Hisense RL170D4BC21 Under Counter Fridge full review
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The Hisense under counter fridge delivers above and beyond its price point, with an aesthetic impact that belies its cost. It comes in two colours: traditional white and a stainless steel effect. We're reviewing the latter.
Design and set up
The door is a glossy silver colour, with a thin protective finish and a slight convex curve to the panel. Okay, so the grey plastic top cover of the fridge slightly gives the game away, price-wise, but it'll be tucked away under your counter.
In any case, it's more than offset by the chrome feature handle (that you attach yourself, with a couple of crosshead screws), which is much more attractive and user-friendly than a niche handle.
The overall effect is an under counter fridge that nods to the style of a professional chef’s kitchen.
The door seal suction is pretty impressive too. The door passed the bump test repeatedly, has a decent weight to it and naturally closes if you leave it open.
You can also reverse the door to open to the left. The door switch process is fairly straightforward, although we found that we had to adjust the tension on the bolts so the door seal fit snugly all the way around, and it was definitely a two-person job. If you aren't a problem-solving type or comfortable fiddling about with wrenches, you may need to call in a handyman to reverse the door.
In terms of noise, the Hisense is quieter than a slipper-wearing mouse. You can't actually tell that it's switched on - there are no discernible compressor sounds at all.
Price and availability
The Hisense RL170D4BC21 is available from a number of online retailers but prices vary slightly, so it's a good idea to shop around to make sure you're getting the best deal.
This model comes in both stainless steel effect (which we've reviewed) and white. The white finish is generally cheaper by £10. The best price we could find for the white model is £149.99, from Argos and the best price for the silver model is £159.99, from Very.
Hisense also does an under-counter freezer in this range, in both white and stainless steel-effect, at a similar price point to the fridge. (We've found the silver model for £169.99 on Very.) This allows you to place the fridge and freezer next to each other under your counter, reversing the door of one appliance, and create the look of a more expensive side-by-side fridge-freezer unit.
This appliance falls into energy class A++, and Hisense says that total annual energy consumption is 93kWh a year. By my reckoning, at June 2020 rates, that's a running cost of about £13 a year, although this really depends on your payment scheme, supplier and where you live in the UK.
The temperature control for the Hisense is a mechanical thermostat dial that sits on the right hand wall of the fridge, in front of the light on the middle shelf. Its settings range from 1 to 7, with 7 the coldest. Set at 6, we got measurements of 9°C in the top door rack; 5°C in the bottom door rack; 9°C on the top shelf and between 0 and 3°C on the glass crisper cover.
This means that the temperature isn't consistent even across fridge zones, but we’ve yet to test a fridge that manages to retain a perfectly uniform temperature across the entirety of its interior.
There is also slight flaw in the placement of the thermostat dial, which means that you can accidentally rotate it if you over-pack the middle shelf and then pull out an item next to the dial. But if you're aware of it when you fill your fridge, it'll be fine.
A cool white 8cm light behind the thermostat dial illuminates the fridge. To be fair, the bulb is a little dim and its placement on the right side of the middle shelf means your top shelf can be a little gloomy, particularly on the left.
So, with this model, you really want to consider the middle shelf as the main shelf for foods you access on a regular basis for, say, breakfasts and lunches, while your jars and pickles sit on the darker top shelf and your dinner ingredients on the colder crisper cover.
Cool down and warm up
In an ambient temperature of 18°C, the cool down was a little sporadic and uneven. Set at 6 on the thermostat dial, the bottom of the fridge went from 15°C to 4°C in two hours, while the top of the fridge only dropped by three degrees to 11°C. It took another two hours for the top shelf to cool to 6°C.
The warm up was more even. Again in an ambient temperature of 18°C, the emptied fridge went from 6°C in the salad bin and 9°C on the top shelf to a level 15°C after four and a half hours. It stayed at about this temperature for the next few hours.
What this means is that, in the event of a power cut with a full fridge, you'll have about five to six hours before you need to worry about the state of your milk.
So how much food can you get in the fridge?
It has pretty good storage space for an under counter, largely because the absence of an ice box gives you an extra shelf.
Hisense claims the fridge has a 137 litre capacity, which is about seven bags of shopping, but as with all of these things, it really depends on what you buy.
There are two safety glass shelves, 31.5cm by 46cm, each with a white plastic trim, and the middle one is adjustable downwards by 6cm. Then there’s a glass crisper cover - a top to the salad bin in layman's terms - so you've got three stackable zones varying from 10cm to 22cm in height.
We calculated the salad bin to be about 5.6 litres. In real world terms, it has space for iceberg lettuce, a red cabbage, a swede, a 420g punnet of cherry tomatoes, a pack of celery, and a whole cucumber with capacity to spare.
The door racks are quite spacious. You have three and, while none are adjustable, the width and height are reasonable.
We found the bottom rack fit five traditional milk bottles or three conventional supermarket four-pinters.
Again, the middle rack will also fit five traditional milk bottles, but it doesn't have the height for anything more than supermarket one-pinters. It will also fit six typical mayonnaise/pickle jars with substantial capacity behind for tubes of puree or spice jars you want to keep cool.
The top shelf has the width of the lower two, but less height. There's another quirk here in that, as this is a low appliance, you'll often find yourself holding the top of the fridge door as you're peering into the interior. It would be all too easy to dip your fingers into any uncovered items on the shelf.
This issue would be solved by a rack cover, but I reckon this would be an unreasonable expectation for a fridge at this price point.
The fridge comes with a six-egg tray.
As this is an under-counter freestanding fridge, what you do need to note are the dimensions: 84.5 x 55.5 x 57.5cm (HxWxD).
If you're considering the Hisense to fit into an existing kitchen or planning a budget remodel, make sure the height of your kitchen worktop and the depth of the worktop – i.e. how far out it extends from your wall into the kitchen – work with the dimensions of the appliance, particularly if you have decided to go for an unusual worktop depth or you're adapting a kitchen for disabled living.
Incidentally, the fact that this fridge has a proper handle instead of an integral finger nook may make it easier for disabled people to use.
For a budget fridge, you can’t go far wrong with this Hisense. It has a bit of style, a proper handle, a spacious interior for its size and it's reliable.
We think it’s a bargain.
If you're considering buying a fridge with French doors, check out our review of the Haier HTF-456DM6 Cube fridge freezer.
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