When limited on space or access to permanent water lines, the portable ice machine could be the solution to ice on the go. In our case, we carried a portable ice maker in our RV across 22,000 miles touring the USA. Another problem with traditional ice makers (and especially RV fridge/freezers) is the time it takes to make ice. Most of these countertop machines make ice in as little as 6-7 minutes. As previously mentioned, no water lines are necessary, so these are practical for outdoor patios, bars, bbqs, and RV/Travel trailers.
Portable Ice Maker Comparison
|24 Hour Production: 26lbs
|24 Hour Production: 26lbs
|24 Hour Production: 50lbs
|Makes Ice In: 7 Minutes
|Makes Ice In: 15 Minutes
|Makes Ice In: 9 Minutes
|Colors: Red, Silver, Black, White
|Colors: Red, Silver, Black
|Colors: Red, White, Stainless
|Ice Sizes: TWO
|Ice Sizes: TWO
|Ice Sizes: THREE
What Is a Portable Ice Maker?
Sometimes called, “tabletop ice makers,” these are ice makers that can go just about anywhere you want. There are no water pipes to install, so you can take it with you outdoors, camping, etc. However, if you want fresh ice on a camping trip, because these are powered by electricity, you will need a generator or an inverter. The biggest selling point of a portable ice maker is how long they take to make ice. A standard ice maker may take a couple hours to produce a small amount of ice, with a portable ice maker, you can have ice in just a few minutes’ time.
Igloo 26 Vs New Air AI-215
In typical CoolersOnSale fashion, we set out to test two of the top performers in a showdown. We matched up the Igloo 26lb vs the New Air AI-215. In our test, we set out to reveal if the ice machines could produce as much ice as advertised. In the case of the Igloo 26, this would be 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours and 50 lbs of ice for the New Air. Additionally, we wanted to test how much ice could be made in a cycle, before the ice machine automatically shut off due to a full ice hopper. Lastly, we wanted to gauge how much time it took to make ice, max out ice, and how much time one full water reservoir would last.
So how did it shake out?
In eight hours, the New Air made 11.2 lbs of ice and the Igloo made 5.6 lbs of ice. In our testing, we did have some downtime when the machines would shut off from being full or lack of water. Therefore, we believe that both machines could make the advertised amount of ice in a 24 hour cycle. The Igloo was the first to make ice around 7:25 and the New Air wasn’t far behind at just over 9 minutes. The New Air went on to make twice as much ice compared to the Igloo. However, to be fair, the New Air is about twice the size as the Igloo. Per cycle (when the ice hopper was full) the Igloo made 1.1 lbs of ice and the New Air 3.73lbs of ice. The Igloo had to be filled up with water three times throughout the test and the New Air only twice.
In addition to size, one of the biggest differences between the two is their features. The New Air comes with quite a few more features than the Igloo. The most important to us is the presence of an auto-cleaning feature. After six months of use, we noticed these ice machines can develop a slimy substance on the inside of the machine when not in use and water is left inside. Needless to say, it is very important to regularly clean your device and the New Air makes it that much easier. The drain located on the side of the New Air is much easier to access than the drain located on the underside of the Igloo.
The New Air also allows for an additional ice cube size selection. The igloo allows for Small or Large ice cubes and the New Air offers Small, Medium, or Large. Both produce “bullet ice,” which as the name implies, are small bullet shaped ice cubes. We found these ice cubes to be softer than ice that would be made in a refrigerator/freezer combo commonly found in nearly every kitchen.
Update December 2022: Sonic/Nugget Ice Machine
We finally got the chance to get our hands on a Nugget Ice Machine. Although we do not recommend, we are equally guilty of chewing the “good ice.” In Florida we know places such as Sonic and Zaxbys to have the good ice. There’s good reason for the delay in the addition of this review and thats cost…these things aren’t cheap. Or should I say, used to be quite expensive. That is until now; Opal is no longer the only manufacture of a nugget ice machine.
We tested the Freezimer Nugget Ice Machine. This model produces 40lbs of ice a day which is significantly more output of ice compared to the other standalone units we have tested. We found this machine to be very quick at ice production and much quieter compared to the bullet ice machine. Because this style machine is continuously producing ice vs dropping 8 cubes at a time, it is much quieter. As if the style ice, speed and noise were not enough selling points, we found the best selling point to be the self cleaning AND filtration option of this machine. At CoolersOnSale, we have been through quite a few bullet ice machines and over time, they get downright nasty if they are not regularly cleaned. Calcium buildup and mold are a real concern. The Freezimer comes with a filtration system built into the water reservoir and a self cleaning feature. Although we alway use filtered water from the fridge, the additional filter onboard helps to extend the time between cleanings.
Ice Machines have officially entered the digital age! This unit also comes equipped to function with a mobile app. However, we struggled to get the app to pair with the ice machine. We have been in contact with the manufacturer and are working to resolve this issue.
How Does the Counter Top Ice Maker Work?
Most portable ice makers utilize a tray filled with water and metal rods that drop into the tray, freezing water around the rod. This is how bullet ice is made. This method also allows ice to be made much quicker than traditional trays. Most countertop units make ice in 6-10 minutes. Sonic ice machines work in a more complicated fashion of freezing drops on a plate and scraping them off when frozen. This is why ice machines like Opal Ice are significantly more expensive. Below are the best bang for the buck ice machines.
Top Portable Ice Makers
The NewAir AI 215 is the largest countertop ice machine we tested. The NewAir is capable of making 50 lbs of ice in 24 hours. We tested for 8 hours and produced 11.2 lbs, but we had downtime when the automatic shut-off was triggered. However, the large ice production was not the biggest selling point for us…
The biggest selling point of the NewAir is the added features. This ice machine has an additional ice size to choose from (S, M, & L) and most importantly an automatic cleaning feature. The drain located on the side of the machine is much more accessible than many other ice makers which are located underneath.
The Igloo Compact ice maker is available in a variety of colors and can produce up to 26lbs of ice in a day. A unique feature to this maker is the capability of producing large OR small cubes. Although it can hold only 1.5 pounds of ice at a time, the first batch of ice will drop in about 6 minutes. LED controls allow you to chose the ice size of your choice. See Available Colors⇒
Made to conveniently fit in kitchens, RVs and other compact areas, this small ice maker is capable of creating regular ice and CRUSHED Ice. Like the Igloo above, this can create about 26 lbs of ice a day. The automatic overflow shutoff prevents the machine from producing more ice than it can hold. Although this may seem like an obvious feature to include on all ice makers, some do not have it which often results in clogs/spillage. The Avalon Bay is one of the most popular portable ice makers and is available in three color choices. See Color Choices⇒
This ice maker produces up to 27 pounds of ice per day at 10 cubes per cycle. The Emerson offers LED feedback indicating how full (or close to empty) the ice maker is, and whether it is turned on or not. It is more expensive than others, but often times a “certified refurbished unit can be purchased for a discount online. Check For Availability⇒
This portable ice maker is available in silver or white. It offers easy touch buttons and digital operation. The Ivation has a removable ice tray and alerts for when the water level gets low or are nearing maximum ice capacity. The machine can produce two sizes of cube. A see-through top window allows for cube production monitoring. The Ivation will product 26.5 lbs of ice in a 24 hour cycle.