More often than not a Fridge along with many other major home appliances are what’s known as a “grudge purchase” – something you don’t really want to do but have to because the old one packed it in. Perhaps the Samsung Family Hub fridge is the first Fridge you might actually seek out for an upgrade.
That desirability comes from the interactive 21.5 inch touch-screen that sits front and centre on the right hand fridge door.
The model we’re testing is the 634L Family Hub French Door model (SRF630BFH2) which will set you back $5,000 at least – most likely $5,499.
As a fridge
It’s a giant, at 1.7m tall, 908mm wide and 742mm deep – while similar in size to our previous fridge, it’s very boxy design (no protruding handles) makes it feel bigger.
Inside there’s 634 litres of space, plus the ice-maker and water dispenser on the left-hand door.
This “freezer drawer” model wasn’t a first choice for our family – were used to a side-by side fridge-freezer and while we’ve gotten used to it, the concept of digging through the freezer really hasn’t grown on us, and the top drawer inside the freezer drawer has a habit of coming off it’s rails which is frustrating.
We’ve not had any space issues inside the fridge, there’s really only one spot to stand up tall bottles with a fold up shelf making way for them but the double door fridge space is a real winner and possibly offsets the downside of the freezer drawer.
The Value proposition
But forget all that, it’s up-front where things matter. The simple fact is you’re paying a premium of $2,000 for the smarts here so is it really worth it?
On a dollar for dollar count – no way. This thing is almost impossible to justify at face value, unless you’re really looking to invest your time and effort into being a digital family – and are a true early adopter.
This version is already version 2.0 of the Family Hub. The first lacked voice-control, and won’t get the Version 3 software update in the coming months. That new version will add much more to the device including smart home capabilities that will bring down that price frustration measurably – again, if you’re a digital family.
This is the party piece, the headline, and the attention seeker. It’s the reason to own a Samsung Family Hub and I love it.
We don’t use it enough yet, but it takes time, it really is a complete adjustment for everyone in the home and over time some features get more use than others, while some come and go.
A handy digital screen to change the fridge settings like temperature is great, keeping it simple and giving you icon based instructions like if you want the middle draw to be for meat, deli, drinks or wine. Adjusting the temperature to suit.
You can sync up your digital calendar, and add multiple calendars so things are easily shared across your family. In the end we deleted my calendar because it was too much clutter, and just left our shared family Google calendar as default as this shows family activities and they are now visible to the kids.
Tune in Radio and Spotify are installed by default, with Tune in working as an app on the fridge, while Spotify doesn’t allow you to initiate a feed, you have to do that from your phone and after that you can skip tracks and such.
The audio comes from speakers between the middle draw and freezer and frankly is impressive given they are not actually visible and outward facing.
Memo’s & Drawings
My kids love this more than anything – to the point where we’ve had to limit their use – “fridge screen time” being kept to a minimum:)
On the fridge itself they can use either the memo or whiteboard function to make up little notes, it’s hard to explain the difference between Memo’s and Whiteboard, but lets just say creativity plays out.
You can add these notes from your smartphone too using the Samsung Family Hub app – which I’ve done many times when overseas so the kids can see them when they head to the fridge.
If you’ve got a compatible Samsung TV (Basically a top level unit from the last few years) you can mirror the output on the Fridge.
Volume is controlled independent of the TV itself, but you can change the channel from the fridge!
Problem is, it’s rubbish. Choppy, buffering, rarely gets a great signal – and trust me, we’ve got good WiFi. It’s a real disappointment because it could be the best feature of the TV.
Fortunately, it does still allow you to see what’s ON the TV (apps or Free-to-air) so if you’re preparing dinner you can keep an eye on TV time.
There’s two functions for grocery shopping. Firstly the Shopping list – this is a simple approach to keeping track of what you need, of course you can view this on your smartphone when you’re at the shops.
Perhaps more forward thinking is the integration with Woolworths – you can open up a Woolworths shop right on the screen. Adding items to your list, sorting a delivery time and paying right from the fridge.
Alternatively, because it’s your Woolworths account, the “cart” you create can be completed on your phone or computer too. This is a much easier way to go and allows you to really take the time to sort through your order and make any changes.
This is one of the standout features of the fridge – of course it requires you to be a Woolies shopper but if you’ve made the commitment to buy this – make the switch.
We don’t use it for ordering start to finish, but for adding items to the “cart” online, the Samsung Family Hub is amazing.
So, when you’re at the shops for any reason, wondering if you have milk – take a look inside! Using the app on your phone you can click the view inside button to see the inside of your fridge.
The photo is taken by three cameras on the door every single time you close the fridge.
It’s very very cool. But – it’s not an amazing view. In a family of five our fridge is often packed to the rafters. There’s no way you’ll see what’s all around the sides of the fridge. Fortunately, the big stuff, Milk and so on, you can normally see quite easily.
There’s also an option to “tag” food, put an expiry date on it so you can keep an eye on the older foods. This is very cool, but lets be honest, you rarely put everything back in the exact same spot, so it becomes a bit useless very fast.
Until the cameras and app have image recognition so it can track the item in your fridge, this one’s a bit hit and miss.
No more little clock required, you can set multiple timers on the fridge for your cooking or other timed needs.
Plus, this is probably the one key area where “Hey Samsung” voice activation comes in handy. While voice control is cool, I’m rarely googling things on the fridge, so timers set without touching a thing is a real winner.
To Do Lists
Got stuff to do? Make a list! We’ve made a list for each of the kids. Now sure, Hugs for Dad is often on there, but any item can be added and the kids can keep track. Really handy and fun.
It’s just awesome to see photos of the family regularly in the kitchen. You upload photos via the Family Hub app and they appear on the screen.
You can set little galleries on the home page, and use photos as the screensaver, this is just brilliant.
Again, I’ve used it from overseas to send photos home while I’m away!
So many things listed above require the app. On an Android phone it works well, almost seamlessly. Photo uploads are clumsy, not as easy as you might hope and there’s a lot of work to be done to make this app worthy of a $5500 fridge.
On iOS the app works well first go, but it’s not as easy to use as Android for things like Memos or photo uploads. For the regular functions like view-inside and such, it works a treat.
So – what’s it like?
It’s great. The Samsung Family Hub is the smartest and most advanced fridge money can buy. You can really see the vision for the future playing out in this appliance.
Samsung’s focus on the connected home will grow deeper into the Family Hub with the release of version 3 software in the coming months. Adding my Arlo cameras and Ring Doorbell will immediately improve the overall value proposition.
If you’re not a family that uses electronic calendars, does any online shopping or has even the beginnings of a Smart Home – this is not the device for you.
However for those connected families in connected homes, this is your future fridge. Be it now taking the plunge on an interest free purchase plan – because who has $5k to spare on a fridge right? – or knowing that this could be your next fridge, I can see the potential here.
There are many areas of improvement required, much of which wouldn’t be seen in a lab, or in a short test. We’ve been using this fridge for many months now, and it’s a winner in our home. It’s not as smart as I’d like it to be given the cost, but that version 3 upgrade is going to be very welcome.
Don’t expect it to be the be all and end all from day one, the Family Hub grows on you, its features become useful over time as you appreciate how they fit into your digital life.
An amazing appliance, the smartest we’ve ever seen, and a real taste of the future connected home.
Pricey, but one for the digital native.
Trev is a Technology Commentator, Dad, Speaker and Rev Head.
He produces and hosts two popular podcasts, EFTM and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He also appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the resident Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show each day and appears regularly on A Current Affair.
Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave.