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Neff K3990 American Style Fridge Freezer
One of my abiding memories of watching American TV in the seventies and eighties was when the Mom (sic) would go into the kitchen and open this gi-normous fridge, packed to gills with all manner of loveliness. In those far off days fridges of that scale were nought but a dream for us under privileged limeys and we could merely stare in wonder and accept that only a country that could put a man on the moon was capable of producing appliances of that grandeur.
But now our time has come, American style fridge freezers (strangely called side-by-sides by the Yanks) are now freely available over here and are quickly becoming the appliance of choice for any kitchen renovator with enough space and cash. So it was when we came to extend and replace our kitchen that one of these monsters would be top of our shopping list, the only question being which one.
Pop into your local Comet and you will see a choice of these, ranging from basic LG and Samsung models at around £700 and topping out at the credulity stretching Amana costing nearly £5,000.
Wanting to combine a little style with a reliable brand we started by looking at a Siemens model in stainless steel. Concerned that finger printing would be a problem with such a finish we called the Siemens help line and a very helpful (and unbelievably camp) man told us that: 'God, yes. They're buggers to keep clean.' Asking if there were alternative models available we were told that Siemens, Bosch and Neff appliances are all made by the same people in the same factories so any of those would be suitable. I've no way of verifying this although having replaced a Bosch dishwasher with a Neff one I can confirm that they are almost identical and share most visible parts.
With this advice we settled on the Neff K3990, as suggested by our kitchen supplier in the first place. They also price matched the best price I could find on-line, saving a couple of hundred pounds on his original quote, and so for £1600 we placed our order.
Basic specs ~ Fridges and freezers are a numbers game: dimensions, capacity, power usage and so on. Therefore I'll cover the raw data first.
Size: The overall dimensions are 900x700x1808 (WxDxH mm) but that is only part of the story. If the unit is to be boxed in a couple of centimetres should be allowed both sides and between 5 to 10 at the back to allow for the cabling and water supply. This means that the unit will sit proud of most worktops. The fridge and freezer doors measure 516 and 384mm respectively and require about 400mm clearance each side when opening. This is a big appliance to start with; these extra allowances mean that the amount of space required to accommodate this should not be under estimated. I've no idea how much this weighs but it's going to be a lot, suffice to say if you want to move it get some mates round.
Capacity: The total capacity is a healthy 536 litres (18.9cu ft), of this the fridge capacity is 352 litres (12.4cu ft) and the freezer 184 litres (6.5cu ft). The fridge has three glass shelves and three drawers. The bottom drawer has adjustable temperature control and is capable of sub zero storage. The freezer has three glass shelves and two drawers. Both sections have five door compartments, fixed in the freezer and variable in the fridge.
Power Usage: This appliance is rated A for energy efficiency and Neff state annual consumption as 522kWh at a cost of £52.20.
Build quality ~ The Neff has a sturdy, well made feel to it. The materials used in the case and inside are of a good quality and the construction is faultless. The doors open and close with no hanging or creaking and the fixtures are all neatly installed. The shelves and drawers that are movable all slide out with ease and once in place fit snugly with no play. All the glass parts are made with safety glass and there is none of the fragility to the plastic parts such as I've come across in the past. Even with several litres of drinks in the door compartments there is no flexing on the hinges.
The case is finished in brushed steel and so far has been pretty resilient to finger printing, no mean feat with a couple of sticky pre-schoolers pawing it on a regular basis. The vertical handles are long which means that it can be opened by the little ones as well, this may or may not be a problem depending on their level of self restraint.
The control panel and dispenser are set directly into the case which looks a lot better than the cheaper plastic in fills found on more basic models.
In use ~ Not surprisingly this offers a large and flexible amount of storage. The drawers on both sides are deep and can swallow up significant amounts of food. The door compartments in the fridge are equally capacious and will take as many bottles of milk and juice as a family can throw at it. There is a full width wine rack that will take four bottles and fast chill functions on both sides.
On the front is the control panel and water dispenser. The dispenser can supply water or ice (cubed or crushed) although this will require a permanent water supply. The water is filtered and is a much more convenient method than the old filter jugs; you also save on the expensive filters as these only need replacing every six months. The control panel allows you to set the temperature for either compartment, the factory defaults are -18c and 4c but both can be moved a few degrees either way and there is a child lock for the dispenser should you need it. The LCD display shows the current temperatures, selected dispenser option and has various warning lights for changing the filter and so on. There are alarms should either door be left open for too long, this is good if the door hasn't closed properly but it has also proved useful in getting me out of the bad habit of leaving the fridge door open for minutes on end while I make a cuppa.
Everything on the fridge is big: shelves, drawers and compartments, so cleaning is straightforward as there are no inaccessible parts. Despite its height there are no problems reaching the top areas as these are reserved for internal functions: ice maker in the freezer and lights and filter in the fridge.
Overall ~ I won't lie to you; one of the main draws of an appliance like this is how it looks. American style fridge freezers are as much style statements as kitchen appliances but that doesn't mean they can't be practical and of good quality. The Neff looks the part; the brushed steel would suit a contemporary kitchen or add a dose of modern technology to a more rustic country kitchen. The build quality is faultless and while I can't comment yet on long term reliability (I've only had it for two months) I have no reason to suspect it will be anything less than German. At £1600 it is also fair value for the style and quality of the appliance, you could certainly find yourself paying a lot more.
If you are looking for a side-by-side fridge freezer I would definitely recommend you take a look at the Neff K3990.
Further information can be found at http://www.neff.co.uk/K3990.html