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Koolatron Portable 45 Review

An impressive temperature range from this lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler (and heater)
Koolatron Portable 45
Credit: Amazon
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $240 List | $219.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Largest temperature range, good insulation, lightweight, few moving parts, can be used as a chest or standing up
Cons:  No AC cord included, not the most durable, energy hog
Manufacturer:   Koolatron
By Maggie Nichols ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 16, 2021
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52
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 11
  • Temperature Control - 25% 7.0
  • Insulation - 25% 4.0
  • Energy Consumption - 20% 4.0
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5.0
  • Portability - 10% 7.0
  • Features - 5% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Koolatron continues to demonstrate the best temperature control of the thermoelectric models in our lineup, once again earning it our Top Pick for Cooling and Heating. It reached one of the coldest and warmest temperatures, has good insulation, is easy to use, and is among the lightest coolers we tested. This performance comes at a high energy cost though and doesn't include an AC cord, limiting the Koolatron's capacity to the car without an additional purchase. It may not be the fanciest unit we tested, but for what it can do for its contents, we think it's the best thermoelectric model.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Koolatron Portable 45
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award    
Price $240 List
$219.99 at Amazon
$464 List
$329.99 at Amazon
$300 List
$309.99 at Amazon
$50 List
$49.99 at Amazon
$100 List
$99.75 at Amazon
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Pros Largest temperature range, good insulation, lightweight, few moving parts, can be used as a chest or standing upVery energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cordGood energy options, solid insulation, relatively lightweight, inexpensiveSuper portable, very quiet, can be cold or hot, pretty low energy usageDecent temperature control, easily portable, ergonomic shape, convenient size
Cons No AC cord included, not the most durable, energy hogNot durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loudNot great temperature control, baskets aren't great, internal shape is challengingCan't control temperature, not the best seal, USB can't be used in computer, plastic hinges, unknown longevitySmall interior, not great insulation, oddly shaped inside
Bottom Line An impressive temperature range from this lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler (and heater)If you're on a tighter budget but still want mid-level performance, we recommend this modelAn inexpensive option that's tall and slender with good insulation but unimpressive minimum temperaturesQuiet and tiny, this is a decent personal cooler, though with several limitationsA small cooler that heats and cools, with a handy shape to be an armrest and convenient strap to tote it around
Rating Categories Koolatron Portable 45 Costway 54 Alpicool CF45 Cooluli Mini Fridge Wagan 12V 14 Liter...
Temperature Control (25%)
7.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
Insulation (25%)
4.0
5.0
8.0
2.0
2.0
Energy Consumption (20%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
Ease of Use (15%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
Portability (10%)
7.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
9.0
Features (5%)
4.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Specs Koolatron Portable 45 Costway 54 Alpicool CF45 Cooluli Mini Fridge Wagan 12V 14 Liter...
Minimum Temperature Achieved (F) 38.2ºF below ambient -8.9ºF 6.4ºF 32.4ºF below ambient 36.45ºF below ambient
Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F) 9.9ºF 27.9ºF 14.9ºF 26.6ºF 30.6ºF
Power Draw in Watts (cooling) 62.3 W 50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
52.9 W
38.6 W (eco)
33.9 W 56.8 W
Power Draw in Watts (steady) N/A 1.0 W 0.8 W N/A N/A
Power Draw in Watts (heating) 48.1 W N/A N/A 29.7 W 45.6 W
Voltage Use (cooling) 13.29 V 13.47 V 13.25 V 13.84 V 13.26 V
Amperage Use (cooling) 4.69 A 3.72 A 4.01 A 2.45 A 4.34 A
Hours to Cool (measured) >12 hrs 9.5 hrs 23 hrs 20.5 hrs 28.5 hrs
Maximum Temperature Achieved (F) 130.8ºF N/A N/A 136.0ºF 137.3ºF
Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual) N/A +/- 3.8ºF +/- 3.4ºF N/A N/A
Weight 14.2 lb 34 lb 30.0 lb 3.7 lb 8.4 lb
Claimed Capacity (volume) 43 L
45 quarts
51.1 L
54 quarts
45L
48 quarts
4 L
4.2 quarts
14 L
14.8 quarts
Measured Capacity (volume) 45.1 L
47.7 quarts
49.1 L
51.8 quarts
45L
48 quarts
4 L
4.2 quarts
14 L
14.8 quarts
Capacity (cans) 63 cans 72 cans 62 cans 6 cans 16 cans
Method of Cooling Thermoelectric 12V compressor 12V compressor Thermoelectric Thermoelectric
Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F) 40ºF below ambient and up to 135ºF -4ºF to 50ºF -4ºF to 50ºF 40ºF below ambient to 149ºF 32ºF to 36ºF below ambient and up to 140ºF
Acceptable Ambient Temperature Range (F) Not specified 50ºF to 109ºF Not specified Not specified Not specified
Exterior Dimensions (D x W x H) 16" x 21" x 17.25" 21" x 27.5" x 14" 27.5" x 13.5" x 17.8" 10" x 7.25" x 10.5” 19" x 10.5" x 11.6"
Interior Dimensions (D x W x H) 12.25" x 15.5" x 14.5" 10.4" x 12.75"/6.4" x 17.25"/10.6" 10.25" x 14.5"/8" x 12.5"/6.25" 5.75" x 5.25" x 8" 12" x 8.5" x 6.6"
DC Cord Length (feet) 8' 10" 7' 9.75" 7' 10" 6' 3.5" 8' 11"
AC Cord Length (feet) 6' 11" (AC adapter only)
15' 11" (DC and AC adapter)
6' 4.25" (AC adapter only)
14' 7" (DC and AC adapter)
6' 8" 5' 8" (none included)
Comes With DC cord DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord AC cord, DC cord AC cord, DC cord, USB cord (3' 1") DC cord, extra fuse
Features Heating ability Eco power-saving function, internal light Internal light, removable baskets, C/F display Top handle, heating ability, USB power cord Cord storage, heating ability, cup holders

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Koolatron is a thermoelectric model with an advertised capacity of 45 quarts and temperatures reaching 40ºF below ambient.

Performance Comparison


Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - testing thermoelectric coolers. from left to right: koolatron, knox...
Testing thermoelectric coolers. From left to right: Koolatron, Knox, Igloo.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Temperature Control


Like all the thermoelectric coolers we tested, the Koolatron isn't meant to work as a fridge and cool your room temperature items. However, when we tested it to see how cold it can really get, this little guy was the only one to reach 40º F below ambient temperature (26.8º F in our test), as it claims. Most thermoelectric coolers, including this one, have warming functions, but the Koolatron achieves impressive higher temperatures of over 130º F!


That being said, the Koolatron won't regulate its internal temperature and is just ON all the time. This only becomes a problem in heating mode, as this unit can't be left with the heat on for longer than 45 minutes at a time, or else the interior lining may become damaged. This becomes a fairly annoying routine of unplugging and replugging the device back in to keep your food warm while keeping an eye on the clock. But if you want your thermoelectric cooler to deliver performance and keep things at your desired temperature, the Koolatron is your best bet.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - arrive at the potluck with that hot dish you labored over still...
Arrive at the potluck with that hot dish you labored over still piping hot in the Koolatron.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Insulation


All thermoelectric models we tested performed similarly during our insulation testing, with the Koolatron being the best by a small margin. At first glance, it may appear that these coolers are better insulators than the compressor models, as they gained significantly less heat during the 36 hour period. However, this is due to the fact that the thermoelectric coolers weren't as cold to begin with, and so had less heat to gain before reaching close to room temperature.


The Koolatron doesn't spark the most confidence in its durability. The plug for the electric cord permanently dangles out from the righthand side, which is less than ideal. It also smelled pretty funky after our heat test. The hinges are thin plastic and feel flimsy and thin. When we scoured the internet, we also found longevity complaints from other users. That being said, the Koolatron is built with very few moving parts, which can help extend the overall lifetime of the unit, with fewer things rattling around to break.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - the top part of this cord permanently dangles about 3.5" out of the...
The top part of this cord permanently dangles about 3.5" out of the right hand side of the Koolatron. A simple reversal of the direction of this plug, so the red dot meets the black arrow, will turn the unit to heating mode.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Energy Consumption


We were quite surprised to learn how much energy this little thermoelectric cooler takes. In cooling mode, it draws more than several of the compressor coolers we tested — 62.3 Watts! The other thermoelectric models we tested draw significantly less energy, if that's a selling point for you.


Even running the heating mode is quite a power-hungry endeavor for this little icebox. The heat function still takes 48.1 Watts to function, which is still pretty high compared to the other thermoelectric models. Still though, for the amount of cooling and heating power it gives, it's obvious that the Koolatron is working hard.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - just the thermoelectric unit inside and the adjustable shelf are the...
Just the thermoelectric unit inside and the adjustable shelf are the only moving parts of the Koolatron.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


The Koolatron can be stood on its end and used either as a mini-fridge or laid flat like a small chest. The Koolatron has a single shelf that can be placed at a myriad of heights in the chest position, or across the top of the cooler when used as a chest. The whole thing closes with a fairly strong magnet, and the lid features a cut-out design, adding capacity to this small box.


While Koolatron claims this model can hold 72 cans, we maxed it out at 63 — which is still one of the largest thermoelectric models we tested. Additionally, the Koolatron is meant to be packed with ice just like a regular cooler, and the electric component will help to extend the life of that ice. It's not necessary to use it this way, though it certainly gives you more control over the temperature on a hot day.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - this small-looking cooler fits a whopping 63 cans!
This small-looking cooler fits a whopping 63 cans!
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


The Koolatron is one of the lightest coolers of its size we tested, tipping the scales at just 14.2 lb. It has easy-to-use handle indents on the sides (again with the lack of moving parts) to aid in carrying. Even loaded with food, this cooler isn't awful to carry because of these comfortable handles and the rounded shape. Its DC cord is also an impressive 8' 10".


The only thing that could make the Koolatron easier to carry for a cooler its size is if it had wheels. Truly though, for a powered cooler, the Koolatron is quite portable.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - indented handles make the koolatron quite easy and relatively...
Indented handles make the Koolatron quite easy and relatively comfortable to carry.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Features


This little ice chest is a fairly no-frills appliance. It switches easily between heating and cooling by a simple reversal of the plug.


Our biggest complaint about the Koolatron, in terms of this metric, is that it's very noisy. It makes an impressively annoying, medium to high-pitched hum that we found exceedingly challenging to endure. If sleeping next to your thermoelectric cooler is on the docket, you might consider another model based on noise alone.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - the standard dc cord plugged into the koolatron ac adapter.
The standard DC cord plugged into the Koolatron AC adapter.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


For a pretty decent thermoelectric cooler, we think the Koolatron holds good value. It delivers the best temperature performance of any thermoelectric model we tested — and let's be honest, temperature control is why you're looking at a powered cooler in the first place.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - let the koolatron help expand your mealtime ingredient list.
Let the Koolatron help expand your mealtime ingredient list.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


The Koolatron delivers where it counts. It boasts one of the most impressive temperature ranges of any thermoelectric cooler we tested, making it our Top Pick for Cooling and Heating. It may not be the fanciest model out there or the most efficient energy user, but it delivers on insulation, weight, and overall utility. If you're on the hunt for a great-performing thermoelectric cooler, you'll enjoy what you get with the Koolatron.

Koolatron Portable 45 powered cooler - the koolatron is our favorite thermoelectric cooler for its...
The Koolatron is our favorite thermoelectric cooler for its impressive temperature performance.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Maggie Nichols
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