Dometic CFX3 45 Review
Cons: Expensive, relatively short cords
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Dometic CFX3 45
$839.99 at Amazon
$1,150 at Amazon
$299.99 at Amazon
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$49.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Great temperature control, quality insulation, rugged and tough, convenient to use, good battery protection||Energy efficient, good features, super durable, long DC cord||Very energy efficient, relatively inexpensive, impressive minimum temperature, surprisingly lightweight, long cord||Largest temperature range, good insulation, lightweight, few moving parts, can be used as a chest or standing up||Super portable, very quiet, can be cold or hot, pretty low energy usage|
|Cons||Expensive, relatively short cords||Unimpressive minimum temperature, heavy for its size, relatively loud||Not durable, takes a long time to cool, insulation not great, fairly loud||No AC cord included, not the most durable, energy hog||Can't control temperature, not the best seal, USB can't be used in computer, plastic hinges, unknown longevity|
|Bottom Line||This cooler is well worth its price when you need something rugged and reliable to join you on remote adventures or for regular use||Energy-efficient, even on its highest settings, and built like a tank, though not the coldest or the quietest||If you're on a tighter budget but still want mid-level performance, we recommend this model||An impressive temperature range from this lightweight, no-frills thermoelectric cooler (and heater)||Quiet and tiny, this is a decent personal cooler, though with several limitations|
|Rating Categories||Dometic CFX3 45||Engel Platinum MT35||Costway 54||Koolatron Portable 45||Cooluli Mini Fridge|
|Temperature Control (25%)|
|Energy Consumption (20%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Dometic CFX3 45||Engel Platinum MT35||Costway 54||Koolatron Portable 45||Cooluli Mini Fridge|
|Minimum Temperature Achieved (F)||-7.6ºF||5.5ºF||-8.9ºF||38.2ºF below ambient||32.4ºF below ambient|
|Temperature Increase in 36 Hours Unplugged (F)||17.6ºF||18.9ºF||27.9ºF||9.9ºF||26.6ºF|
|Power Draw in Watts (cooling)||50.7 W||31.7 W||50.0 W
38.9 W (eco)
|62.3 W||33.9 W|
|Power Draw in Watts (steady)||1.0 W||1.1 W||1.0 W||N/A||N/A|
|Power Draw in Watts (heating)||N/A||N/A||N/A||48.1 W||29.7 W|
|Voltage Use (cooling)||13.17 V||13.85 V||13.47 V||13.29 V||13.84 V|
|Amperage Use (cooling)||3.84 A||2.30 A||3.72 A||4.69 A||2.45 A|
|Hours to Cool (measured)||16 hrs||16 hrs||9.5 hrs||>12 hrs||20.5 hrs|
|Maximum Temperature Achieved (F)||N/A||N/A||N/A||130.8ºF||136.0ºF|
|Temperature Accuracy (diff btwn display and actual)||+/- 2.4ºF||+/- 2.5ºF||+/- 3.8ºF||N/A||N/A|
|Weight||42.0 lb||47.8 lb||34 lb||14.2 lb||3.7 lb|
|Claimed Capacity (volume)||46 L
|Measured Capacity (volume)||46 L
|Capacity (cans)||68 cans||38 cans||72 cans||63 cans||6 cans|
|Method of Cooling||12V compressor||12V compressor||12V compressor||Thermoelectric||Thermoelectric|
|Advertised Achievable Temperature Range (F)||-7ºF to 50ºF||0ºF to 50ºF||-4ºF to 50ºF||40ºF below ambient and up to 135ºF||40ºF below ambient to 149ºF|
|Acceptable Ambient Temperature Range (F)||61ºF to 110ºF||Not specified||50ºF to 109ºF||Not specified||Not specified|
|Exterior Dimensions (D x W x H)||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"||10" x 7.25" x 10.5”|
|Interior Dimensions (D x W x H)||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"||5.75" x 5.25" x 8"|
|DC Cord Length (feet)||6' 2"||9' 6.5"||7' 9.75"||8' 10"||6' 3.5"|
|AC Cord Length (feet)||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||AC cord, DC cord, extra fuse||DC cord, DC to AC adapter and cord||DC cord||AC cord, DC cord, USB cord (3' 1")|
|Features||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||Top handle, heating ability, USB power cord|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Dometic CFX3 is a compressor model powered cooler. We tested the 45 version, with an advertised capacity of 46L. It's advertised to cool from 50°F down to -7°F, comes with both AC and DC power cords, is Bluetooth and WiFi enabled, and can also be controlled with a free app on your smartphone.
The CFX3 is meant to function at its best in conditions ranging from 61°F to 110°F. Filled with room temperature contents during our testing process, it took about 16 hours to reach the refrigeration temperature we set it to (34°F). Depending on the temperature of the foods you put in it, it may take more or less time than that. When we ran it empty, it reached the same refrigeration temperature in just over an hour. While Dometic claims this unit cools down to -7°F, the unit we tested maintained -7.6°F for hours.
Our only real complaint about the CFX3 when it comes to temperature control, is that it actually kept things several degrees cooler than we set it to. When we let it run for several days set to 34°F, it was actually keeping contents at just under 32°F. Nothing froze, but this 2.4°F difference between what we set it to and what it was actually running is worth noting. At the end of the day, we'd rather have things be a little cooler than we wanted than a little warmer. This directional skew is certainly safer when it comes to our health, though also requires more energy than keeping things warmer.
Anytime you're heading off the grid, you've got to have a plan for truly having no electricity. Knowing how well your powered cooler can insulate if you need to divert battery power elsewhere (or if you run out!), helps provide peace of mind. In temperate conditions, it may even let you power down your cooler overnight without worrying that any of its contents will spoil. Over the course of 36 hours left unplugged at room temperature, the CFX3 gained 17.6°F. This performance is just slightly better than previous versions of this cooler that we've tested, and is among the top performances in our lineup.
Adding further credibility to the capacity of the CFX3 to keep your goods fresh, this plastic-bodied beast is built tough. While most of the models we tested have plastic exteriors, Dometic's is reinforced with fender frames that rebuff much of the standard dings and bumps that accumulate with life on the road. The handles are aluminum alloy and retract to the sides of the unit when not in use. The hinge is robust and thick, lacking the flimsy moving parts of so many others, and designed to take some heavy use.
While cooling, the CFX3 draws around 50.7 Watts of power. For a full-powered cooler achieving these levels of temperatures, that's a reasonable figure, just on the low end of average. Once it has reached your desired temperature, this model draws about 1.0 Watt of energy to monitor internal temps. Right out of the box, the CFX3 comes with an abbreviated paper manual that cuts out all the text and numerical specifications sent along with most other coolers (and with previous versions of this cooler). Instead, it's an all-picture book just to get you started with the basics of operation. The full manual can still be found on Dometic's website.
Though several competitors offer "Eco" modes that run using less energy (typically 35-39 Watts), the CFX3 takes a different approach. Instead of cooling at a lower capacity, like an "Eco" setting, the CFX3 offers three battery modes. All three levels run using the same amount of energy while they're on but have different lengths of cooling cycles that protect your battery by running for shorter periods of time. Of course, if you need to use less wattage overall, this feature doesn't really help you. But if you can handle shorter bursts of this higher wattage draw, lowering your overall energy consumption in this way, without sacrificing performance, may be exactly what you need.
Ease of Use
Another area where the CFX3 shines brightly is when it comes to actual usability. It has a larger footprint than most other coolers we tested with similar capacities, both because it's an overall larger unit and because it's built to be low and squat, helping you locate items more easily. Two levels of storage inside give you options for your goods, while removing all internal baskets turns it into one large space without barriers. We measured its internal capacity to be just as advertised — 46L. Getting crafty, we were able to fit 68 12 ounce cans inside.
While many other models also have baskets, we prefer the ones that come with the CFX3. Their wires are closer together, helping to stop smaller objects from falling through. You can actually fill it up on your kitchen counter and then simply slide the entire basket into the cooler. A divider adds options to your packing. Even in this more moderately-sized cooler, we had no issues fitting an overly tall bottle of wine upright and a carton of a dozen eggs across the body. The inside light faces toward the back (rather than shining in your eyes) and the CFX3 remains one of the quietest models we've tested, even when cooling. Both the on-unit controls and the free smartphone app are simplified and easy to use. They will also both alert you when the lid has been open for longer than 3 minutes!
Weighing in at just over 42 pounds empty, this latest version from Dometic has managed to shed a few pounds compared to its predecessor. It's by no means "lightweight", but it is now on the lighter side of average for compressor model powered coolers we tested. That still doesn't make it particularly enjoyable to carry, but this moderately sized cooler isn't too bad to handle for one strong person or to team carry with a partner. The handles are strong, sturdy, and smooth, helping to cut down on pains during transport.
The handles retract tightly against the body of the cooler when not in use. On the back end, both the AC and DC plugs lay at an angle, allowing you to cut down on wasted space from dangling cords. Our main tester found that it doesn't quite fit in the back of her hatchback (2016 Subaru Crosstrek), but is very close. Not that we could feasibly run the CFX3 from the back of an unmodified vehicle anyway, as both cords are quite short — just 6'2" each. This is one of the things we liked least about the previous version of this line of Dometic coolers and one area in which it is outperformed by most other compressor coolers which come with cords closer to 8, with some nearly 10, feet long.
The CFX3 comes with all of the features we want and none of the ones we don't want. Two removable baskets — one with an optional divider — give plenty of organizational options. A drain plug on the bottom allows for easier cleaning and a USB port on the front allows you to charge your device while you're out. The LCD screen has adjustable brightness levels and automatically turns off after a short time, helping it be a more pleasant sleeping companion if that's what your setup requires.
A slightly textured top adds a marginal amount of traction for items placed there but isn't something we'd trust with our open beverages over bumps or on the 30 degree inclines it's designed to handle. We tested the CFX3 45, which lacks some of the frills of larger models in the same line of Dometic coolers — like an ice maker zone, reversible lid, or separately zoned temperature control. However, this smaller model is still enabled with Bluetooth and is WiFi compatible, making it easy to control and monitor from your phone, even when you're out in the middle of nowhere.
With this latest version from Dometic, the CFX3 doesn't come with a lower price tag. It's a hefty investment for sure, but one that we think is well worth it if you need a powered cooler that can handle some serious travel. If you're not planning to use your powered cooler very often or just want it as a backup fridge in your garage, the CFX3 is overkill. But if you need the toughest, most reliable powered cooler we could find, we think the price is justified.
The Dometic CFX3 is a seriously impressive powered cooler. We were smitten by its predecessor and this latest version is even more excellent. It offers great temperature control, quality insulation, reasonable energy usage, a durable design, and is one of the easiest models to use. It's not cheap, but when we need only the best, the CFX3 is the model we bring along.
— Maggie Nichols
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