We expected more from this cooler based on manufacturer claims and its price that rivals the Editors' Choice winner. Unfortunately, the ARB's performance is lackluster against the competition. It has a hard time maintaining a consistent temperature, doesn't have the subzero range of its competitors, is power-hungry in comparison, and fairly heavy. If it were only up against thermoelectric models, no doubt the ARB would win, but it just couldn't stand up to the other compressor coolers.
ARB Fridge Freezer 50 Review
Cons: Temperature performance not very good, expensive, power-hungry, awkward basket
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The ARB is a compressor-powered cooler that we tested with a 50L capacity. It claims to cool between 0º and 50ºF and comes with both AC and DC cords and a DC to AC adapter.
The ARB is fairly unimpressive compared to the other compressor coolers we tested when it comes to temperature control. Its minimum temperature was 1.4º F - not the 0º ARB claims, nor the subzero temps of most of its competitors. Not only that, the ARB couldn't maintain a consistent temperature during our testing. It also showed the least accurate display temperature, which was an average of 5.8º F different from its actual internal temperature.
Additionally, the ARB is rated to be used only in temperatures over 70º F, which doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for chilly nights. Its only redeeming temperature control feature in our eyes is that it takes the least amount of time to reach its minimum temperature of any contenders in our review. However, as that minimum temperature is nearly 10º F warmer than most the other models, this first place medal seems to shine less brightly.
Though the ARB gained the least heat during our 36-hour insulation test, it also was starting at the highest temperature. Whereas all the other models actually reached their mid-30s setting, the ARB failed to do so, and therefore began the insulation test at a non-USDA-safe temperature of 46º F! The ARB also isn't quite as rugged as some of the beefier models we tested, and specifically states you may not use it as a seat, which we are personally bummed about (pun intended). It's still built pretty solidly though and features a 2 pole auxiliary plug hidden under the DC collar that can be used to more securely attach it to an energy source for bumpy adventures.
One of the most power-hungry coolers we tested, the ARB gobbles a whopping 64.3 watts. The ARB also has no eco-friendly option, like many other high-energy coolers. It does have an impressively large book as a user manual, though, that is actually helpful and thorough - an important feature for an appliance such as this. Unfortunately, said manual specifically states that many vehicles are not capable of providing the required energy load. Be sure to check your vehicle before you buy!
Ease of Use
One of the largest coolers in this review, the ARB is one of the few models that has a spot-on capacity claim to match its actual dimensions. We fit a full 72 cans inside this spacious chest. The ARB comes with AC and DC cords and an AC adapter to extend the length of the DC cord. It also has a drain and internal light, which are handy. However, we aren't big fans of the asymmetrical basket, which is incredibly hard to get out when it's full, and the divider fits very loosely, making it difficult to keep it in place. It also opens length-ways, which is less convenient both for getting objects out and for the extra headspace you need to open it. Additionally, the manual states that you must use the mounting hardware, and you can't take this cooler anywhere without permanently mounting it, which we think takes it off the plate for the casual user.
This cooler is heavy! Clocking in at just under 50 lb, the ARB is an asymmetrically-weighted beast. It does have sturdy handles for lifting but is an awkward shape that we don't love. Though the ARB comes with three cords, as previously mentioned, they're the shortest cords of any compressor model we tested, at just 6'. However, if you have access to AC power, you can string together the DC cord and AC adapter to get an impressive 15' 3".
The ARB has hardware on the bottom for easy mounting, which we appreciate. The 2 pole auxiliary power socket under the DC socket increases the range and usefulness of this cooler. At the time of writing, ARB also offers one of the longest manufacturer's warranties of any model we tested - three years! That's a nice perk for such an expensive appliance. However, the ARB is also one of the loudest compressor coolers we tested. The manual claims 50 dbA, and though we didn't actually measure noise emissions, we found this one to be quite annoying to sit next to.
The ARB scores at the bottom of the compressor cooler stack. It's really just not an impressive model on any level, especially considering the cost. Unfortunately, this cooler isn't a high-value cooler, though we certainly hope that future versions may be better performers.
The ARB is not an impressive cooler when stacked up against the competition. Its temperature control is lacking, its energy use is high, and its portability is a pain. And to top it all off, it's the most expensive model we tested!
— Maggie Brandenburg