Kenmore 51026 26.5 Cu. Ft. Side By Side Metallic Review$1,300.00
Ease of Access
The slots in the fridge are numerous enough that you can arrange the shelves to suit almost any storage need. The freezer shelves have fewer adjustment opportunities, so exceptionally large items may have a tough time fitting. As is, they're placed just below eye level, so as long as your items fit, they should be easy to get to. Freezer door storage is either at the very top or very bottom, meaning people who have trouble reaching higher places or bending over may find it difficult to use. The wire basket at the bottom of the freezer is also a little sticky sliding in and out, as are the crisper drawers on the bottom of the fridge.
The fridge is controlled by a panel of buttons set above the ice dispenser on the left door. Green back lit images indicate the temperature of either compartment, controlled separately, using a series of lines going from cold to colder. The dispenser's option for ice (both crushed and cubed) and water is illustrated by another green symbol. A few other functions, including a lock for control settings and a light indicating the need for a new water filter is also placed here.
The temperature controls are located on the front of the fridge on a control panel just above the ice dispenser. There isn't any degree scale, just a series of glowing bars that mark whether the temperature is closer to cold or colder. It's very easy to use, however: buttons labeled Freezer Temp and Fridge Temp adjust the bars one at a time with each push.
The water dispenser is very straightforward. A button between the temperature controls select either water, crushed ice, or cubed ice. They come out of a single spout, which is operated by a single paddle which offers just the right amount of resistance. Also, there's a conveniently located light that illuminates the door cavity when the paddle is depressed.
The designer of the ice maker on the Kenmore 51026 got a bit creative, albeit at the expense of some efficiency. The very top features an indented plastic portion which must be pulled out to access the power switch. It can be left off, but then the cables and interior plastic structure of the ice maker are visible. The large lower portion can also be removed to access bulk ice.
The fridge shelves are easy to remove, and spill guards should contain small spills. The smooth glass surfaces are very easy to clean, as are the removable door shelves. They're self-contained, containing even large spills. The freezer isn't quite as user-friendly. The wire shelves don't contain anything, so that bag of peas is going to be rolling all over the place if there's a split in the bag.
The whole unit runs very quietly, only audible when the doors are open.