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ARB Fridge Freezer 50 Review

Doesn't keep up with the competition, but surpasses them all with its price tag
arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review
Credit: Diesel Powered Products
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Price:  $1,180 List | $1,062.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Cools relatively quickly, helpful/thorough manual, long warranty, large capacity
Cons:  Temperature performance not very good, expensive, power-hungry, awkward basket
Manufacturer:   ARB
By Maggie Nichols ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 14, 2019
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
61
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

We expected more from this cooler based on manufacturer claims and its price that rivals the Editors' Choice winner. Unfortunately, the ARB's performance is lackluster against the competition. It has a hard time maintaining a consistent temperature, doesn't have the subzero range of its competitors, is power-hungry in comparison, and fairly heavy. If it were only up against thermoelectric models, no doubt the ARB would win, but it just couldn't stand up to the other compressor coolers.

New Version Available

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

Compare to Similar Products

 
arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $1,180 List
$1,062 at Amazon
$1,050 List
$839.99 at Amazon
$1,150 List
$1,150 at Amazon
$464 List
$299.99 at Amazon
$240 List
$219.99 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Cools relatively quickly, helpful/thorough manual, long warranty, large capacityGreat temperature control, quality insulation, rugged and tough, convenient to use, good battery protectionEnergy efficient, good features, super durable, long DC cordVery energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cordLargest 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 basketExpensive, relatively short cordsUnimpressive minimum temperature, heavy for its size, relatively loudNot durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loudNo 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 tagThis cooler is well worth its price when you need something rugged and reliable to join you on remote adventures or for regular useEnergy-efficient, even on its highest settings, and built like a tank, though not the coldest or the quietestIf you're on a tighter budget but still want mid-level performance, we recommend this modelAn 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%)
7.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Insulation (25%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
4.0
Energy Consumption (20%)
5.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
4.0
Ease of Use (15%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
Portability (10%)
5.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
Features (5%)
7.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
4.0
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)
62.3 W
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
50 quarts
46 L
48.6 quarts
32 L
34 quarts
51.1 L
54 quarts
43 L
45 quarts
Measured Capacity (volume) 50.2 L
47.5 quarts
46 L
48.6 quarts
27.5 L
29 quarts
49.1 L
51.8 quarts
45.1 L
47.7 quarts
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.

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - comparing seven of the powered coolers from our test. the bottom row...
Comparing seven of the powered coolers from our test. The bottom row is comprised of four compressor models, from left to right: Dometic, ARB, Costway, Whynter. The top row is the three thermoelectric models from left to right: Koolatron, Knox, Igloo.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Temperature Control


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.

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - this graph illustrates the performance of compressor models during...
This graph illustrates the performance of compressor models during the minimum temperature test. You can see here that the ARB's temperature fluctuated wildly.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

Insulation


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.

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - thick walls help hold in the cold, as does the fully sealing lid.
Thick walls help hold in the cold, as does the fully sealing lid.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Energy Consumption


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!

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - separate ac and dc plugs and a replaceable fuse are located on the...
Separate AC and DC plugs and a replaceable fuse are located on the back of the ARB. Note the handy cord holding slots on the sides.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

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.

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - a big beefy latch seals in your contents but also takes a little...
A big beefy latch seals in your contents but also takes a little getting used to.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Portability


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".

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - the bottom of the arb, showing its feet, mounting hardware, and the...
The bottom of the ARB, showing its feet, mounting hardware, and the bottom of the drain.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Features


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.

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - the drain and plug in the arb are both made of hard plastic. this...
The drain and plug in the ARB are both made of hard plastic. This model isn't rated to have liquid sloshing around inside, so the drain only serves to facilitate easy cleaning.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


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.

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - the light in the arb is located above the large, main compartment to...
The light in the ARB is located above the large, main compartment to help you find what you're looking for.
Credit: Maggie Brandenburg

Conclusion


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!

arb fridge freezer 50 powered cooler review - though not our favorite compressor model, the arb still does the job.
Though not our favorite compressor model, the ARB still does the job.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Maggie Nichols
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