REVIEW – Now that the pandemic restrictions are slowly being lifted across the country it’s time to get back out there and travel. For me, travel means jumping into my Toyota FJ with my adorable canine co-pilot, Addy, and hitting the road. While we’re out adventuring, keeping our food and drinks cold is a constant challenge that usually starts with a lot of ice and ends with a lot of soggy sandwiches. Once you fill a regular cooler with ice it’s only a matter of time before everything is floating around in a few gallons of gross baloney-flavored water. One way to avoid this mess is to upgrade to an electric cooler.
Electric coolers work much like refrigerators, only on a smaller scale. Provide them with a little power and they will work hard to keep the cold stuff cold. I’ve found that most electric coolers are too small though and often cost more than they’re worth. The AstroAI Electric Cooler changed my mind. Priced at $79.99, the AstroAI is a lot cheaper than most similarly featured coolers and it can hold about 24 liters of snacks and drinks. The AstroAI Electric Cooler performed really well, and for the great price tag, I’m willing to overlook a few of its shortcomings.
What is it?
The AstroAI Electric Cooler is a 24L portable thermoelectric cooler powered by a 12V DC adapter compatible with car cigarette lighters. I purchased the AstroAI AC to DC converter for $24.99 so I could test the cooler in my apartment, but also because my Toyota FJ has a standard 12V AC power outlet in the rear compartment. The converter will make it a lot easier for me to use the cooler on the road.
The AstroAI Cooler arrives in pretty bland packaging, just a standard cardboard box. The cooler isn’t protected much during shipment, simply wrapped in a plastic bag with all of the cooler’s parts tucked inside the cooler itself.
What’s in the box?
- AstroAI 24L Electric Cooler
- Cooler lid with thermoelectric unit
- 2 Ice packs
- 2 Dividers
- Instruction Manual
- Capacity: 24L / 25QTS
- Exterior dimension: 15.3”(L) x 10.3”(W) x 16.7”(H)
- Interior dimension: 12.8”(L) x 8.8”(W) x 13.1”(H)
- Input voltage: 12V DC
- Operating temperature: ~32°F (0°C)
Design and features
The AstroAI Electric Cooler is well designed without a lot of bells and whistles, and what it does it does well. This is a unit designed to keep things cold, more like a refrigerator than a freezer. It will not freeze any items placed inside, but it will keep frozen contents frozen. The lowest temperature I was able to measure in the unit was about 31.5°F and this was under absolutely ideal conditions and after following all of the suggested guidelines.
The outside body of the cooler is matte plastic. It comes in two colors, gray and blue. The quality of the plastic body is one concern of mine. The plastic itself feels rather thin, this isn’t a cooler I would feel comfortable tossing around like I do with some of my older Coleman coolers. The handles and frame of the cooler are much sturdier, but I would never stack anything on top of this cooler without fear of the lid cracking.
The lid houses the cooling unit, the intake and output vents, an opening handle, and a place to store the power cord.
There are vents on both the inside and outside of the lid.
The fins for the cooling unit are clearly visible on the inside vent along with a list of handy tips for operating the electric cooler.
The AstroAI Electric Cooler arrives with the lid detached, I’ll detail how to attach it in the Setup section.
The hinges on the cooler seem very strong, with three screws on each hinge, more so than some of my other coolers. This is important because it seems that the hinges are always the first part to break on coolers.
The fans on the top of the lid work well to dissipate heat as long as they are kept clear of debris and never blocked.
Because of the top-facing vents, I’m not sure I would expose the cooler to the elements while it was plugged in.
The integrated opening handle is a nice touch and makes it easy to open and close the unit.
But as soon as you grab the handle you can tell the plastic on the lid isn’t meant to handle too much stress.
On the rear of the lid is a compartment for storing the power cord.
The compartment lid pops up easily enough as it is secured by two tiny tabs on either side. With repeated use, these tabs are sure to wear down, I’m not sure how long they will last.
I would have preferred a stronger latching mechanism for the compartment, but maybe that’s why the unit is so affordable.
The AstroAI Electric Cooler’s power cord is hard-wired to the unit and has a simple on/off switch attached to it inline.
The end of the power cord has a standard 12V car cigarette lighter plug.
The power plug is of basic design with an LED power indicator and an internal fuse that can easily be replaced if needed.
I appreciate that the cord for the unit is over eight feet long which makes it easy to find an appropriate spot for the cooler while still being able to access power in the confines of a vehicle.
Aside from vents and power cord storage, once attached to the cooler, the lid has one other really important feature. The carrying handle that’s affixed to the cooler body acts as a locking mechanism for the lid.
When the handle is at the front of the unit, the lid is unlocked, but once the handle is lifted, the lid gets locked down onto the cooler. The handle can be set at the back of the unit to keep the cooler lid locked while in transit. Locking the lid is key to keeping items in the cooler at the lowest possible temperature whether the unit is powered or not.
The other key to achieving the lowest temperatures is using the included ice packs. Freeze these packs beforehand and place them at the bottom of the cooler to help keep the temperature low.
The AstroAI Electric Cooler includes dividers that are also helpful in making sure that there is good airflow in the cooler and items are secured properly. I’ll go into installing the dividers in the next section.
Setting up the AstroAI Electric Cooler starts with installing the lid.
Align the tabs on the back of the lid with the tab slots on the cooler.
Push the lid tabs into the slots until they click and lock in place.
Open and close the lid a few times to make sure that the tabs are fully inserted and secure.
Next, slide the included dividers into the corresponding slots on the inside of the cooler.
You don’t have to push the dividers all the way to the bottom of the AstroAI Electric Cooler, just far enough down to keep the cooler contents in place.
After the lid and dividers are attached, the cooler is ready to go, simply connect the plug to a power source and switch the unit on. I used the AC converter for most of my tests, so once the light on the plug came on and I heard the faint hum of the cooling unit I knew it was time to start testing.
The AstroAI Electric Cooler performs remarkably well for such an inexpensive unit. Before proceeding though it’s important to note that when using the AstroAI Cooler in a vehicle it is vital to switch the unit off or unplug it completely when the car is not running. If you leave the cooler plugged into your car and turned on while the car is not running you will quickly drain the car battery. This is very important to keep in mind.
During testing, I used my handy Nubee Infrared Thermometer for frequent timed temperature checks with both an empty cooler and one filled with drinks and the included icepacks.
I tested the cooler under ideal circumstances, the temperature of my apartment was around 73°F – 75°F, the vents of the unit were never obstructed or blocked, and I kept the lid locked only opening the cooler for quick temperature checks. All told, the unit’s performance was pretty stellar.
Once the AstroAI Electric Cooler is powered on, the sound of the cooling unit is quite low, which was a nice surprise. This unit was running consistently for about a week on my workbench and I barely even noticed it.
I took a quick temperature check of the empty cooler right before I turned it on. Not surprisingly, the interior of the cooler was within a few degrees of the ambient temperature of my apartment. It’s important to note that the instruction manual clearly states that the lowest temperature achievable by the cooler is dependent on the surrounding ambient temperature. The higher the temperature outside the cooler, the harder the cooler has to work to try to cool its contents.
Within about 30 minutes of being turned on, the empty cooler hit a low temperature of 44.6°F.
After another 30 minutes, a full hour after the unit was turned on, the empty cooler hit its low-temperature max of 41.7°F. After another few hours of running, the empty cooler stayed consistent at about 42°F.
As a quick reference, my kitchen refrigerator, which I keep a little on the colder side, has an average temperature of 39.3°F. So overall it was an impressive performance by the AstroAI so far.
While I had the Infrared Thermometer out, I checked the temperature of the AstroAI AC to DC converter because it seemed to be running a little hot. The thermometer confirmed that the converter was running hot at about 138°F. Definitely on the high end of acceptable, but something to definitely keep an eye on.
For my next series of tests, I filled the cooler with water bottles, a container filled with water, and the two ice packs, which I froze in my kitchen freezer beforehand.
The ice packs registered at about 28°F once they were placed in the cooler.
After a solid hour of running with the lid locked, the average temperature inside the cooler hit its all-time low of 31.5°F. All of the water bottles were really cold and the ice packs were still frozen solid. I ran the cooler like this for another 24 hours and the results were the same within a few degrees. As long as the lid was locked and the cooler powered, the contents stayed cold.
I did notice after opening the lid every 30 minutes for temperature checks that ice had begun to form on the cooling fins inside the vent. The manual said that this was expected behavior though having to do with condensation build-up inside the cooler.
Overall, despite some concerns about the exterior build quality, the AstroAI Electric Cooler exceeded my expectations. The fact that it performed about as well as my kitchen refrigerator was surprising. I was also thrilled at how much I could fit in the cooler. With the dividers removed you can fit 30 beverage cans inside as well as the ice packs. Along with the unit’s low price, the fact that the AstroAI can hold so much and keep its contents at low temperatures for a prolonged period of time was really impressive.
What I like
- Great price for the feature set
- Works really well at keeping frozen items cold
- Compact and easy to store
What needs to be improved
- Plastic feels flimsy
- Power cord is hard-wired to the unit
- Should have an AC to DC converter included
The AstroAI Electric Cooler does exactly what it is supposed to do and it does it expertly at a great price. This cooler keeps cold things cold, as long as you follow the instructions and don’t ask it to do things it wasn’t designed for. At $79.99, the cooler is super affordable compared to similar electric coolers and it performed really well during my testing. The AstroAI Electric Cooler is a great addition to my gear for getting back out on the road and seeing the world.