If, like me, you like to stock up on sale items and keep them in your freezer, but the cramped space in most refrigerator/freezer combos is making you consider a stand-alone freezer, you may want to take a look at this unit first. There are a lot of good things about the wide-by-side, and I am much happier with it than with any other side-by-side combo I've ever had. However, I hope they will continue to work on some of its less desirable characteristics.
Recommend this product?
On the positive side, due to the increased size of the freezer compartment, you can store oh-so-much more there, and it's easily accessible. The reasons for this are:
a) There are 2 bins on the door that tilt out. These bins are relatively deep, so you can fit lots of odds-and-ends in them without fear that they will fall on the floor every time you open your freezer door (a common problem with other freezers I've owned).
b) There are 2 drawers on the bottom of the freezer, one large enough to accommodate frozen pizzas standing on their side; the other is the same width and length, but shallower--and could accommodate, say, 6-8 frozen pizzas stacked on top of each other (depending on the thickness).
Both of these features allow you to pack more items of various sizes in without having to move everything to get to the items in back.
I also like the fact that the door to the refrigerator is deep enough for a gallon jug of milk, not just on one shelf, but on any shelf. Add to that the extra-tall space at the very top on the door, and you can finally store a bottle of champagne without having lay it on its side!
(A word of warning: when an appliance repairman came to fix our Maytag Jetclean dishwasher (the object of another, less sparkling, review I've written, which you can see here) he warned that though many companies have made their doors deeper, they have not made the hinges stronger, so placing too much weight on the door could cause hinge problems over time...)
The pitfall is the flip side of those positives: both the space gained in the freezer and the extra depth on the refrigerator door is at the expense of the bottom of the refrigerator, where the drawers are. As a result, both drawers are so tiny that I cannot fit a standard "value-pack" sized package of meat in them, and with a family of five, I rarely buy any smaller packages of meat. [I know they're both labeled for fresh produce, but when I was growing up, we always kept our fresh meat in the bottom drawer, and old habits die hard.] So the bottom drawer ends up mostly empty while the meat packages drip all over the shelves above. Maybe I should put the leftovers in the drawer? But I also like fresh vegetables, and I seem to have the same problem trying to cram lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. in those drawers too. Only a few of them will fit at a time, even when I put some of the overflow in the bottom drawer. (When there's not a big fat dripping-because-the-package-has-been-crushed-trying-to-fit-it-in package of meat there...oh, I am obstinate, aren't I? But tell me, where are you supposed to keep those packages of meat? I don't like having them out on the shelves, because they're big and messy, and you end up having to move everything to fit them in, then move everything again to clean up afterward...)(And any vegetarian readers are now hating me for such a disgusting reference to red meat...sorry.)
If they could make the drawers deeper (front to back) by borrowing back some of the depth from the door (just on the bottom, not the whole door), that would help a lot with this problem.
(A side note: Some other reviews of this refrigerator mentioned problems with the bottom drawer being too cold. I cannot honestly say I have experienced this problem; however, as I have already stated, I am rarely able to use the bottom drawer except for the few packages of meat that are small enough to be unceremoniously shoved or wedged in there.)
I also wish the icemaker unit were much smaller. A fair amount of the space gained in the freezer is lost to this behemoth.
With regard to the ice & water dispenser unit, I have found it to be a bit difficult to use. Only one very small area of the "pillow" that you push your glass against to dispense the water will actually give you water, and you must push hard too. The nozzle is recessed quite far up in the dispenser, so filling bottles with water requires a funnel. However, in its defense, one of the many reasons I chose this refrigerator is that not only does it dispense filtered water, but the ice is made from filtered water. For so long, my ice & water dispensers were rendered useless by the fact that our local water tastes like, well, lakewater. I had to use a Brita pitcher (taking up more space in the refrigerator), and when guests would come, I would have no ice to offer them, because the ice tasted so bad, I just turned the icemaker off. Now at least the behemoth icemaker is getting used.
Another note regarding the filtered water: the filter that comes with the unit is great because it lasts a whole year (instead of a few months, like Brita), and is easy to replace, at the top rear of the refrigerator compartment, but it does not come pre-installed. You have to do it yourself. I didn't realize this at first, until I thoroughly read the instructions and checked to see if the filter was installed. It wasn't. I had thought the one that was provided with the unit was an extra; I was wrong. Once I installed it (it was a breeze), we've had great tasting water and ice.
And lastly, the "elevator" shelf was a swell idea, but I've never been able to put it to much use. This is a shelf with a crank on it which can be turned to allow the shelf to move up and down without having to remove the shelf or its contents. The way the refrigerator is designed, there is a very tall space between the lowest shelf and the top of the drawers. This lowest shelf sits right where the jog in the doors occurs, so it cannot be moved down, nor are there any shelves provided that can be put in this space; therefore, by default, it becomes the tall-storage space. The space between the remaining shelves is small enough that I can't raise or lower the "elevator" shelf without making one of those spaces too small to be useful. Oh well. Like I said, it's a great idea, now they need to find a way to actually make it useful.
This seems to be the crucial problem with Maytag right now. Lately they have come out with some amazing, exciting new ideas that have no doubt sold a lot of products. In addition to the Wide-by-side, there's the infamous 3-rack Jetclean dishwasher, which as I mentioned, I have already panned in another review here; the Gemini range (reviewed here), and the Neptune Washer and Dryer (which I will be reviewing soon). All of these capitalize on new-and-different ideas that "revolutionize" appliances as we know them. Some are successful, some are flops, and others, well...they just need some more work. I'd say the Wide-by-side is the latter. With some finesse, the ideas in this product could really be great...Hopefully they'll work those kinks out before their patent runs out and their competitors come on the scene having done so first...
Other Maytag Reviews:
The Gemini Range
The Jetclean II Three-Rack Dishwasher
The Over-the-Range Microwave
The Neptune Washing Machine
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Amount Paid (US$): 13-1400