ARB is one of the best-known names in the portable 12-volt refrigerator/cooler market. This top vehicle accessory brand from Australia has sold on-the-go fridges to vehicle owners around the world for decades now. Their latest dual-zone refrigerator is called the ARB ZERO. It is packed with the latest 12-volt refrigerator/freezer features and technology, and might just be their best fridge yet.
The ARB ZERO dual-zone fridge/freezer just hit the US market in early 2020. This new 12-volt cooler offers up one big or two smaller cooling zones in one travel-sized portable unit. The design offers up two compartments that can be set at different temperatures, as a fridge/fridge, fridge/freezer or freezer/freezer. A removable center compartment divider in the unit allows for big cold storage when removed, turning the ARB ZERO into one big single zone fridge or freezer.
ARB ZERO Fridge Testing
This is my third ARB portable fridge, however, it’s my first dual-zone fridge/freezer. I travel extensively throughout North America each year as a journalist, many times by way of an off-road vehicle. I also regularly go on overland style camping trips in my free time. Each time my adventure vehicle rolls out of the driveway I load up my trusty ARB portable 12-volt fridge. There is nothing better than having a cold beverage after a long day of adventuring, as well as quality food options around camp. The ARB fridges I’ve used have proven reliable and durable through the many years of use and abuse I’ve put them through. I’ve yet to damage or destroy any.
However, the last several weeks changed my needs; as like most of you I’ve been home-bound. Gone were the days of wine-tasting with friends, off-roading, or van life. I can’t stash newly purchased wine bottles in my portable chiller, nor can I stop along the trail for a quick snack and cold water. I’m mandated to stay home per COVID-19 pandemic requirements. That didn’t stop me from testing out the new ARB ZERO at home however, to see what it’s all about.
ARB ZERO Features
The ARB ZERO fridge fits easily in any spot near an outlet. The supplied AC cord length is adequate. Once it’s plugged in, the fridge jumps to life. Whereas bright blue digital readouts adorn the control panel, depressing its buttons sounds like you’re using a microwave—the ding is undeniably the same.
While I stowed my ZERO between my kitchen and living room, I accessed it from only one side. The quickly adjustable heavy-duty lid allows you to easily changed from one side to the other. This allows for easy either side grab-and-go food opportunities. The quick-release handle is easy to use and snaps shut with assurance, to let you know it’s secure.
While the ARB ZERO is residing on the hardwood floor in my house right now but is designed to be secured in a vehicle. It has slots in its exterior specifically for tieing it down inside a vehicle, truck bed, or camper trailer. ARB designed a dedicated ZERO tie-down kit that’s ideal to secure the fridge for any automotive adventure.
Although I don’t have overhead lights where the ZERO lives in my house, its built-in LED light is bright. The light allows for easy visibility of all the fridge’s contents. LED lights = lower power draw and long-lasting light. The ARB ZERO only draws 0.8ah of power (from a 12V DC connection when set to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, with 89 degrees Fahrenheit ambient temperature). That isn’t much and means it will run for a long time on your car battery, with juice left over to ensure your car starts right up to get you home.
What’s Comes In The Box?
The ARB ZERO 73 quart fridge comes with three removable baskets, a removable divider, and a removable lid for the smaller compartment. Additionally, an AC cord -for house parties or extra fridge/freezer space- and 12-volt cigarette style DC cord -for quick plug-and-play on-the-go automotive action- is supplied.
This fridge features a front AC outlet for home use, a USB outlet to charge devices, and front and rear DC outlets for easy portable cigarette outlet plugging. A front digital panel controls both cooling zones, and each zone can be switched off independently. The ZERO can also be controlled wirelessly via the free ARB ZERO app (iOS App, Android App) on compatible Bluetooth-enabled devices. It’s important to download the right app, as there are a few ARB fridge apps out there.
The 73qt.’s main compartment is oversized and houses two baskets and the fridge’s drain plug. The smaller compartment has a lid, smaller basket, and runs the entire height of the unit. Plenty of opportunities for storing extra food and drinks here. However, if you’re in the market for an even bigger ZERO, a 101qt. variant is available. Also on offer are smaller 63 and 47-quart single-zone options.
My Thoughts on The ARB ZERO
The ARB ZERO 73-quart is heavier (68.3 pounds) and larger than others (coming in at 29.7 inches long x 18.5 inches wide x 22.2 inches tall), but allows for more storage than most. Its exterior design is thoughtful. Corner bumpers run the entire height of the unit, shielding it from accidental damage. Plus, the ZERO boasts high-quality materials throughout, from the rubberized top to its industrial-sized lid gasket.
The ARB 73qt. ZERO fridge was quick to cool down to desired temperatures. It has been perfect for keeping extra reserves of refrigerated quarantine food and drink.
Compared to other ARB fridges I’ve used, all with their control panels near the top, the ZERO’s is harder to access, being nearly at ground level. But, that’s where the ARB ZERO Bluetooth app comes in handy. A quick swipe of my phone and I’m ready to change the ZERO’s temps or monitor how it’s functioning. This feature renders the on unit control panel location nearly irrelevant.
The ARB ZERO Bluetooth app is easy to use. It allows you to change the fridge’s temperatures, monitor voltage, see if it’s running or idle, and more. Its font size is oversized and colors bold, making it easy to see and use. The only real problem I found with the ARB ZERO fridge freezer is when setting the temperature from freezing to barely chilling or vice versa takes a bit of time. You can’t simply enter the number you want, you need to keep clicking the “+” or “-” button until you get there. The positive is that the fridge does immediately change temperature when using the app.
Conversely, the app currently reads backward when using it to control each zone. For instance, when I use it to change the large zone to 40 degrees, the small zone changes on the fridge. I talked with ARB USA about this issue. They were quick to connect with ARB headquarters in Australia, who has promised to change this in their next app update.
MSRP: $1,426 USD
- Easy to Use: handle, controls, and app
- Dual Ability: use as fridge/freezer, or stand-alone fridge or freezer
- Super Durable: high-quality materials used and full-height corner bumper guards
- Quick to Cool Down: capacity is -7.6 degrees Fahrenheit to +50 degrees Fahrenheit
- Reputable Company: ARB has been around for decades
- Impressive Warranty: 3 years.
- Price Tag: Not Inexpensive
- ARB App Bug (should be resolved in next update)
- Lid Doesn’t Have a Strut to Hold it Open
The ARB ZERO 73qt. dual-zone fridge/freezer allows you longer travel opportunities by giving you a smartly designed and well-made chiller. It quickly cools and is made with premium materials. Lastly, like my other ARB fridges I expect the 73qt. ZERO to last me many years.
(Photos by: Mercedes Lilienthal and ARB USA)