Chances are you didn't even know Hitachi made domestic appliances. While the company has offered a range of refrigerators in Japan for many years, it's only recently come to the UK selling exclusively through Argos. And to make a big first impression, it's opted for one heck of a big product.
The R-S700GP2 is a large US-style side-by-side fridge freezer, with water and ice dispenser, that came to the test facility in an eye-catching sparkling gloss black finish. It boasts a whopping 589 litres of total capacity, split into 377 litres of fridge space and 212 litres of freezer space. It uses Hitachi’s high-tech inverter compressor and dual-fan cooling system, which cools each compartment independently. This means your fridge should remain at a stable temperature even if you have put a load of fresh produce down in the freezer and the machine is working overtime to chill it from room temperature.
The touch controls illuminate in blue and enable you to change fridge and freezer temperature easily. There's one-touch selection of either ice cubes, crushed ice or water, and as water is supplied from an internal 4-litre container, no plumbing is required. Boasting all these features, high-tech compressor technology and an A energy efficiency rating, the Hitachi’s £1400 launch price looks like something of a steal.
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Despite its size, this stylish fridge freezer has a sleek and minimalist feel, with an appealing blue LED control panel that controls the ice/water function and the temperature. It's also available in glass silver, but we think the metallic black will look great in stainless steel kitchens or those with granite or marble-look worktops. The full-length handles are a nice touch and the attention to detail extends to the inside of the machine too.
On the refrigerator side you're spoilt for storage choice, with three adjustable safety glass shelves, extra-deep fridge door storage and two salad crisper compartments. The fridge offers an antibacterial finish to the wall and plastic components and is lit from above by crisp but not harsh LED lighting. The 4-litre water tank robs a little space from the middle shelf, but the lack of plumbing makes the Hitachi easier to install anywhere in the kitchen.
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HITACHI R-S700GP2: How much can you fit in?
With five shelves (three adjustable) and two large transparent salad drawers, the fridge compartment allows you to use pretty much every square inch of its 377 litres. The shelves are easy-clean glass and the door pockets include two specially designed trays for larger milk bottles or multiple smaller bottles. There's an additional smaller door pocket and a dairy pocket at the top to keep dairy items separate. Both salad drawers are transparent, with the bottom being extra deep for larger items. There are none of the fancy features we've seen on some top-end US-style fridge freezers, such as dual doors and anti-bacterial lighting, but this Hitachi offers a great deal of simple chilling space.
The freezer is more compact than the refrigerator, but still offers a good-sized, useable space. The split is more even than many US-style models that skimp on freezer space to give a bigger chiller, as US homes traditionally also have a chest freezer in the garage or utility room.
This Hitachi is arguably better suited to UK homes and the freezer section boasts five shelves (three adjustable), two drawers and a huge 212 litres of capacity. It also offers two door pockets for smaller items, such as ice lollies or similar, although we would have preferred another one or two drawers in place of shelves to really maximise capacity. The ice-making mechanism and door dispenser system does take a chunk out of your total freezing space, but with 212 litres on offer, you would really have to have a huge freezer demand to be left wanting.
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As with most modern fridge freezers, this Hitachi is incredibly quiet thanks to its inverter compressor technology. Some other brands actually use Hitachi inverter motors, so it's no surprise that this model is quiet, efficient and energy conscious. In our tests we measured barely 43dB (A-weighted to best replicate the sensitivity of human hearing at the volume), which is about the same as a very quiet library. Chances are, in a normal kitchen you will never hear the Hitachi working.
The Hitachi proved to be a fabulously consistent performer in both the fridge and freezer compartments with one minor note of caution. Having set the freezer to -18 degrees C as standard, our test results showed the Hitachi to stabilise at -16 degrees throughout the 48-hour test. This would indicate it would be worth setting the freezer thermostat at 20 or 21 degrees to ensure your food remains at the saturation -18 degrees required for four-star freezer rating.
In the refrigerator the smaller (upper) drawer indicated almost precisely the 4 degrees C we'd set the thermostat to, with a variation throughout the compressor cycle of just /- 0.2 degrees. That staggeringly consistent result was replicated in the bottom drawer, which maintained a very steady 5 degrees C.
Open shelves are always more prone to temperature fluctuations as doors are opened and the cold air rolls out, but the Hitachi coped well with these conditions. Both shelves stabilised around 3.5 degrees C, with a fluctuation of 0.5/-2.0 degrees through the compressor cycle. This is a great result, as the low temperature dips were still well above freezing, protecting fruit and vegetables from frost.
In the freezer compartment the R-S700GP2 took our 2 litres of water to -18 degrees in a respectable 16 hours and maintained a very stable temperature throughout the test. Loaded with the typical 1kg of food per 10 litres of freezer space, top and middle shelves and the bottom drawer maintained -16 degrees C /- 2.0 degrees. This is a little higher than ideal, indicating that the Hitachi should be set at a lower temperature to achieve -18 degrees C.
As is typical of A machines, this unit’s insulation proved to be extremely effective in the event of a power failure. In our three-hour power fail test, only the very top shelf showed major temperature increase to a very respectable -7 degrees, while the lower shelves and the ice water never got above -12 degrees. Given that they started at only -16 degrees this is an exceptionally good result and would indicate a food safe time of considerably more than the eight hours Hitachi states in its literature. Overall a thoroughly good technical result all round.
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Not too much at all in fact, which is no surprise given its high-tech compressor and very good insulation. We calculate that it would use around 294kWh per year in average UK household use, which at current cost of electricity equates to just over 12p per day. For this type of side-by-side fridge freezer that's a great outcome, measuring considerably better than the 347kWh per year quoted by Hitachi. Partly this is due to the actual temperature of the freezer being maintained approximately two degrees higher than indicated by the controls. However, nudging the temperature control down by two degrees wouldn't make a massive difference to the running costs, so this is still a fabulous result for such great cooling capacity.
If you want outstanding value from an attractive US-style fridge freezer, the Hitachi R-S700GP2 is a great choice. It's fairly short of features compared to flagship models from the likes of Samsung, LG and Panasonic, but the high-tech motor and good insulation make it work well where it counts – energy efficiency. The ability to have a stand-alone water tank is a great benefit, as it avoids any unnecessary plumbing and allows the unit to fit almost anywhere. It also looks great. For under £1400, this really is a bit of a bargain.
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