Since we tested our group of powered coolers, ARB has released the second series of the Fridge Freezer. Check out what's new along with comparison photos below.April 2020
ARB Fridge Freezer 50 Review
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ARB Fridge Freezer 50
$1,062 at Amazon
|$759.99 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Cools relatively quickly, helpful/thorough manual, long warranty, large capacity||Great temperature control, quality insulation, rugged and tough, convenient to use, good battery protection||Energy efficient, good features, super durable, long DC cord||Very energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cord||Largest temperature range, good insulation, lightweight, few moving parts, can be used as a chest or standing up|
|Cons||Temperature performance not very good, expensive, power-hungry, awkward basket||Expensive, relatively short cords||Unimpressive minimum temperature, heavy for its size, relatively loud||Not durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loud||No AC cord included, not the most durable, energy hog|
|Bottom Line||Doesn't keep up with the competition, but surpasses them all with its price tag||This cooler is well worth its price when you need something rugged and reliable to join you on remote adventures or for regular use||Energy-efficient, even on its highest settings, and built like a tank, though not the coldest or the quietest||If you're on a tighter budget but still want mid-level performance, we recommend this model||An impressive temperature range from this lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler (and heater)|
|Rating Categories||ARB Fridge Freezer 50||Dometic CFX3 45||Engel Platinum MT35||Costway 54||Koolatron Portable 45|
|Temperature Control (25%)|
|Energy Consumption (20%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||ARB Fridge Freezer 50||Dometic CFX3 45||Engel Platinum MT35||Costway 54||Koolatron Portable 45|
|Minimum Temperature Achieved (F)||1.4ºF||-7.6ºF||5.5ºF||-8.9ºF||38.2ºF below ambient|
|Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F)||15.8ºF||17.6ºF||18.9ºF||27.9ºF||9.9ºF|
|Power Draw in Watts (cooling)||64.3 W||50.7 W||31.7 W||50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
|Power Draw in Watts (steady)||0.7 W||1.0 W||1.1 W||1.0 W||N/A|
|Power Draw in Watts (heating)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||48.1 W|
|Voltage Use (cooling)||11.98 V||13.17 V||13.85 V||13.47 V||13.29 V|
|Amperage Use (cooling)||5.37 A||3.84 A||2.30 A||3.72 A||4.69 A|
|Hours to Cool (measured)||4.7 hrs||16 hrs||16 hrs||9.5 hrs||>12 hrs|
|Maximum Temperature Achieved (F)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||130.8ºF|
|Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual)||+/- 5.8ºF||+/- 2.4ºF||+/- 2.5ºF||+/- 3.8ºF||N/A|
|Weight||49.8 lb||42.0 lb||47.8 lb||34 lb||14.2 lb|
|Claimed Capacity (volume)||47.3 L
|Measured Capacity (volume)||50.2 L
|Capacity (cans)||72 cans||68 cans||38 cans||72 cans||63 cans|
|Method of Cooling||12V compressor||12V compressor||12V compressor||12V compressor||Thermoelectric|
|Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F)||0ºF to 50ºF||-7ºF to 50ºF||0ºF to 50ºF||-4ºF to 50ºF||40ºF below ambient and up to 135ºF|
|Acceptable Ambient Temperature Range (F)||61ºF to 109ºF
(min temp cannot be reached if >90ºF)
|61ºF to 110ºF||Not specified||50ºF to 109ºF||Not specified|
|Exterior Dimensions (D x W x H)||15" x 28" x 17"||27.5" x 15.75" x 18.5"||14.25" x 28" x 15.7"||21" x 27.5" x 14"||16" x 21" x 17.25"|
|Interior Dimensions (D x W x H)||11.2" x 13.3"/6" x 15.8"/8.1"||11.5" x 14.5"/7" x 12"/7.5"||15.25" x 10.75" x 10.25"||10.4" x 12.75"/6.4" x 17.25"/10.6"||12.25" x 15.5" x 14.5"|
|DC Cord Length (feet)||6'||6' 2"||9' 6.5"||7' 9.75"||8' 10"|
|AC Cord Length (feet)||6' 3" (AC cord)
8' 9" (AC adapter only)
15' 3" (DC and AC adapter)
|6' 2"||5' 8"||6' 4.25" (AC adapter only)
14' 7" (DC and AC adapter)
|6' 11" (AC adapter only)
15' 11" (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||DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord||DC cord|
|Features||Optional mounting, internal light, removable adapter collar on DC cord, secure cord attachment on back, C/F display, drain/plug||Internal light, removable baskets and divider, C/F display, drain/plug, USB power cord, bluetooth enabled, wifi compatible, free app||Removable lid, internal light, C/F display||Eco power-saving function, internal light||Heating ability|
Our Analysis and Test Results
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.
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!
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