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Fridge that yields e-mail leaves us cold

By Shoshana Berger
Business 2.0

The new LG electronics refrigerator doesn't impress reviewer.
The new LG electronics refrigerator doesn't impress reviewer.

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Editor's note: Gizmos Weekly is produced by Business 2.0 and features gadget reviews and gift ideas

(Business 2.0) -- Latest 21st-century excuse: "I was just about to cook you dinner, Honey, when the refrigerator crashed!"

Welcome to the brave new world of kitchen appliances, where ovens are coolers, microwaves talk back, and the fridge is much more than a passive purveyor of les produits du porc.

The new Multi-Media refrigerator from LG Electronics is nothing less than a full-service, 20-gigabyte-drive PC with a fridge attached. It'd better be: With an $8,000 price tag, the sticker shock alone is enough to have Thorstein Veblen, coiner of "conspicuous consumption," spinning in his grave.

Clearly, I was all set to pan this thing. I mean, do we really need an Internet hookup, PDA, camera, stereo, and TV mounted on even our most humble household wares? I'll need a personal assistant just to do the data entry on expiration dates and storage zones as I unload groceries. (Whither the bar-code scanner?) And the idea that I'd want to check local weather on my fridge just seems a little silly.

Still, being the gizmo geek that I am, I can't say I wasn't just a little taken in by the Multi-Media's 15-inch touchscreen, which slides out at an angle from the slick, titanium-like, smudge-proof door.

The LCD screen's color is as crisp as iceberg lettuce, so you'll have no trouble following Emeril's every move. The sound system is another matter. It's nice that it plays both radio and downloaded MP3s from speakers built in at the top, but the quality is poor at higher volumes. And as the unofficial bulletin board of the house, I suppose, a fridge that lets you leave video memos and text notes for hungry kids may be useful -- but do we really need to store an entire digital photo album there when there's plenty of room for fridge magnets?

The most utilitarian thing about this wired fridge is that it actually helps you cook. You can search its database of recipes by meal, ingredient, or country, or use its Web hookup to surf for new ones at your favorite cooking site. And who can resist a little cultural education? The Korean-made Multi-Media even provides nutritional information for foods popular overseas, including meats like beef tail (108 calories per 60 grams) and boar (110 calories per 60 grams).

Oh, and did I mention that it keeps food cold too?

For more personal technology news visit Business 2.0.

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