Pros: Refrigerator works well, Easy to operate temperature controls
Cons: Freezer burn in under 24 hours, Ice is always stuck together
Selecting a refrigerator is a difficult process. Our search was narrowed quite a bit this last time, because we decided we wanted a model that fit in with the rest of the appliances in the kitchen of a new home. The GE Arctica name was a dying breed when we bought our side by side three years ago, but the GE Profile PSS26MSTD (Arctica) seemed like the best model that fit our space, with the best price. In retrospect, it appears we should have kept our options open.
How much space do you need for this bad boy?
A major factor in selecting a refrigerator is making sure it will fit into the space you have available in your kitchen, especially if you are interested in a side by side style. In order to fit a GE Profile Arctica into your kitchen, you will need enough space to accommodate a refrigerator 35.75" wide, 69.25" high and 34.88" deep. Knowing that you will need extra space to allow for doors opening and closing, you should probably allow an extra inch on each side of the refrigerator, with a couple of extra inches for height and depth as well (at least, that's how it measures with our space, and it works fine).
The Refrigerator Side
The refrigerator side of the GE Profile Arctica is about a foot and a half wide and offers 16 cubic feet of storage. It has four shelves and three drawers: one for deli, produce and "Express Chill." Each of the shelves and drawers are made of a plastic-lined clear glass that slide out, so you can easily see what's inside of them. There are several different levels you can put the shelves on, so I can't imagine anyone would have trouble getting their preferred spacing in this refrigerator.
While I use the "Express Chill" drawer for vegetables, it is designed to also be used to get things (mainly beverages) cold quickly. If you buy a bunch of lukewarm soda and have people on their way over within an hour, you can just put the sodas in the drawer and push a button on top to set it to chill in either 15, 30 or 45 minutes. We have only used this feature once, and while the drinks got cold faster than they normally would in the refrigerator, we weren't "wow"ed.
Inside the door, there are four wide shelves, as well as a can rack and a flip-top butter shelf. Since we try to avoid buying canned drinks and I miss the cool egg shelf we had in our old Kenmore, we usually put our egg cartons on the rack, and they stay well. We can even fit a carton of 24 eggs on the rack, and haven't suffered a cracked egg yet.
As with the "main" shelves, the shelves inside the door can be adjusted to several different heights. They have a plastic bottom with a clear "front." I've been quite pleased with the amount of stuff I can fit in each shelf. Generally, that means two rows of condiments per shelf and two gallons of milk on the biggest one.
Functionality of the Refrigerator side
As I indicated above, we can fit a lot in the refrigerator portion. I only need to add stuff to our "overflow" refrigerator in the garage immediately after a Costco trip, when I have cases of beer and juice to get cooled. So, as far as capacity is concerned, the Arctica refrigerator gets a "thumbs up."
The other key aspect of a refrigerator, for me, is the cooling factor. Other than the fact that I wasn't overly impressed with the "Express Chill" function, I have been pretty happy with the temperature control of the refrigerator. I've never had to throw out spoiled food, or pulled out stuff that's been icy instead of just cold. We went through a short period after buying the refrigerator in which the temperature was warmer than recommended, but the buttons on top of the refrigerator allow you to adjust the temperator in single degree increments without a problem.
If you feel the need to control humidity with your produce, the GE Arctica does have a "humidity control" lever on the produce drawer, but I haven't noticed much difference in produce texture/quality when I've played around with it, so I don't put much weight into it and wouldn't recommend buying this refrigerator specifically for that function (much like the "Express Chill").
The Freezer side--or, why you should save yourself a couple thousand bucks
The freezer side of the GE Arctica is about a foot wide, offering 9.6 cubic feet of storage space. In addition to housing an incredibly large ice maker, it has three shelves, three slide-out baskets and three basket-like shelves inside the door. Each of these shelves are plastic-coated wire shelves, and unlike the refrigerator side, offer very little space-level flexibility.
What's good about the freezer side? Most of my food is frozen when I pull it out. What stinks about it? Just about everything else. My biggest pet peeve with the Arctica freezer is that the internal temperature seems to change frequently during the day. I can put a bag of chicken in the freezer on Monday, and when I pull it out to cook on Thursday, it already has freezer burn, to the point that I can't really tell from looking at the outside what kind of meat it is. I put a waffle in the freezer one day, pulled it out the next morning, and there were already little ice chunks covering a third of the waffle.
Beyond the passion for freezer burn, it bugs me that the plastic front of two of the pull out baskets broke off: one in the first year of ownership, the other about six months ago. Both broke off in ways that they can not be snapped back on. In addition, I feel that this freezer just does not offer very much storage space, due in part to the shelf spacing and the fact that the ice box takes up a huge chunk. We are a family of five, two of which eat very little because they are very little, and we can not fit all of our frozen food in this freezer; our freezer in the garage is stuffed as well.
The straw that broke this camel's back...the ice dispenser
Since I have that freezer in the garage, I can kind of get past the storage and freezer burn issues here, but in all honesty, the whole appeal to me of buying a side-by-side refrigerator is getting the ice and water dispenser in the freezer side. The convenience of always having cold filtered water available is a big deal for a person who mainly drinks water.
Unfortunately, the convenience of not having to remember to make ice is a moot point here. The icemaker is so slow that I have never actually had a full ice box (not even when using the "Quick Ice" feature for parties). The ice often gets stuck coming down the chute, resulting in ice cubes flying everywhere once you open and shut the door. Coming full circle to the freezer burn thing, the ice also frequently melts and freezes back together, or freezes to the metal ring in the center of the bucket. At least once a week, I will try to get ice out of the dispenser, find out that opening and closing the door isn't making a ton of ice cascade out the chute, then have to slide the ice bucket out, break up a bunch of stuck-together cubes, and inconveniently slide the bucket back in, so I can get two cubes to come out the chute. Sound irritating? Well, it is.
As you can, I really loathe every aspect of the freezer and ice dispenser of the GE Profile Arctica. As such, I would never recommend this as your primary refrigerator freezer. Having said that, the refrigerator works great, offers ample space, and the water tastes excellent. If you just want a well-functioning refrigerator with tasty water, this may be a good option for you, especially if you dig freezer burn and/or have a huge freezer in your garage or basement. Otherwise, avoid the GE Profile PSS26 "Arctica" Side-by-Side like used underwear at a garage sale.
FYI: all PSS26 models are in the same series of GE Profile products.