We spent months torturing these coolers in every situation we could concoct. The Dometic was the clear front-runner. To find out how it shut down the competition, read on.
The Dometic blew its competition out of the water in just about every metric.
The Dometic performed the best of any model we tested in this metric. It cools quickly, even with room temperature contents. In our tests, it went from room temperature to an impressive -8.9º F in just 5.5 hours. The Costway was the only other model to reach that low of a temperature, and it took an extra 4 hours to get there! The Dometic's display temperature is one of the most accurate to the actual temperature and was on average 3.0º F different from actual. The only model to outcompete this accuracy is the Whynter, which averaged just a 1.6º F difference. The Dometic is also rated for ambient temperatures up to 109º F and can freeze contents, not just keep them frozen. We accidentally left some soda cans in our unit when we turned the temperature as cold as it would go and several exploded! Cans forgotten in other units did not get cold enough to explode.
This model really impressed us with its ability to control the temperature so well. Our only half-complaint is that when in Fahrenheit mode, the temperature is set in increments of 2º. But really, it made no functional difference to the incredible performance we saw from the Dometic.
An easy to use latch on the lid helps seal in cold temperatures without keeping you from your refreshments.
Another metric in which the Dometic performs admirably. Though none of the powered coolers give quite the impressive insulation performance of a traditional hard cooler, some are definitely better than others. The Dometic proved to have decent insulating power for a unit of its size. While we wouldn't recommend leaving it unplugged in a hot environment for longer than you have to, the Dometic along with the Whynter performed quite well at keeping their contents cool when electricity wasn't available.
The Dometic is also built like a tank. With reinforced corners, thick sturdy handles, and a big beefy hinge, we had no hesitation using this chest as a table, seat or even step ladder (though it's really not made for those last two). It gives the impression it will last for years and years to come and we had no reason to doubt that during our testing. Even our scouring of the internet for other users' claims didn't turn up anything that gave us serious doubts about the durability of the Dometic. Just like the ARB, it also has a 2 pole auxiliary socket hidden under the head of the DC cord that can be used to more securely thread the plug into power and stop the motion of the ocean (or boat or trailer or truck or…) from wiggling it loose. The Dometic is hands down the most durable-feeling model we tested.
Thick insulation, a sealed lid, and rounded corners make the Dometic a rugged and durable cooler.
For being such a large cooler and achieving such cold temperatures, we expected the Dometic to gobble up energy. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that it does not! It uses just slightly more energy than the Costway - 51.8 watts vs. 50.0 watts - which is still on the low end of all the coolers we tested, thermoelectric and compressor models both. The Dometic also has battery protection settings on the more conservative end of the units in this review, which is important if you plan to connect your unit to a primary battery - like the one that powers your car.
While it belongs to the A++ (A+++ is best) energy efficiency class, the Dometic doesn't have an additional energy-saving mode like both the Costway and Whynter do. It's also important to note that if you use the app to control your Dometic, expect to draw an extra 2-5 watts of power to keep the WiFi connection on. Overall, we are quite impressed with the energy efficiency of a relatively large unit running at such cold temperatures.
The Dometic pairs with a free app that you can use to control the temperature, change settings, and set parameter alerts easily from your smartphone.
Ease of Use
The first thing we like about using the Dometic is its shape. Unlike the other compressor coolers that are all tall, skinny, and deep, the Dometic has a low, squatty shape. This makes the contents more spread out rather than stacked on top of one another, which is a heck of a lot easier to find what you're looking for without letting all the cold air out. The internal basket is also easy to lift out even when it's full, thanks to convenient protruding handles. The Dometic also has an interior light as well as an easily accessible and easily replaceable fuse.
Though it's advertised as having a 46-liter capacity, we measured the total internal capacity as just over 54 liters! We think this difference is due to the small internal compartment on one side that might not be included in the Dometic's advertised capacity. This is our suspicion because Dometic claims you can fit 72 cans inside the CFX 50W model, and we did - in the main compartment, plus 14 more in the small compartment, for a total of 86 cans! This makes the Dometic the largest model we tested, despite our efforts to test all the same sized powered coolers.
Another feature we really enjoy about the Dometic is that you can reverse the direction the lid opens. This makes placing the unit exactly where you need it to be that much easier because if you need to reverse the lid to make it work where you want it, you can! The Dometic also has a drain and plug, and though you're not supposed to fill it with ice and liquid, this drain can really come in handy if you have a spill or just need to clean out your chest. And though we know most people tend to not really read an instruction manual, powered coolers is one area in which we highly recommend doing just that, as each contains very specific and important information which you absolutely need to know to get the best from your unit. The giant book that comes with the Dometic is intimidating, but it's actually only so large because it's printed in several languages. The manual is extremely helpful and easy to use and even includes many troubleshooting and maintenance instructions, making it easy to help your Dometic last a long long time.
A full load of 86 cans - 14 more than Dometic advertises, thanks to the little side compartment!
Okay, it's big - like a giant trunk. It's heavy - over 46 lb. It doesn't have wheels (unlike the handy little Knox!). It's never going to be your favorite piece of gear to load into the trailer or boat on those factors alone. You'll want to load it empty and then put your food inside, for sure. That being said, there are several factors that make the Dometic not totally terrible to carry compared to the other compressor models. The Costway is, of course, easier, as it weighs a full 12 lb less. However, this is another arena in which the troll-like shape of the Dometic works to its advantage. This shorter shape makes it easier to carry, and bashes against your legs less than taller coolers do. Additionally, the Dometic has extremely rounded edges all over, so when it is smashing its full 46.4 lb of rugged cooling power against you, it's not digging in as hard with corners. This is the only model we tested to have so many rounded corners, and we think it makes a BIG difference when it comes time to carry your cooler around. And if you're ready to hold your cooler in place, the handles on the Dometic can be used as tie-downs.
Aside from the obvious beastly size of this cooler, we don't have too many other complaints about its portability. It does have quite short DC and AC cords, each measuring just over 6'. This is on par with the ARB cord length, though both the Whynter and the Costway have longer DC cords (9' 6" and 7' 9.5" respectively), making it easier to find just the right placement without worrying about if the cord will reach or purchasing an extension. At the end of the day, we are pleasantly surprised at the portability of the largest powered cooler in this review.
All the compressor models we tested, from left to right: Dometic, ARB, Costway, and Whynter.
Dometic does not skimp when it comes to sticking useful features on their coolers. In addition to little things we've already mentioned (like the drain, the 2 pole auxiliary plug, and the WiFi controller app), the Dometic is ready to please. It has handy features you don't need but will wonder how you ever lived without, like a USB charging port on the back and the ability to change the display brightness to see better in midday or avoid feeling blinded at night.
Not just silly frills, the Dometic also has some dead-useful features. There's an emergency switch on the back that, when flipped, will run your unit even if the display has malfunctioned and won't work. This can save you hundreds of dollars in groceries in case of a potential breakdown out in the middle of nowhere. The Dometic is also shockingly quiet - we actually had to bend down and put our ears close to the unit to make sure it was actually running sometimes! It's easily the quietest cooler we tested. And, importantly, Dometic offers a 2-year manufacturer's warranty, which we think is an important feature of anything you're going to spend that much money on.
These indents make it possible to still remove a fully loaded basket from the Dometic, and the drain in the bottom makes cleaning a breeze.
After all our extensive testing, we find the Dometic to be the best all-around powered cooler out there. Whether you're looking for something to keep beers frosty on the pontoon, accompany you on a cross country road trip, or become your new "fridge" for your van life, the Dometic has got you covered. If you just want a transit cooler and don't need the insane level of temperature control offered by the Dometic, you might try a thermoelectric cooler like the Koolatron, our Top Pick for a Thermoelectric Cooler. But if you need something rugged, long-lasting, and want nothing but the best, look no further than the Dometic.
If you're after the best, no matter the occasion, you're after the Dometic.
Dometic sells this particular model for about $1000 - that's a good chunk of change for a fancy box! However, in this particular case, we think that what you get is so worth what you pay. Dometic offers superb performance, impressive durability, and all the right features to make your user experience excellent. If you want what works best, you want the Dometic and we think the money will be well-spent. However, if you're just not quite ready to part with that much dough, you might consider the Costway, our Best Buy award winner that is a decent performer for about a third the cost. Or for an in-between option, check out the Whynter that came out #2 in our testing and costs a lot less than the Dometic.
Non-melted ice cream on a road trip?? Yes please!!
The Dometic impressed us at every turn and has easily become our Editors' Choice. Its efficiency, control and durability are unmatched by any other powered cooler we have tested. We found very few things we didn't like about the Dometic, and love all the functionality and useful features it has to offer. Though it is one of the most expensive coolers in this review, we think that in this case, it's really worth it to be the proud owner of such a solid piece of gear.