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ARB Fridge Freezer 50 Review

Doesn't keep up with the competition, but surpasses them all with the highest price.
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Price:  $1,032 List | $889.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Cools relatively quickly, helpful/thorough manual, long warranty, large capacity
Cons:  Temperature performance not very good, expensive, power-hungry, awkward basket
Manufacturer:   ARB
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 14, 2019
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 9
  • Temperature Control - 25% 7
  • Insulation - 25% 7
  • Energy Consumption - 20% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5
  • Portability - 10% 5
  • Features - 5% 7

Our Verdict

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.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $889.99 at Amazon$999.99 at Amazon$999.97 at Amazon$375.43 at Amazon$379.99 at Amazon
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Pros Cools relatively quickly, helpful/thorough manual, long warranty, large capacityExcellent temperature control, energy efficient, large capacity, extremely sturdy, full of useful featuresEnergy efficient, good features, super durable, long DC cordExcellent low energy mode, long cord, good temperature range and control, useful baskets, less expensiveVery energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cord
Cons Temperature performance not very good, expensive, power-hungry, awkward basketExpensive, relatively short cords, no energy-saving modeUnimpressive minimum temperature, heavy for its size, relatively loudHeavy, small capacity, control panel on backNot durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loud
Bottom Line Doesn't keep up with the competition, but surpasses them all with the highest price.Precision performance and everything you want in a cooler made to last through years of adventures.Energy efficient and tank-like, though not the coldest or the quietest.Performance where it matters for a lower cost.An impressive performer for a lot less than the competition.
Rating Categories ARB Fridge Freezer 50 Dometic CFX 50W Engel Platinum MT35 Whynter FM-45G Costway 54
Temperature Control (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
Insulation (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
5
Energy Consumption (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
0
8
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
5
Portability (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
3
10
0
7
Features (5%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
6
Specs ARB Fridge Freezer... Dometic CFX 50W Engel Platinum MT35 Whynter FM-45G Costway 54
Minimum Temperature Achieved (F) 1.4ºF -8.9ºF 5.5ºF -5.8ºF -8.9ºF
Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F) 15.8ºF 20.7ºF 18.9ºF 21.6ºF 27.9ºF
Power Draw in Watts (cooling) 64.3 W 51.8 W 31.7 W 65.5 W
35.5 (low)
50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
Power Draw in Watts (steady) 0.7 W 0.8 W 1.1 W 0.8 W 1.0 W
Power Draw in Watts (heating) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Voltage Use (cooling) 11.98 V 13.26 V 13.85 V 13.39 V 13.47 V
Amperage Use (cooling) 5.37 A 3.89 A 2.30 A 4.91 A 3.72 A
Minutes to Cool (according to display) 158 min 16 min 52 min 145 min 80 min
Hours to Cool (measured) 4.7 hrs 5.5 hrs 16 hrs 8 hrs 9.5 hrs
Maximum Temperature Achieved (F) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual) +/- 5.8ºF +/- 3.0ºF +/- 2.5ºF +/- 1.6ºF +/- 3.8ºF
Weight 49.8 lb 46.4 lb 47.8 lb 54.6 lb 34 lb
Claimed Capacity (volume) 47.3 L
50 quarts
46 L
48.6 quarts
32 L
34 quarts
42.5 L
45 quarts
51.1 L
54 quarts
Measured Capacity (volume) 50.2 L
47.5 quarts
54.2 L
51.3 quarts
27.5 L
29 quarts
42.4 L
40.1 quarts
49.1 L
51.8 quarts
Capacity (cans) 72 cans 86 cans 38 cans 58 cans 72 cans
Method of Cooling 12V compressor 12V compressor 12V compressor 12V compressor 12V compressor
Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F) 0ºF to 50ºF -8ºF to 50ºF 0ºF to 50ºF -8ºF to 50ºF -4ºF to 50ºF
Acceptable Ambient Temperature Range (F) 61ºF to 109ºF
(min temp cannot be reached if >90ºF)
61ºF to 109ºF
(min temp cannot be reached is >90ºF)
Not specified 41ºF to 90ºF
(max setting if >90ºF)
50ºF to 109ºF
Exterior Dimensions (D x W x H) 15" x 28" x 17" 17.9" x 28.5" x 18.5" 14.25" x 28" x 15.7" 17.25" x 25" x 20" 21" x 27.5" x 14"
Interior Dimensions (D x W x H) 11.2" x 13.3"/6" x 15.8"/8.1" 13.2" x 13.5"/7.25" x 14.2"/6.25" 15.25" x 10.75" x 10.25" 11.25" x 11"/7.25" x 15"/7.25" 10.4" x 12.75"/6.4" x 17.25"/10.6"
DC Cord Length (feet) 6' 6' 3" 9' 6.5" 9' 6" 7' 9.75"
AC Cord Length (feet) 6' 3" (AC cord)
8' 9" (AC adapter only)
15' 3" (DC and AC adapter)
6' 3" 5' 8" 6' 2" 6' 4.25" (AC adapter only)
14' 7" (DC and AC adapter)
Comes With AC cord, DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord AC cord, DC cord AC cord, DC cord, extra fuse AC cord, DC cord DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord
Features Optional mounting, internal light, removable adapter collar on DC cord, secure cord attachment on back, C/F display, drain/plug WiFi app, internal light, C/F display, USB port, adjust display brightness, drain/plug, removable adapter collar on DC cord, emergency switch for control panel failure Removable lid, internal light, C/F display Displays battery level, drain/plug Eco power-saving function, internal light

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.

Performance Comparison


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.
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.

Temperature Control


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.
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.

Insulation


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.
Thick walls help hold in the cold, as does the fully sealing lid.

Energy Consumption


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.
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.
A big beefy latch seals in your contents but also takes a little getting used to.

Portability


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 bottom of the ARB, showing its feet, mounting hardware, and the bottom of the drain.

Features


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 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.

Value


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 light in the ARB is located above the large, main compartment to help you find what you're looking for.

Conclusion


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.
Though not our favorite compressor model, the ARB still does the job.


Maggie Brandenburg