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Lifetime 55-quart High Performance Cooler review: Great alternative to coolers that cost hundreds more

The Lifetime High Performance Cooler says it'll hold 55 quarts, but it actually held an even more impressive 62.4 quarts in my tests. The fact that the lid seals around the outside of the bin and not the inside of the bin makes a big difference.

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Yeti and Orca's coolers were the two top performers in this test, which wasn't too surprising given the thick, rotomolded insulation of each one. The real surprises were Lifetime and the Igloo MaxCold, which finished in a virtual tie for third place, easily besting all of the other coolers that you can get for $100 or less, and holding its own against the rotomolded Bison and Rovr coolers, too.

Both Lifetime and the Igloo MaxCold managed to pull their internal temperatures down by almost 25 degrees, which is excellent, and both were able to hold the cold long enough to make it through a backyard barbecue (and again, that's with a small, suboptimal quantity of ice). All that really separates the two are value and design -- the MaxCold is the better bargain, but Lifetime's design and build quality are a lot better.

Along with the inclusion of dual-locking lid latches, roped handles and a built-in bottle opener, a big part of that superior design is a more sizable interior. The two are listed pretty close, with Igloo at 50 quarts and Lifetime at 55 quarts, but the gap widened once I put those numbers to the test by filling each one with water to see how much they could actually hold before the lid wouldn't close without overflowing. Igloo came in at 46.5 quarts, but Lifetime went above and beyond, holding a very impressive 62.4 quarts.

The extra size inside also means that Lifetime had a tougher job on its hands than Igloo during that ice retention test. I still give the edge to Igloo for costing half as much, but it makes a strong result for Lifetime even stronger in context.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

All of that puts Lifetime right in the sweet spot -- not too expensive, not too cheap, and just right as far as performance is concerned. The Igloo MaxCold is the better value if you just want something cheap and dependable, and you could justify splurging on the Yeti Tundra 45 or the Orca Classic if you're willing to spend for top-notch performance, but if you'd rather stick to the middle ground between those two extremes, then the Lifetime High Performance Cooler is your best bet.

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