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Koolatron Portable 45 Review

Impressive temperature range in a lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler
Koolatron Portable 45
Photo: Amazon
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $200 List | $187.96 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 Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 14, 2019
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53
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 9
  • Temperature Control - 25% 7
  • Insulation - 25% 4
  • Energy Consumption - 20% 4
  • Ease of Use - 15% 5
  • Portability - 10% 8
  • Features - 5% 4

Our Verdict

The Koolatron demonstrates the best temperature control of the thermoelectric models we tested, earning it our Top Pick for a powered cooler of its kind. It reached both the coldest and the warmest temperatures, has good insulation, is easy to use, and is the lightest cooler we tested. This performance comes at a high energy cost though and doesn't come with an AC cord, limiting the Koolatron's capacity to the car without an additional purchase. It may not be the fanciest model 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 $187.96 at Amazon$349.99 at Amazon$150 List$49.99 at Amazon$153.20 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 cordEasy to use, has wheels, cool cord storage, energy efficient, relatively inexpensiveSuper portable, very quiet, can be cold or hot, pretty low energy usageGood cooling ability, large capacity, can use as chest or standing
Cons No AC cord included, not the most durable, energy hogNot durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loudShort cords, doesn’t reach very cold/hot temperatures, still need to use iceCan't control temperature, not the best seal, USB can't be used in computer, plastic hinges, unknown longevityNo heat function, not durable, lid strap detached during testing
Bottom Line Impressive temperature range in a lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric coolerIf you're on a tighter budget but still want mid-level performance, we recommend this modelHandy to use, but it doesn’t eliminate your dependency on iceQuiet and tiny, this is a decent personal cooler, though with several limitationsA no-frills thermoelectric cooler that works ok, though it's not very tough
Rating Categories Koolatron Portable 45 Costway 54 Knox Gear 48 Quart Cooluli Mini Fridge Igloo Iceless 40
Temperature Control (25%)
7.0
8.0
4.0
5.0
4.0
Insulation (25%)
4.0
5.0
3.0
2.0
3.0
Energy Consumption (20%)
4.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
5.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
5.0
5.0
6.0
5.0
3.0
Portability (10%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
Features (5%)
4.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
3.0
Specs Koolatron Portable 45 Costway 54 Knox Gear 48 Quart Cooluli Mini Fridge Igloo Iceless 40
Minimum Temperature Achieved (F) 52.7ºF with contents
26.8ºF empty
-8.9ºF 52.7ºF with contents
37.8ºF empty
42.8ºF with contents 51.4ºF with contents
28.2ºF empty
Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F) 9.9ºF 27.9ºF 11.5ºF 26.6ºF 10.8ºF
Power Draw in Watts (cooling) 62.3 W 50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
46.1 W 33.9 W 55.1 W
Power Draw in Watts (steady) N/A 1.0 W N/A N/A N/A
Power Draw in Watts (heating) 48.1 W N/A 39.0 W 29.7 W N/A
Voltage Use (cooling) 13.29 V 13.47 V 11.90 V 13.84 V 11.86 V
Amperage Use (cooling) 4.69 A 3.72 A 3.88 A 2.45 A 4.65 A
Minutes to Cool (according to display) N/A 80 min N/A N/A N/A
Hours to Cool (measured) >12 hrs 9.5 hrs >12 hrs 20.5 hrs >12 hrs
Maximum Temperature Achieved (F) 130.8ºF N/A 103.1ºF 136.0ºF N/A
Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual) N/A +/- 3.8ºF N/A N/A N/A
Weight 14.2 lb 34 lb 14.4 lb 3.7 lb 16.2 lb
Claimed Capacity (volume) 43 L
45 quarts
51.1 L
54 quarts
45.4 L
48 quarts
4 L
4.2 quarts
37.9 L
40 quarts
Measured Capacity (volume) 45.1 L
47.7 quarts
49.1 L
51.8 quarts
41.9 L
44.3 quarts
4 L
4.2 quarts
40.5 L
42.8 quarts
Capacity (cans) 63 cans 72 cans 57 cans 6 cans 60 cans
Method of Cooling Thermoelectric 12V compressor Thermoelectric Thermoelectric Thermoelectric
Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F) 40ºF below ambient and up to 135ºF -4ºF to 50ºF 40ºF to 130ºF 40ºF below ambient to 149ºF 36ºF below ambient
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" 15" x 22" x 16" 10" x 7.25" x 10.5” 15" x 22" x 14.25"
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" 12" x 17.75" x 12" 5.75" x 5.25" x 8" 11.6" x 17.4" x 12.25"
DC Cord Length (feet) 8' 10" 7' 9.75" 4' 10" 6' 3.5" 7' 10.5"
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)
3' 11" 5' 8" 6' 10.5" (AC adapter only)
14' 2.5" (DC and AC adapter)
Comes With DC cord DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord AC cord, DC cord (both permanently attached inside lid) AC cord, DC cord, USB cord (3' 1") DC cord, extra fuse
Features Heating ability Eco power-saving function, internal light Cord storage, drain/plug, wheels and pull handle, heating ability Top handle, heating ability, USB power cord Cord management strap

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


Testing thermoelectric coolers. From left to right: Koolatron, Knox...
Testing thermoelectric coolers. From left to right: Koolatron, Knox, Igloo.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Temperature Control


Like all three 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.

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.
Photo: 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 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.

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.
Photo: 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 W 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 the Koolatron is working hard.

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.
Photo: 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 the largest thermoelectric model we tested. Additionally, the Koolatron (and other thermoelectric models) 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.

This small-looking cooler fits a whopping 63 cans!
This small-looking cooler fits a whopping 63 cans!
Photo: 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 longest of any thermoelectric model by nearly a foot!


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 cooler, the Koolatron is quite portable.

Indented handles make the Koolatron quite easy and relatively...
Indented handles make the Koolatron quite easy and relatively comfortable to carry.
Photo: 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. At the time of writing, Koolatron backs this box with a one-year warranty. We think that's a pretty nice touch for something that could hold the fate of the picnic in its proverbial hands.


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.

The standard DC cord plugged into the Koolatron AC adapter.
The standard DC cord plugged into the Koolatron AC adapter.
Photo: 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.

Let the Koolatron help expand your mealtime ingredient list.
Let the Koolatron help expand your mealtime ingredient list.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Conclusion


The Koolatron delivers where it counts. It boasts the most impressive temperature range of any thermoelectric cooler we tested, making it our Top Pick for a Thermoelectric Cooler. 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.

The Koolatron is our favorite thermoelectric cooler for its...
The Koolatron is our favorite thermoelectric cooler for its impressive temperature performance.
Photo: Jenna Ammerman

Maggie Brandenburg