The first time I saw the new Frigidaire Gallery Cool Connect smart air conditioner my jaw dropped. It was the best-looking window AC unit I'd ever seen with a sleek design and supposedly neat Wi-Fi functionality. After a month of using it, I now remember that no gadget is truly perfect — not even if you want it to be.
All images: Adam Clark Estes
AU Editor's Note: Frigidaire doesn't sell its products within Australia, but we thought this particularly cool — pardon the pun — air-con was worth sharing. — Cam
What Is It?
And I wanted this snazzy white box to be perfect. A dependable AC is a true lifesaver during a New York City summer, and unless you're rich or lucky, your apartment will probably require a window unit. The same goes for plenty of cities around the world. What's always driven me nuts about these essential appliances, however, is that they're both ugly and annoying to use. Put differently, they're poorly designed. When Frigidaire showed off the new Cool Connect 8,000 BTU unit at CES this year, it looked like a revelation.
The filter slides out the top of the mesh unit, but you can run the whole thing under water. You definitely want to clean this at least once a month.
Good design is about much more than looks. Beyond the almost Apple-inspired white exterior, the Frigidaire AC features a filter that pops out the front, instead of sliding out the side like my old unit, the Quirky Aros. There's also a little red light that reminds you to clean the filter once a month. Meanwhile, the vents are angled up so that the air circulates through the room from the top down instead of getting blasted straight out the front of the unit and sinking to the floor. (Heat rises.) That said, the angled vent gimmick doesn't work very well if you have shades or blinds, since the air just shoots straight up behind the window covering.
Believe it or not, the light above fan is actually illuminated in this image. You can see it if you cup your hand around the light to create more darkness.
The unit's good looks are hard to ignore, though. Even the buttons are beautiful because, well, they don't exist. The control panel is touch sensitive and wonderfully glossy, though the white LED indicator lights are basically impossible to see in a bright window. But like a cherry on top, the new Frigidaire AC came with these insulated panels that covered up those ugly accordion-style wings on the side making it almost look like the unit was part of my apartment's architecture.
Then there are the smart features. I'm going to be brutally honest here. As I learned from living with the Quirky Aros, internet connected ACs aren't that useful. The idea that you can adjust the unit from your phone and even program it to turn on when you're almost home sounds futuristic. The only problem is that taking out your phone and fumbling through an app sometimes takes longer than getting up and pressing a damn button.
That's my experience. You might love firing up the AC when you're on the way home so that your apartment is nice and chilly when you arrive. I personally prefer turning it on when I walk in the door and letting the air blow in my face until I'm not hot any more. Nevertheless, you can have it both ways with the Frigidaire Cool Connect — but the smart features stop short of learning your habits, like Nest does. The app is there, and it's a little bit clunky. It basically works as a substitute for the unit's remote, which I actually use more often. The programming features work just fine. I just never use them.
The app is basically a remote with some extra features. If you look closely, you can see the option to "Create a schedule" and "Turn off later." That's as smart as this smart AC gets.
The true test of any air conditioner, of course, is whether or not it can cool down your living space and keep it cool. The Frigidaire does that with panache — most of the time. Like most modern AC units, the Cool Connect comes with three settings: cool, eco, and fan. The cool mode will bring down the temperature in your place to a desired level and keep it there, gobbling up lots of pricey electricity in the process. The eco mode turns off and on to keep the room close to your desired temperature without wasting energy. The fan is a fan.
Cool mode is the only way to go, in my opinion. On a recent 90-degree day in New York, I turned my bedroom into a beautiful little ice box, and it stayed that way. This is despite the fact that an 8,000 BTU unit is not quite the optimal size for my space. My room requires about 7,000 BTU, so I'm in an awkward position since most units come in 6,000 or 8,000 BTU versions. (The BTU equation is complicated, but this handy tool will tell you what size you need.) But if I keep it in cool mode, the Frigidaire works like a miracle. I have not, however, looked at my electricity bill yet.
Eco mode is a different story. For whatever reason, the AC would cool the room down fine at first, but once it started the on-off yoyo game, I'd be bouncing back and forth between sweaty brow and goosebumps. I realise we all have to make some sacrifices on our warming planet, but it's almost worse to oscillate between too warm and too chilly. Eco mode is great for keeping your space a reasonable temperature while you're away, though.
Fan mode is a fan. I usually kept the AC in fan mode when I wasn't home so that my apartment would feel less stuffy. It also serves as a great white noise machine.
With those insulated panels on the side, the AC unit really blends in!
So let's talk about noise. My old Quirky Aros was widely criticised for being loud, though I actually enjoyed how it drowned out the activity on my noisy street. The first time I turned on the Frigidaire, I noticed that it was several decibels quieter than the other unit. It's hardly silent, however. The Cool Connect makes enough noise that I turn it off from time-to-time if I'm watching a movie. (I'm a bit little deaf, so you might not have that issue.) But after a couple of weeks, I noticed a different noise, a high-pitched noise that I initially thought was some sort of clean-the-filter alarm. In fact, it's a normal sound that the compressor makes. There's even an advisory in the manual.
The high-pitched noise comes and goes. Depending on my mood, I either tune it out or focus all of my anxious energy onto it, waiting for the moment that it cuts out. I should add that I only hear this noise when the unit is in cool mode, but since I prefer to use it in cool mode, I notice it more and more. I reached out to Frigidaire for more details on what causes the noise and how to avoid it. I'll update this review if I hear back.
Just look at it.
All that said, the occasional whine from the Frigidaire window unit is hardly a deal breaker. I love this AC. I love the way it looks. I love the way it turns my bedroom into a beautiful icebox on hot days. I love it enough that when two friends contacted me recently about which AC unit to buy, I said, "Get the new Frigidaire — it's expensive but worth it."
Should You Buy It?
And it's really only a little bit expensive. Amazon is selling the Frigidaire Cool Connect for $US300 ($403) right now, just $US40 ($54) more than the LG unit our friends at the Wirecutter love. Two Andrew Jacksons don't quite cover the convenience of the smartphone controls for me, but the Frigidaire's superior design is practically priceless. I actually do use the smartphone app sometimes, too — usually when I'm lying in bed and feeling too lazy to reach for the remote.
That sort of sums it up, though, right? Here's a gorgeous AC unit for the lazy man. It's hot. It's summer. And so far, it's been a little bit better with this fancy new unit.
- The design is not only gorgeous but also delightfully functional, especially the extra insulation boards.
- It cools down a room quickly and keeps it cold on the hottest days — which is basically the number one thing you want an AC to do.
- The smart features aren't revolutionary, but they're handy.
- The compressor makes a high pitch whine from sometimes. Then again, all air conditioners make funny noises.
- It's worth the slightly higher price, if only because you'll enjoy looking at it.