Fridge Freezer vs. Fridge Freezer Series II
Though the functionality and dimensions remain the same, the latest model, the Fridge Freezer Series II, gets a slew of electronic updates coupled with a new aesthetic. The Series II features a backlit control panel and customiziable dimmable display. There is a new transmitter that can be coupled with bluetooth allowing you to use an app to control the cooler from your smartphone. The Series II also carries a more subdued color scheme; the blue version is the one we tested, followed by the more neutral colored Series II.
We're linking to the updated Series II model above, but be aware that the review to follow pertains to our test period with the original blue and white Fridge Freezer 50.
Hands-On Review of the Fridge Freezer 50
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.
Comparing seven of the powered coolers from our test. The bottom row is comprised of four compressor models, from left to right: Dometic, ARB, Costway, Whynter. The top row is the three thermoelectric models from left to right: Koolatron, Knox, Igloo.
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.
This graph illustrates the performance of compressor models during the minimum temperature test. You can see here that the ARB's temperature fluctuated wildly.
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.
Thick walls help hold in the cold, as does the fully sealing lid.
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!
Separate AC and DC plugs and a replaceable fuse are located on the back of the ARB. Note the handy cord holding slots on the sides.
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.
A big beefy latch seals in your contents but also takes a little getting used to.
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 bottom of the ARB, showing its feet, mounting hardware, and the bottom of the drain.
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 drain and plug in the ARB are both made of hard plastic. This model isn't rated to have liquid sloshing around inside, so the drain only serves to facilitate easy cleaning.
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 light in the ARB is located above the large, main compartment to help you find what you're looking for.
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!
Though not our favorite compressor model, the ARB still does the job.