For those looking to maximise their refrigeration space but are limited to a standard 60cm-wide appliance, the Hitachi R-B360ERU4V takes a high-rise approach, standing precisely 2m tall. Clearly those of a vertically challenged disposition are going to struggle with items on the upper shelves, but with a fridge capacity of over 240 litres plus a 72-litre freezer, it certainly delivers plenty of cooling space.
For all its imposing height, this model remains smart looking and stylish in the kitchen with its front-mounted LCD controls and a choice of gloss black or metallic titanium finish. It's frost free, offers an antibacterial door seal to reduce mould build-up, has an A energy rating and comes in at under £600.
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Our test sample arrived in the metallic titanium finish. It's a unique colour with an eye-catching deep metallic lustre. We can't think of any other kitchen appliances in this colour, which could be an issue if matching products around your kitchen is important to you. Finger marks show up strongly on the surface, but it's easily wiped clean and the brushed stainless handles proved more resistant to sticky fingerprints.
The front LCD screen is crisp and clear and illuminates light blue with touch control buttons to the side. The interior of the fridge is very functional and well thought out, with a great variety of door pockets, adjustable shelves and drawers, as well as being softly illuminated by LED lighting. There's less to write home about in the freezer compartment, with three basic plastic drawers.
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Given the sheer height of the fridge compartment, the Hitachi’s chiller space is up there with smaller US-style side-by-side models. With four shelves (three adjustable), two small salad drawers and one larger bottom salad drawer, this fridge ensures that you can use every inch of its 243 litres of storage space.
The shelves are easy-clean glass and the array of door pockets includes one especially designed for larger milk or juice bottles. Of the three salad crisper drawers the lowest one is usefully deep (front to back), as the lowest door pocket has been raised to allow for a full-sized drawer. This compartment has a front viewing lid which automatically opens as the drawer pulls out and proved very useful for a quick peak to see what's stored in the space.
The freezer has a smaller capacity of 72 litres and consists of three transparent plastic drawers, allowing some visibility of what's in them before they're opened. As usual with upright fridge freezers, the bottom drawer is somewhat truncated to make space for the compressor. Clearly the overall height of the Hitachi might prove a problem for shorter users, but we can't think of another 60cm-wide fridge freezer that delivers such capacious fridge space.
As with most modern fridge freezers this Hitachi is incredibly quiet, measuring just 43dB in our tests (A-weighted to best replicate the sensitivity of human hearing at this level). This is not as ultra-silent as models with high-tech inverter motors but, at little more than a whisper in a library, this fridge is not going to disturb anyone in use. Hitachi’s quoted figures are also 43dB – a pleasingly rare case of our measurements and the manufacturer’s figures agreeing with each other.
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The tall refrigerator compartment offers relatively stable temperatures, with the upper shelves being the warmest and the bottom drawer the coolest. With the thermostat set to 4 degrees C, the top shelf does suffer inevitable rises in temperature when the door's opened, but otherwise sits comfortably between 4 and 6 degrees C. The middle shelf has a similar swing of /- 1 degree C, but its average temperature is closer to the 4 degrees we set with the thermostat. The double drawers sit at an incredibly consistent 4 degrees C, with their design ensuring very little fluctuation so are ideal for fresh foods like salads that benefit from a constant temperature.
The bottom salad crisper draw is a bit of an anomaly and is very cool indeed. It hovered around freezing point for most of the test and dipped down to -1 degree C after a cooling cycle. There is a small danger of frost damage on soft fruits at this level, so setting the fridge thermostat at 5 degrees C might be the best way to avoid this, although the upper shelf would then average a rather warm 6 degrees.
The freezer compartment is equally consistent throughout, with all three shelves averaging the -18 degrees C that we set the thermostat to. There is some fluctuation in air temperature through the compressor cycle, varying between -15 and -23 degrees, although our frozen food test (2 litres of water) was taken to -18 degrees in a respectable 14 hours. It sat very consistently at this temperature throughout the two-day test.
Our only concern with this Hitachi is a brief periodic temperature rise in the freezer, approximately every 15 hours, which we suspect is a defrost cycle. Here the internal air temperature of the top shelf would get briefly close to 0 degrees C, although the brevity of this rise meant our test frozen food would only gain approximately 1 degree in this period. During the three-hour fail test the top drawer temperature rose to -4 degrees C, which is only an okay result, although our frozen food in the mid shelf only gained 5 degrees.
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We calculate that the Hitachi R-B360ERU4V would use around 356kWh per year in average UK household use, which is not too far adrift from Hitachi’s estimate of 317kWh. While that's not the very best for a 60cm-wide fridge freezer generally, given the epic amount of fridge space and frost-free cooling in the freezer, it's still a pretty good result.
If you're looking for a huge amount of fridge space and don’t require an equally capacious freezer, the R-B360ERU4V should certainly be on your shortlist. As it only sells through Argos this often means special offers are available to get its price well below the £600 RRP, making it even better value. Make sure you can reach the top shelf, though!
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