Swan’s SR11010 retro fridge freezer really puts the cool into cooling. If you're looking for a little retro style for your kitchen, this is it. It's available in 10 on-trend colours, from the pastel blue you see here to a vibrant orange. Its curvy, chunky design with chrome handles provide a look that wouldn’t be out of place on a 1950’s Ford Zephyr.
Thankfully, the technology and fixtures on the inside are more up to date. This is an A+ energy rated appliance with glass shelves and a bottle rack. Its total 208-litre capacity is split 80:20 in favour of the refrigerator, with a smaller top-mounted freezer. Queue some Elvis Presley playing in the background for a full retro review.
Okay, so retro-look fridge freezers aren't a new idea. But rarely are they as affordable as the Swan SR11010, and they don't usually come in such a broad spectrum of colour options.
Our test sample arrived in a subtle pastel blue (BLN suffix), but you can choose from nine other hues: pastel shades of cream, pale green, grey and burgundy, or the more dramatic red, pink, lime green, black and orange. The latter is so loud it ought to come with volume control.
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The unit features a smoothly rounded cabinet, with the handles and embossed Swan logo finished in bright chrome. The handles have ribbed detailing to deliver an even more authentic retro style. Both doors are finished top and bottom with chrome trim to complete the look.
Swing open the large refrigerator door and the interior is much more 21st century. It's clean, white and well-appointed with glass shelves, a chrome bottle rack and translucent plastic storage bins. The shelves add further to the fine detailing by way of white dots and a large Swan logo etched into the glass on each full-size shelf.
It's not all modern: we return to the retro with a bulb light and rotary thermostat control for fridge temperature. Cleverly, the "light bulb" is actually an LED, so gives out a crisp white light while retaining the retro look. The thermostat uses an arbitrary scale of one (warmest) to seven (coolest), so purchasing a cheap fridge thermostat would be a good idea to ensure you're running at the recommended 4oC.
The rather bijou freezer section has a single glass shelf and fixed temperature. There is considerable extra insulation around the freezer, with the much thicker walls than the fridge section. This brings down the overall freezer volume to just 40 litres. The shelf is removable if you want to squeeze in some larger items, though.
Despite its compact dimensions at just under 1.5m tall and 55cm wide, the Swan Retro delivers plenty of refrigeration space. Its 168 litres is excellent for a 55cm (wide) appliance and the layout is clean and efficient.
Differing slightly from the online images, our sample came with three full glass shelves, a half-sized glass shelf over the salad drawer, and a full-width bottle rack. Other than the lower half shelf, all the rest can be placed into one of seven slots to provide flexible chilled storage. Those looking to store several taller items may well have to eject one of those shelves.
At the bottom, the salad drawer is a little lacking in size compared to the overall dimensions of the refrigerator compartment since it's truncated to accommodate the compressor behind. In most fridge freezers this would sit at the bottom, in the freezer section. The salad bin itself is pretty deep, though, so there’s more than enough room for a lettuce or two and some peppers.
The door pockets are far more capacious and there are plenty to choose from. There's a deep, full-width bottle pocket, a full-width shallow dairy tray, and three half-width bins. The latter have six position options, again providing plenty of flexibility.
Note that the online images of the interior of the SR11010 make all of the storage bins look a tinted blue colour. In fact, they're more a smoked grey, which should better compliment some of the more "out there" exterior colours.
The freezer is a compact space divided in two by a single removable glass shelf. Its 40 litres of freezer space is, well, 40 litres of space.
Swan doesn't make too much fuss about how quiet the SR11010 is, but the energy label claimed 42dB is about average for a mid-priced fridge freezer using a traditional compressor motor. While not as stealthy as models below 40dB, this is still fairly quiet and far less intrusive than models of 10 years ago or more that would pop and click like a kettle alongside the motor noise.
Sure enough, the Swan hit spot-on 42dB while it was running. Thanks to superb insulation in the freezer section in particular, the motor is only running for about 15 minutes in every hour. Outside of that, it's near-silent.
For testing, we load 0.5kg of mixed fresh food per 10 litres of fridge capacity. We use load 1kg per 10 litres in the freezer section, as well as 2 litres of water to measure fresh-to-frozen time, frozen food stability and the effect of a power failure of three hours.
We were not sure what to set the variable thermostat to, so we settled on level 5 and measured what temperature the fridge got down too. Temperatures on every shelf were measured every minute over several days, producing a mass of data that won't impress anyone at dinner parties (we tried). However, it does provide a very accurate idea of how a fridge freezer performs.
This Swan performs quite well. The top, mid and lower shelves offered average temperatures of 5, 4 and 3oC respectively, while the salad crisper remained at a brisk 2oC.
Temperature consistency throughout the compressor cycle was fairly stable considering this isn't a forced air-flow design fridge, with the main shelves wavering just a degree either side of their average. The salad drawer did have a much wider variation, bouncing between 5oC maximum and just below freezing. That's a little on the low side, and there would likely be some danger of damaging soft fruit with frost at this temperature. It would be best to nudge up the thermostat to the setting marked 4.
Freezer test results were rather less impressive. It took almost 48 hours for the freezer to get our water sample down to its stable frozen temperature, and that was only -15oC. While both the upper and lower areas of the compartment averaged -14 and -15oC respectively, they swung dramatically between -10 and -18oC throughout the cycle. This is a very old-school result by modern standards.
The three-hour fail test fared somewhat better thanks to the hefty insulation, with the frozen sample rising only 5oC during the period of the outage.
Starting from a fairly "high" -15oC average temperature didn’t help though. It meant that food in the freezer would rise above 0oC – and begin to defrost properly – in around 9-10 hours. That's only average for food safety time limit in a power outage.
Our results suggest that the freezer should only really be used for short-term (weeks, not months) storage of foods such as meats and fish, or longer for non-critical items such as ice lollies, processed foods, pre-packed desserts.
The -15oC average freezer temperature rather calls into question the energy label figures for consumption if they were measured at this temperature rather than the usual -18oC. However, our tests suggest an annual running cost of about 200kWh per year, which at an average 15p/kWh is around £30.
The super-large refrigerator capacity helps the Swan to achieve it’s A+ energy rating for energy used per litre, but given the very small freezer, energy consumption isn’t overly frugal by modern standards.
If you're in the market for a stylish retro fridge-freezer with superb detailing, and you're on a tight budget, the Swan SR11010 takes a lot of beating.
However, you'll have to put up with a very small freezer compartment with average technical performance, basic temperature controls and so-so running costs. Then again, much of the similarly styled competition costs twice the asking price.
Retro styling for a bargain price makes this a tempting option, but performance is only middling.