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Koolatron Portable 45 Review

Impressive temperature range on a lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $200 List | $146.99 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 Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 14, 2019
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53
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 7
  • 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 pretty good insulation, is pretty 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

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $146.99 at Amazon$869.20 at Amazon$512.90 at Amazon$399.99 at Amazon$1,019.69 at Amazon
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Pros Largest temperature range, good insulation, lightweight, few moving parts, can be used as a chest or standing upExcellent temperature control, energy efficient, large capacity, extremely sturdy, full of useful featuresExcellent low energy mode, long cord, good temperature range and control, useful baskets, less expensiveVery energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cordCools relatively quickly, helpful/thorough manual, long warranty, large capacity
Cons No AC cord included, not the most durable, energy hogExpensive, relatively short cords, no energy-saving modeHeavy, small capacity, control panel on backNot durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loudTemperature performance not very good, expensive, power-hungry, awkward basket
Bottom Line Impressive temperature range on a lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler.Precision performance and everything you want in a cooler made to last through years of adventures.Performance where it matters for a lower cost.An impressive performer for a lot less than the competition.Doesn't keep up with the competition, but surpasses them all with the highest price.
Rating Categories Koolatron Portable 45 Dometic CFX 50W Whynter FM-45G Costway 54 ARB Fridge Freezer 50
Temperature Control (25%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
Insulation (25%)
10
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4
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8
10
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8
10
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5
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7
Energy Consumption (20%)
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4
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0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
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6
Ease Of Use (15%)
10
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5
10
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8
10
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7
10
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5
10
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5
Portability (10%)
10
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8
10
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6
10
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3
10
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7
10
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5
Features (5%)
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7
Specs Koolatron Portable... Dometic CFX 50W Whynter FM-45G Costway 54 ARB Fridge Freezer...
Minimum Temperature Achieved (F) 52.7º with contents
26.8º empty
-8.9º -5.8º -8.9º 1.4º
Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F) 9.9º 20.7º 21.6º 27.9º 15.8º
Power Draw in Watts (cooling) 62.3 W 51.8 W 65.5 W
35.5 (low)
50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
64.3 W
Power Draw in Watts (steady) N/A 0.8 W 0.8 W 1.0 W 0.7 W
Power Draw (heating) 48.1 W N/A N/A N/A N/A
Voltage Use (cooling) 13.29 V 13.26 V 13.39 V 13.47 V 11.98 V
Amperage Use (cooling) 4.69 A 3.89 A 4.91 A 3.72 A 5.37 A
Minutes to Cool (according to display) N/A 16 min 145 min 80 min 158 min
Hours to Cool (measured) >12 hrs 5.5 hrs 8 hrs 9.5 hrs 4.7 hrs
Maximum Temperature Achieved (F) 130.8º N/A N/A N/A N/A
Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual) N/A +/- 3.0º F +/- 1.6º F +/- 3.8º F +/- 5.8º F
Weight 14.2 lb 46.4 lb 54.6 lb 34 lb 49.8 lb
Claimed Capacity (volume) 43 L
45 quarts
46 L
48.6 quarts
42.5 L
45 quarts
51.1 L
54 quarts
47.3 L
50 quarts
Measured Capacity (volume) 45.1 L
47.7 quarts
54.2 L
51.3 quarts
42.4 L
40.1 quarts
49.1 L
51.8 quarts
50.2 L
47.5 quarts
Capacity (cans) 63 cans 86 cans 58 cans 72 cans 72 cans
Method of Cooling thermoelectric 12V compressor 12V compressor 12V compressor 12V compressor
Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F) 40º below ambient and up to 135º -8º to 50º -8º to 50º -4º to 50º 0º to 50º
Acceptable Ambient Temperature Range (F) not specified 61º to 109º
(min temp cannot be reached is >90º)
41º to 90º
(max setting if >90º)
50º to 109º 61º to 109º
(min temp cannot be reached if >90º)
Exterior Dimensions (D x W x H) 16" x 21" x 17.25" 17.9" x 28.5" x 18.5" 17.25" x 25" x 20" 21" x 27.5" x 14" 15" x 28" x 17"
Interior Dimensions (D x W x H) 12.25" x 15.5" x 14.5" 13.2" x 13.5"/7.25" x 14.2"/6.25" 11.25" x 11"/7.25" x 15"/7.25" 10.4" x 12.75"/6.4" x 17.25"/10.6" 11.2" x 13.3"/6" x 15.8"/8.1"
DC Cord Length (feet) 8' 10" 6' 3" 9' 6" 7' 9.75" 6'
AC Cord Length (feet) 6' 11" (AC adapter only)
15' 11" (DC and AC adapter)
6' 3" 6' 2" 6' 4.25" (AC adapter only)
14' 7" (DC and AC adapter)
6' 3" (AC cord)
8' 9" (AC adapter only)
15' 3" (DC and AC adapter)
Comes With DC cord AC cord, DC cord AC cord, DC cord DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord AC cord, DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord
Features heating ability 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 displays battery level, drain/plug eco power-saving function, internal light optional mounting, internal light, removable adapter collar on DC cord, secure cord attachment on back, C/F display, drain/plug

Our Analysis and Test Results

We tested these coolers side by side through a battery of tests to bring you the best. Read on to learn why the Koolatron earned our Top Pick for a Thermoelectric Cooler.

Performance Comparison


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

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. Both the Koolatron and the Knox have warming functions, but the Koolatron achieved much higher temperatures - 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 perform best at keeping things the temperature you want them, the Koolatron is your best bet.

Arrive to the potluck with that hot dish you slaved over still piping hot in the Koolatron.
Arrive to the potluck with that hot dish you slaved over still piping hot in the Koolatron.

Insulation


All three thermoelectric models 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 all three gained significantly less heat during 36 hours. 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 right hand side of the Koolatron. A simple reversal of the direction of this plug  so the red dot meats the black arrow  will turn the unit to heating mode.
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 meats the black arrow, will turn the unit to heating mode.

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! If saving energy is of concern to you, the Koolatron is not the most friendly model. Both the other thermoelectric models we tested draw significantly less. The Knox uses just 46.1 W.


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, as compared to the Knox's 39.0 W. 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 only moving parts of the Koolatron.
Just the thermoelectric unit inside and the adjustable shelf are the only moving parts of the Koolatron.

Ease of Use


Both the Koolatron and the Igloo can be stood on their ends and used 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!

Portability


The Koolatron is the lightest cooler 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. It's 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 as if it had wheels as the Knox does. Truly though, for a cooler, the Koolatron is quite portable.

Indented handles make the Koolatron quite easy and relatively comfortable to carry.
Indented handles make the Koolatron quite easy and relatively comfortable to carry.

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 difficult to enjoy. 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.

Best Applications


The Koolatron is a solid thermoelectric cooler. If you're on the hunt for a cooler that can chill your warm beers, keep meat fresh on 90º days, or maintain a consistent temperature, you want a compressor model. Check out the Dometic or Costway for some excellent options. But if you just need some help for your ice or a little extra oomph and a step up from your traditional cooler, we think the Koolatron is a solid choice.

Let the Koolatron help expand your mealtime ingredient list.
Let the Koolatron help expand your mealtime ingredient list.

Value


For a pretty decent thermoelectric cooler, we think the Koolatron holds pretty good value. For $200 or less, 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. For a slightly cheaper thermoelectric cooler that's not quite as impressive on the whole temperature control thing, but is really easy to use and still a decent option, you might consider the Knox.

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 impressive temperature performance.
The Koolatron is our favorite thermoelectric cooler for its impressive temperature performance.

Other Versions and Accessories


Koolatron sells a LOT of other sizes and shapes of thermoelectric coolers - including one as wild as a keg chiller! They also sell the AC adapter and cable to go along with their coolers.


Maggie Brandenburg