Part of Siemens’ latest Home Connect iQ500 smart appliance range, the KG36NHI32 is a top-spec fridge freezer with a fingerprint-resistant stainless steel finish and some equally premium features. Networked interior cameras allow you to view the contents of your fridge while you're out and about and multi-point LED lighting makes it easy to see your veggies at home too.
Siemens’ HyperFresh drawer promises to keep meat and fish fresh for twice as long as conventional fridges, the AirFresh antibacterial air filter helps to neutralise odours and multi-airflow cooling promises even temperatures and stable cooling throughout. The question is, do you really need to see your leftover lasagne from Lanzarote?
The Siemens KG36NHI32 is tall, elegant and finished with bow-fronted doors in a smoothly brushed stainless steel. Furthermore, the finish is coated to reduce the appearance of fingerprints. Given a few greasy finger tests, we can safely say that "reduce" would be the word rather than "eliminate". Catch the finish in a certain light and paw-prints remain visible.
It certainly isn't as cleaning-intensive as pure stainless steel, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is as low-maintenance as a standard white finish. Moreover, when we did work at polishing off the fingermarks, the cloth caught on the Siemens' badge, resulting in the top of the last "s" peeling away from the fridge's surface.
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In every other respect, however, the KG36NHI32 is quite a looker. With acres of stainless steel, central control panel with touch controls and bold tubular handles, this model exudes an ambience of a professional kitchen.
The touchscreen panel has subtle blue indicators for temperature and simple +/- buttons in contrasting metallic colour. Despite its simplicity, the panel offers decent fridge and freezer control and initiates the networking setup.
Open the door, which has removable magnetic door seals for easy cleaning, and the inside is no less spectacular. This is thanks in no small part to the best lighting system we've yet to see in a refrigerator.
Three very bright white LED panels are integrated into either side, close to front of the compartment, and illuminate every square centimetre of the space. These diffused flat panels don't dazzle, even during fridge raids in the middle of the night. They offer shadow-free coverage of the entire compartment, ensuring the odd lost petit pois or out-of-date jar of jam has nowhere to hide.
The three glass shelves and wavy bottle rack are complemented by two large drawers. The upper of which is the meat and fish HyperFresh zone, kept at near-freezing point to preserve these items for the longest time possible. The lower HyperFresh drawer offers a humidity control slider and is ideal for fruits and vegetables. Fridge storage is completed with a trio of full-width door pockets, one of which is deeper with an insert to hold bottles in place.
The look is crisp, clean and modern throughout – the latter more so thanks to two rather obvious cameras. One of these faces into the upper three shelves from the door and one faces the door pockets. Vents for the multi-airlfow cooling are placed along the back, near the bins, and towards the front at the lower part of the compartment, promising even cooling irrespective of which shelf you place produce on.
The freezer section is somewhat more mundane looking, with three clear plastic drawers and a glass shelf between the lower two. A large vent at the front edge shows the multi-airflow cooling outlets and the rear of the top drawer is creatively angled to fit in some piece of unseen engineering behind the compartment. There are no door bins or lights in the freezer.
The KG36NHI32’s professional look from the outside translates directly into its allocation of space on the inside, with a bias towards fresh food storage; close to a 75/25 split. So this 60 x 187cm appliance offers 234 litres of fridge space and 86 litres of freezer capacity.
On viewing the exterior of the fridge, the split looks far less. The lower freezer section has thicker insulation and has to make way for the compressor and some of the multi-airflow cooling components, so has a smaller volume for its size. There isn't much to say about the freezer, which is simply made up of three large bins.
However, the inside of the fridge is a statement of style and technology. There are actually four glass shelves, although since one sits between the two storage bins it won’t’ be of much use unless you remove the upper low-temperature bin. Bearing in mind this drawer is ideal for meat and fish, this configuration could perhaps be better for vegetarians.
The lower salad drawer is a much deeper unit that extends right out to the door, thanks to a high lower door pocket. The space in this is a little truncated by a cooling outlet at the rear, but there remains plenty of room for fresh fruit and veggies.
A slider on the front of the drawer adjusts ambient humidity: higher for vegetables and salads to keep them moist; lower for soft fruits to keep them in dryer conditions, and to better seal the drawer to keep in the natural fruit gasses that can accelerate ripening of other fruit and veg in your fridge.
The door pockets are all full-width, and are finished with a metal trim to complement the exterior. They offer no position adjustment, however. While this is fairly unusual in a premium refrigerator, the current configuration makes it perfect for the interior camera to see the contents in all three door bins.
The two cameras take up very little room and are positioned so as not to be in your way when accessing the contents of your fridge . The door-mounted unit is pretty obviously visible and has the word "camera" written on the back for all kitchen visitors to see when the door is open. Conversation starter? Oh, we think so.
Setting up Wi-Fi network connectivity on the KG36NHI32 is fairly straightforward. You begin by downloading Siemens' clean-looking Home Connect app and setting up an account. Via a series of key presses on the front panel, you put the fridge into Access Point mode and use your smart device as if you were connecting to a new Wi-Fi network.
Once your device is connected to the fridge, you can go into the Home Connect app and teach the fridge your household Wi-Fi name and password. Exit the app and it's connected.
The instruction manual for the fridge is contained within the app itself, which also includes tips and tricks, service and warranty information and a growing library of recipes.
You can monitor and adjust the temperature in both the fridge and the freezer via the app, and – much more excitingly for dinner-party conversations – even take a peek at the contents of your fridge. Moreover, you can do this from wherever you have an internet connection, not just on your home network.
This means that when you pop into the supermarket on the way home from work, you can view inside the fridge to see what the rest of the family have demolished while you were out.
Rather than provide a true live video feed, the fridge uploads images to your secure account on Siemen’s server each time the door is closed. The app is simply looking at the data on your account when it displays the images of your fridge content. The app gives you the most recent images from the fridge compartment and door pocket (side-by-side with your device in landscape mode; selectable in portrait) and the images from the last five times you closed the door.
The LED lights serve to illuminate the shot like a camera flash, and the resulting pictures are pretty good: it's clear to see what is on the shelves and how much milk remains in the door. So is this a useful feature and genuine game changer, or just a gimmick?
Opinions were diverse at the Stevenson household, and indeed when demonstrating the feature to friends and visitors.
Jackie and a couple of her friends suggested that they'd simply make a shopping list before heading to the shops – especially since there's no Wi-Fi or mobile data connection at the local supermarket anyway. Other friends noted that they could certainly see the use of such a feature when coming home from work to see what was available to eat, or not, as the case may be.
Then there was the camp who believed it was the best thing that had happened to fridges since the automatic ice-cube maker – myself included. It quickly became apparent that this group would spend an inordinate amount of time showing the contents of their fridge to work colleagues and neighbours – just because they could.