Every once in a while I get a "what the heck" kind of device that is so out of the ordinary from what I normally review, that I actually have fun reviewing it.
Today, it's the CoolIT Beverage Cooler. A USB powered thermoelectric cooler, in the shape of a coaster used to keep your cold beverages cool.
Since this Beverage Chiller uses a Thermoelectric Cooler (or TEC) to cool beverages, it uses no freons or chemicals to keep cold. Just place the chiller on a flat surface, plug it into a USB port, wait for the temperature of the chiller plate to drop and place your cold beverage on the cooler.
A TEC uses the "Peltier effect" (named after Jean Peltier) to transfer heat from one side of a device to another. When current is applied to two dissimilar semiconductors (known as n-type and p-type) connected to each other at two junctions (called "Peltier junctions") heat is driven from one junction to the other. One junction cools off to sub ambient temperatures while the other junction heats up.
The CoolIT Beverage Chiller will power it's Peltier junctions via USB power. USB bus power is 5V (+/- 5%). A USB port typically can only deliver 500mA (a half of an Amp) of power. I say "typically" because typically the USB port is delivering power to a device that also has data communication with the host. The device "requests" a certain amount of power from the bus, and the host "grants" this power to the device, up to 500mA. This is how software can often report how much power is being delivered to a USB device.
The Beverage Chiller has no digital circuitry, so it's going to draw whatever it needs. It is a fact that this can cause some problems with some USB ports. Without having any kind of feedback with the host, you could essentially draw as much power as you want from a USB port... at least until things start melting.
Unfortunately, there is no predicting exactly how much power your USB port can deliver. Some can deliver more than others. I imagine that CoolIT designed this Beverage Chiller to work on nearly any USB port without overloading it. We'll see how much power this thing actually draws after we find out how well it cools beverages.
Before I even opened the package I was surprised at how heavy the Chiller was. We'll see why in a bit.
Out of the package we can get a really good look at this thing. Here's the small cooling fan for the hot side of our TEC.
Here is the back side, showing where the hot exhaust comes out of the bottom of the unit.
The label on the bottom tells us the country of origin and the FCC compliance of the device.
Before I plugged the Beverage Chiller in, I zapped it with the Micro Temp to see what the temperature of the cold plate was. 77.4°F +/- 1°F, which is essentially my room temperature.
After several minutes after having plugged in the Beverage Chiller, the temperature dropped to 50.8°F +/- 1°F. Using the Micro Temp, I never got to see the plate get as cold as the 45°C the packaging claims.
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