Pros: Elegant, 5 year warranty, quality custom features at a price no competitor can touch.
Cons: Limited color choices (currently only white or stainless steel).
How Do They Do It?
After carefully researching my appliance purchases as part of a kitchen gut renovation, I got my Ikea Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side Refrigerator/Freezer on the first day of Ikea's 2010 fall kitchen sale. That meant that by buying 3 appliances from Ikea, I could get 20% off that day on everything I purchased for my new kitchen, including the appliances.
And, get this: Ikea's Nutid appliances come with a 5-year in-home warranty included in the purchase cost. I felt confident enough to buy completely Ikea and this was the first time in my life I did not buy any KitchenAid appliances for a kitchen renovation.
Over one month later, I could not be happier with my purchase. Even at its full price of $1349 (for the white model), the Nutid Counter-Depth represents an incredible value - - try buying a counter depth side by side with these same features for under $2000 anywhere else. It simply does not exist. One has to wonder how Ikea does it and I feel sorry for family-run appliance dealers and retailers that cannot possibly compete. A Whirlpool counter depth side by side is almost $600 more at Sears.
The Ikea Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side is a game changer.
** Please note that I have moved all updates to the bottom of this review for continuity purposes **
Ikea Design - Whirlpool Quality
This is the first year that Ikea jumped into the appliance market in such an integrated and coordinated way. All of Ikea's appliances are now designed by them and manufactured exclusively for them by Whirlpool. Ikea's family of appliances includes different "lines" having different price points and finishes. As a result, each Ikea appliance may have specifications or attributes that are similar to other quality Whirlpool-made names such as Whirlpool, Whirlpool Gold, and KitchenAid.
Ikea's Nutid line appliances all have matching handles and includes appliances priced from Ikea's medium range to their "high end". Careful cross-evaluation of the offerings from Whirlpool and Ikea's Nutid line specifications has me thinking that the most expensive Nutid appliances are comparable in features and performance to the "better" Whirlpool Gold line (also sometimes seeming to be branded for Sears as Kenmore and/or Kenmore Elite) with Ikea's design enhancements placing the finished product nearer the KitchenAid line in terms of high-end look and feel.
The real difference with Ikea comes in the areas of design and price. The Ikea Nutid appliances are just prettier, plain and simple. Following their philosophy of clean lines and ease-of-use, the Nutid line reduces visual clutter and provides high-end look and feel at low-end cost. Available only in white or stainless steel, the Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side features smooth, flat, squared, door panels with a flush-integrated electronic water and ice delivery opening in the freezer door. Separate buttons deliver ice and water and you can choose crushed or cube ice. The delivery opening is high enough for use with tall containers.
Another example of Ikea's design sensibility is that the Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side Refrigerator/Freezer (and all other Nutid appliances) comes with oversized, elegant, brushed stainless steel handles in an Ikea design called Vinna. Vinna handles are relatively inexpensive despite being solid and having a high-end look and feel. They can be purchased separately at Ikea and you can install them on your kitchen cabinets to integrate the look of your appliances with your entire kitchen.
In terms of price, Ikea's Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side is in a class by itself - - you simply cannot find a refrigerator with a 24 inch deep body (the 3.5" extra depth is the door and handle that must stick out past your kitchen cabinets slightly in order for them to open properly) anywhere near this price range.
All The Bells and Whistles, Please
Ikea did not ratchet back on this Side by Side. The appliance exterior is smooth and glossy on the front doors which are completely flat and very simple. The sides and top are textured metal but, once installed, especially if using side cover panels as in an Ikea kitchen to build-in the fridge, only the front of the Side by Side is visible. The back of the refrigerator/freezer is completely flat and covered with a seamless panel of galvanized metal. No bulk and easy to clean, the refrigerator moves easily on built-in casters. Even the power cord and plug are designed to be completely flat so that the appliance can be plugged into an outlet directly behind itself and remain flush to the wall. I was impressed with all these thoughtful features.
Belying its low cost, the Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side has all the bells and whistles you could want or need:
-Exterior Ice & Cooled Water Delivery with Electronic Controls, Display and LED lighting
-dispenses crushed or cubed ice
-fully automatic and adjustable electronic touch controls with LED lighting on the ice-maker and front-mount control panel
-fast-ice feature focuses cooling on ice-production for a 24 hour period (great before, during, and after parties)
-fast-cool feature increases cold production for a 24 hour period to accomodate large loads from visits to the big box fridge or freezer department
-Freezer-door mounted Ice Bucket dispenser increases available freezer space
-Tempered glass adjustable refrigerator shelves with "spill guard"
-adjustable, customizable refrigerator door shelving
-3 clear crispers, one with temperature control (you choose vegetables or meat and it adjusts crisper temp), one with humidity control
-clear, sealed butter compartment
-2 pull-out freezer baskets
-adjustable, heavy duty shelving in freezer
-multiple lights in the freezer and refrigerator
-Pur water filter for ice & in-door water (1 is included, replacements are suggested every 6 months and run around $35 on-line) - the water filter removes with the push of a button
-Energy Star qualified
-14.1 cu ft refrigerator
-9.1 cu ft freezer
-weighs 284 lbs.
-36" wide X 27.5" deep (including handle) X 68 3/4" high
What About the Bottled Water and Soda?
Counter-Depth Side by Sides like Ikea's Nutid have positive attributes but also require compromises. On the plus side, at only 27.5" deep (the body without the doors is the same 24" deep as a countertop), the appliance gives a custom look by integrating with the rest of the kitchen cabinetry. Additionally, it is harder to lose things in a refrigerator when each shelf is not too deep and the interior fittings are clear glass or plastic. Being able to see and access everything you have in the refrigerator and freezer helps reduce wasted food and it costs less to cool the smaller interior.
Of course, being shallower, a counter-depth appliance has less interior capacity than deeper side by sides. This is a 23.2 cu ft total appliance. This may a bit small to be the right refrigerator for a very large family. It is much more than adequate for a couple or a small family.
Some feedback from my own use:
-a regular size frozen pizza fits easily in a freezer shelf and you can certainly get a turkey or two in the freezer
-the interior is so smartly designed that all the interior space is useable and so the freezer and refrigerator sections hold more than you might expect by looking at them when they are empty
-the adjustable refrigerator door shelves mean large soda bottles or milk bottles are not a problem
-I loaded a case of 24 .5 liter water bottles onto the refrigerator door shelves and still had room for more items on the door alone
-the freezer-door mounted ice bucket/dispenser greatly increases useable freezer shelf space
Easy to Keep Clean
This refrigerator's simple lines and painted finish make a it a breeze to keep clean. It helps, too, that the unit slides out of the built-in opening easily. There are no exposed coils in the rear to trap dust and dirt since the back is completely flat and smooth.
You Do Not Have to Carry Home a Side by Side - In-Home Delivery is Available
Well, you can carry it home if you want to. The Nutid Counter-Depth Refrigerator/Freezer is a cash & carry item at Ikea, meaning that you arrange to buy it in the kitchen department upstairs (all Ikeas are arranged the same way) and then pay for it and go downstairs where it is brought out to you on a dolley from the back warehouse by an Ikea employee.
If you are strong and have a truck and some friends with you, you can then load the appliance in your truck and take it home.
I got in-home delivery. The Ikea employee wheeled the appliance (and everything else I was buying that day) right to the home delivery desk and I arranged to have it all delivered. They were willing to deliver the next day but that was too fast for me. In-home delivery in my area begins at $99 but the more you buy the better deal delivery is. I got four appliances and all the cabinets and accessories for a complete gut renovation of a 16' x 8' galley kitchen delivered for $238.
The packaging on this refrigerator is incredible and it comes completely encased in layers of dense cardboard, styrofoam and plastic. There was no damage from delivery and the delivery men were prompt, courteous, clean, and neat. It is always surprising to me when deliveries go smoothly given all that can go wrong. Ikea's delivery proved a very positive experience.
Documentation and Installation
The appliance comes with a specification sheet, installation instructions, instruction manuals, and the five year warranty agreement. There is a great deal of packing material and tape to remove from the refrigerator before you can install it and there is some extra grease here and there from the hinges. The top hinges are exposed but very flat, keeping the front silhouette sleek.
When you first plug the fridge in, it is noisy as the compressor and expanding/contracting components make some banging sounds. This is normal and I recommend you read the owner's manual so that you don't panic about it as I first did. Once this ends, after the machine reaches initial temperature in the first few hours, the refrigerator is absolutely quiet and no noisier than any other refrigerator I own. Of course, ice makers sometimes make sounds as the ice falls into the storage bin and the water rushes in to fill the ice making trays. In normal operation, the fridge is no noisier or quieter than my KitchenAid and Whirlpool refrigerator/freezers in other kitchens.
I had a plumber professionally install the water feeder line. Even though the fridge uses a Pur filter, I pre-filter the water before it reaches the refrigerator (this lets me not use a Pur filter in the fridge if I do not want to). The Pur filter literally changes with the push of a button and is of a type readily available online for around $35. All push button release water filter fridges use the same design, I get the one that filters everything including cysts as you get increased protection for the same price (Whirlpool's website explains how all push-button filters are standard so even though the 4396841 model filter is standard, the better cyst-filtering model filter fits as well).
The Ikea Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side Refrigerator/Freezer is easy to live with. It doesn't draw attention to itself and it works well so it is not something you think of except to remark on how pretty it is or how nice it is to be able to see everything inside the fridge so easily.
According to Ikea's website, the fridge should cost around $59/year to operate but I have not had it long enough to confirm this.
The high-end Jenn-Air counter depth side by sides are available with white glass front doors and this, of course, makes them less susceptible to dents and dings. If Ikea offered this on any of their refrigerators I would jump at the chance. But considering the price difference, I have no complaints about the existing Nutid door design.
Very Highly Recommended
The Ikea Nutid Counter-Depth Side by Side Refrigerator/Freezer is an excellent choice. It is almost $1000 less than its nearest competitor yet sacrifices nothing. It looks better, feels as good, and compares admirably to any Whirlpool or KitchenAid product. I highly recommend you consider it whether or not you intend to buy a kitchen at Ikea - - the Nutid is worth a look if you are in the market for a counter-depth side by side refrigerator/freezer.
Update 8-22-2011 The Ikea Nutid is still a reliable, silent, attractive choice. Have read negative reviews of Ikea appliances by others here and elsewhere and am completely baffled and puzzled by their experiences. I have paid multiple times more for high end appliances only to have repeated service issues. I have had nothing but a positive experience with the Ikea brand. The Ikea Nutid counter depth side by side is, by far, the best refrigerator I have owned for the money and in the years I have lived with it we have not experienced a moment's trouble. Still extremely highly recommended and am planning on buying another one for a recent apartment purchase.
Update 9-19-2010 The Ikea Nutid remains my favorite refrigerator. Almost 1 year and flawless. The electronic controls keep this appliance at exactly the desired temperature by region: deep freezing without burns; milk and dairy super-cold & refreshing; vegetables last much longer with no wilting from over-cooling; meat kept chilled near freezing without any ice formation. Gotta love it. In the meantime, some family members got the comparable KitchenAid model for their kitchen renovation: $1000 more, a plastic door handle vs. Ikea upscale Stainless Steel designer handle, Ikea interior is nicer (with completely clear drawers that are easier to see into) vs. the KitchenAid old-fashioned thick plastic edges that obscure interior items. Incredibly, the KitchenAid has neither an exterior electronic control panel nor the fast-ice feature for parties! In every other way except what I've noted, these appear to be the same physical box (they are both made by the same manufacturer). I mean, they look identical in terms of exterior shapes and finishes other than the handles and the exterior Ice/Water door delivery area (which is slightly taller on the KitchenAid but a bit harder for me to use). Ikea is $1000 less and, to my mind, gives you more features and better design in what seems to otherwise be the exact same exterior dimensions and finishes as the KitchenAid. Oh, and Ikea's warranty is 5 years versus KitchenAid's 1 year. Please go compare these two units before you spend the extra grand on a KitchenAid -- $1000 is a great deal of money to spend for a brand name and not much else.