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Igloo MaxCold Cooler (50-quart) review: This cheap Igloo cooler performs like an absolute champ

Need a new cooler? The Igloo MaxCold will give you the most cold for your cash.

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Ry Crist
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Ry Crist

Senior Editor / Reviews - Appliances

Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, and home networking.

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Shop around for a cooler and you'll find a flurry of new, expensive, "rotomolded" designs from names like Yeti and Orca. With higher-quality materials and extra-thick insulation, each of them promises superior performance, but they cost hundreds of dollars.

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Igloo MaxCold Cooler (50-quart)

The Good

The Igloo MaxCold Cooler isn't anything fancy, but it offers outstanding performance for just $45. The design is simple but sturdy enough to sit on and comfortable to carry.

The Bad

At a measured 46.5 quarts, the 50-quart Igloo MaxCold is slightly less spacious than advertised, and you won't find any extra features like you will with coolers that cost more.

The Bottom Line

If you want a dependable cooler that won't break the bank, this is the one for you.

The best argument against coolers like those? The plain ol' plastic Igloo MaxCold Cooler. At a modest asking price of just $45, its ability to hold the cold blew away the rest of the budget-priced coolers I tested -- and it even managed to keep up with the rotomolded Bison Gen 2 and Rovr Rollr 60 coolers, which cost $329 and $400, respectively. It's nothing fancy, and it won't hold cold temperatures as long as Yeti or Orca will, but it'll get you awfully close for just a fraction of the price. That makes it my top value pick in the cooler category, and an excellent choice if you just want something dependable that won't break the bank.

Which cooler should you buy this summer? We tested 18 of them

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The Igloo MaxCold isn't much to look at -- it's just a traditional chest cooler available in one color: Navy blue with a light blue lid. You won't get much as far as features are concerned, either: Just a set of handles, a drainage spout and a latch for the lid.

Still, that's more than some other cheap coolers can say. Downgrade to the $20 Rubbermaid Ice Chest Cooler or the $15 Igloo Island Breeze Cooler, for instance, and you won't get a lid latch or a drainage spout at all. And, to the MaxCold's credit, it's both comfortable to carry and sturdy enough to sit on, which makes it a pretty good pick for a camping trip.

Inside, you'll find what Igloo describes as 50 quarts of storage space for your food and beverages. The actual number came in just a bit lower when I double-checked it, as I was only able to fill the MaxCold with 46.5 quarts of water before the lid wouldn't close without overflowing. Still, that's a decent amount of space for the price, and more than enough to keep plenty of cold beers on hand.

All of that is well and good, but what really sets the Igloo MaxCold apart is its outstanding level of performance. In my tests, I filled each cooler with 3 pounds of ice, then tracked their internal ambient temperatures on a minute-by-minute basis over 48 hours in a climate-controlled room set to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Among all 12 of them -- including four of those expensive, rotomolded coolers -- the MaxCold finished in third place, managing to tie the $329 Bison Gen 2 and beating the $400 Rovr Rollr 60.

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The Igloo MaxCold (teal) managed to outperform coolers that cost more, including some rotomolded models like the Bison Gen 2 (red) and the Rovr Rollr 60 (orange).

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The Igloo MaxCold scored a lower average temperature during the ice retention test than any other cooler except for Yeti and Orca, which each cost $300.

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That's about as fantastic of a result as I could have hoped for from the MaxCold, and easily the best cooler performance I was able to find for under $100. The next step up would be the Lifetime High Performance Cooler, which I found on sale at Walmart for $97. It finished my performance tests in a virtual tie with the MaxCold, and it offers a bigger, better design that features a pair of heavy-duty lid latches and roped handles, plus a built-in bottle opener. It's worth a look if the MaxCold is too plain for your tastes.

Two other upgrade picks worth considering: The Yeti Tundra 45 and the 58-quart Orca Classic Cooler, which each cost a hefty $300. Both rotomolded, they were the only two coolers that managed to outperform the MaxCold in my tests.

There are also a couple of wheeled versions of the Igloo MaxCold that I haven't tested yet. Given how well the non-wheeled version performed, I have to imagine that they'd be better picks than the other wheeled coolers I tested in this price range, the Igloo Latitude and Coleman Xtreme. Both of those felt cheap and flimsy to me, and neither one performed well enough to merit any extra consideration.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Comparison shopping aside, the Igloo MaxCold represents some truly exceptional value at its sub-$50 price tag. It isn't much to look at, but it's a powerful performer that'll keep your drinks cold longer than other cheap coolers, and longer than some coolers that cost a lot more, too.


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Igloo MaxCold Cooler (50-quart)

Score Breakdown

Features 6Design 7Performance 10Usability 8