Side-by-side refrigerators hit their peak of popularity in the 1990s, before the now-trendy French door models existed. Although both types make it easy to find what you’re looking for in the fridge compartment, only side-by-side models also allow you to access most of your frozen food without bending.
We recently tested a pair of side-by-side fridges, Whirlpool’s 33-inch counter-depth WRS331SDHM (available at AppliancesConnection for $1,229.00) and 36-inch WRS555SIHZ (available at AppliancesConnection for $1,344.10).
Except for size, they look identical, though each model has different strengths. The WRS331SDHM has a built-in look, and the WRS555SIHZ has more space, additional features, and scored slightly better overall. For the best food preservation, you might need to adjust the temperature on the fridge side on both models.
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Design and Features
Both refrigerators came to our labs looking sleek and modern in stainless steel. You can also choose the WRS331SDHM in black or white. The WRS555SIHZ comes in those colors, plus black stainless. Only you can decide on the best look for your home.
One issue with side-by-sides is that the narrow freezer compartment makes it difficult to slide in frozen pizzas. But modern design has solved this problem! The WRS555SIHZ comes with a unique ”pizza pocket”, a shelf that folds back to let you stand up a few pizzas. That’s a convenience you won’t find in most side-by-sides.Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton
Besides the pizza pocket, the WRS555SIHZ has upscale features, including a can caddy, and a retractable shelf that makes room for taller items.
Both control panels are clear, well-lit, and pressure sensitive. An LED dispenser night light makes it easy to pour yourself a midnight glass of water.Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton
The interiors of these refrigerators are bright enough to illuminate the entire kitchen. Full-width glass shelves make good use of space on the fridge side, and the WRS555SIHZ has them in the freezer, too. We’re not big fans of the wire grid shelves in the WRS331SDHM’s freezer, because they let little frozen peas and corn kernels fall through to the bottom, where they’re a pain to retrieve. It’s good that gallon-size milk containers fit in the doors, though it’s not the chilliest place to keep dairy.Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton
Crisper drawers don’t retain humidity well, so, for the crispiest fruits and greens, eat them up quickly.
You need to be creative to organize and store frozen food in both models, because their icemakers take up a lot of space.Credit: Reviewed / Kyle Hamilton
For two such similar-looking refrigerators, their internal temperatures were different.
The WRS331SDHM kept the temperature in the fridge consistent, but averaging 42°, it was warmer than we like to see. Keep perishables in the back of the top shelf, where it’s cold enough to maximize food safety. The freezer did a great job, staying at -1°.
The WRS555SIHZ also averaged -1° in the freezer, and the fridge compartment averaged around 40°, but the temperatures in both compartments bounced up and down.
Don’t worry—while you can’t do anything about the variations, you can always use the controls to adjust the temperature. Around 37° in the refrigerator compartment, and 0° in the freezer is optimal—though colder is okay there. Get yourself a refrigerator thermometer to verify that the temp is in the safest range.
Some good news—both freezers hit the 32° mark quickly, which is helpful after a power interruption. The WRS555SIHZ reached freezing in just under a half hour, and the WRS331SDHM got there in 48 minutes. Both models are efficient to run, too.
Whirlpool offers a one-year limited warranty on these refrigerators.
What owners say
Most owners are satisfied with these refrigerators. Some find them noisy, and a few say the ice dispenser is placed too low on the door. If that’s is your only issue, the fix is simple: catch ice in a short glass, and transfer it to your tall drink.
The bottom line
The clear exterior controls and bright LED lighting are the big advantages for these models, and the WRS555SIHZ has some nice additional features. The temperature issues could be a concern, so always use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure they stay in the safe range. Make adjustments if the factory settings aren’t quite cold enough.
If the side-by-side format rocks your kitchen, and you want to buy a Whirlpool, consider the WRS975SIDM, which did very well in our tests.
You can spend even less on a side-by-side fridge and still get good performance. Take a look at the affordable Kenmore 41173, also made by Whirlpool. It doesn’t have ice or water through the door, but it’s a very good value, and the freezer is wide enough to stack frozen pizzas.