399 kWh. That’d add about $48 to your energy bill each year. Those figures are right on par with other, similarly sized top freezers that don’t include an automatic ice maker by default, including the Samsung RT21M6213SR.


The Flexi-Slide Bin beneath the top shelf slides from left to right to help make space for tall groceries beneath it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

That brings us to features. You don’t typically get very many of them with top freezer fridges, and the WRT541SZHV is no exception. The small deli drawer that hangs beneath the refrigerator’s top shelf slides from left to right to make space for groceries below, though — Whirlpool calls it the “Flexi-Slide Bin.” Might come in handy here and there, but for the most part, it’s a gimmick in an otherwise bare-bones build. Still, it slides quite smoothly, so give Whirlpool some credit for execution.

Shop around, and you won’t find many top freezers that do much better as far as features are concerned. The aforementioned Samsung model does include a drawer up at the very top of the fridge compartment that spans the entire width of the appliance, which is rare in a top freezer, and you can convert the freezer into extra fridge space, too, which is actually pretty darned handy. The GE GAS18PSJSS is another seemingly boring top freezer with some unique extra functionality thanks to a water pitcher accessory that fills automatically whenever you dock it in place inside.

Those are outliers though — if you’re buying a top freezer, it’s because you’re looking for value, not because you’re hunting for top-of-the-line features.


Aside from one extra hot-spot beneath the butter bin, the average temperatures at the refrigerator’s default setting look pretty good — but keep an eye on those freezer temps…

Tyler Lizenby/CNET


We test refrigerators by loading them into a climate-controlled test chamber and tracking the temperatures in each section of the fridge on a minute-by-minute basis for 72 hours at both the default and coldest settings. It takes about a week, but it gives us a wealth of data to dig into.

With three exceptions, each of the shelves, drawers and door bins in the WRT541SZHV’s fridge compartment held tight within a 2-degree spread, ranging from 37.9 to 39.9 degrees F. That’s very good — 37 degrees is the ideal target temperature at a refrigerator’s default setting, and anything above 40 starts to speed up the growth of bacteria.

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