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The Coolest Cooler review: Is the Coolest cooler than being cool? If you have $500, then yes

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The blender's 48-ounce pitcher is covered with a limited amount of measurement marks and an illustration for how much ice to use with your drinks. Those measurements aren't very helpful if you're making a drink without ice, such as a smoothie with frozen fruit.

The blender is easy to use. The blade construction is similar to the Oster Versa and the Nutri Ninja . You fill the pitcher with your ingredients, sit the pitcher in the blender on the lid of the Coolest and pull the red lever to get it going. The blender is designed for short bursts only; it automatically shuts off after 20 seconds, even if you keep the lever engaged. This eliminates more complicated recipes, but I'm sure Coolest's creators didn't envision its customers making whipped cream on the cooler.

The Coolest has a blender built into the lid for blended drinks on the go. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Coolest's blender is made for smoothies and frozen drinks, so I bypassed our usual blender tests in which we see how well a blender makes pesto, cheese sauce, almond flour, almond butter and pancake batter. Instead, I made frozen margaritas and smoothies.

I gave six cups of ice, one cup of tequila and one cup of margarita mix a 20-second whirl in the blender during which I held the power lever until the unit stopped blending. I ended up with a batch of margaritas composed of grainy bits of ice I had to chew through to enjoy the drink. I expected a more slushy consistency for this frozen concoction and was disappointed with the crunchy texture.

The blender also had a hard time breaking down frozen strawberries straight from the freezer when I made several batches of smoothies. The Coolest blended 94.77 percent of the ingredients I threw in, which means there were a few marble-sized chunks of frozen strawberries that the blender didn't demolish. In comparison, the similar, US-only $40 Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender scored a 96.41 percent and the $529 Vitamix 7500 (also US-only) blended 98.46 percent of its content.

The Coolest's blender isn't perfect, but it is sufficient for a gathering. In the next generation of Coolests, I'd like to see a removable blender with multiple speeds. That would extend the usefulness of the Coolest and give the consumer more control over the blender.

Coolest is all about that battery, Bluetooth speaker

The techie features of the Coolest live up to the cooler's lofty name. The Coolest's user manual promises that the battery will last for 16 blends, depending on if you are also using the USB charger that runs on the same battery. I used the blender 16 times and intermittently charged my phone, and the battery still had plenty of juice as illustrated by the power indicator on the battery. I'm confident that the battery would hold up well at an outing, but if you need to go the distance, you can invest in a spare for $55 (AU$75) more.

The Coolest's 20-volt battery packs a lot of power into the cooler. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Bluetooth speaker is just as notable as the battery. The easy-to-grip water-resistant speaker is 6 inches long, 2 inches wide and 4 inches tall (15x5x10cm), which makes it easy to slip into the Coolest's front storage compartment. As with all such speakers, you can wirelessly pair nearly any smartphone, tablet or iPod Touch, and then play any audio therein.

As far as music controls go, you can only adjust the volume, play or pause your music using the speaker, which is good if you're finicky about people messing with your playlist. The speaker gets really loud for such a small, handheld unit, but -- as with nearly all such portable Bluetooth speakers -- the sound begins to get distorted when you turn the volume up to the max. Happily though, the speaker also kept streaming music from my phone from as far away as 100 feet (about 30.5m). In other words, the speaker may not blow away the best models from Bose, Ultimate Ears, JBL or others in this increasingly competitive space, but it does a good job overall.

You can buy a second Coolest Bluetooth speaker for $79 (AU$107) to double up the audio action, but doing so cuts the audio range.

The Bluetooth speaker that comes with the Coolest fits into a storage compartment on the front of the unit. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Final thoughts

I don't host outdoor get-togethers; I don't tailgate, either. But I can't deny the appeal of the Coolest Cooler. It's an expensive toy that is sure to bring a lot of fun and attention to the folks who buy it. But should you? Well, if you don't order the Coolest, you're going to pay about half as much to assemble the same basic functionality -- cooler, speaker, USB charger, blender -- in a more ad hoc (and far uncooler) fashion. But if you can justify an extra $200 to $250 as a party premium to tie everything together in one handy package -- and keep your expectations for the blender in check -- the Coolest Cooler may be well be your ultimate barbecue buddy. And you can return the Coolest within 30 days if you're not sold on this ultimate cooler.

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