The Best Portable Ice Maker

Not many people need a portable ice maker. Fridges with built-in ice makers are faster. Ice cube trays cost a lot less. And most grocers and gas stations sell big bags for a few bucks (which you can then store in a cooler). But if you want one, get the Frigidaire EFIC108. It worked faster than the others we tested—though they’re all pretty similar, because they’re all made by the same original manufacturer.

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Our pick

Frigidaire EFIC108

The best ice maker

In a category with little variety, this ice maker is the fastest and one of the most compact. $120 from Amazon  

In our tests, the Frigidaire EFIC108 made enough ice for two small drinks in about seven minutes, and about 15 small drinks within an hour—just a bit quicker than any other model we tested. The ice also came out colder and stayed cold for longer than ice from other models, so it should melt slower. (Most models make the same size of bullet-shaped ice.) The Frigidaire also takes up less counter space than most portable ice makers, and it’s lighter and easier to lift. The underside drain plug makes it easier to empty after use, too.

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Runner-up

Della Premium Portable Ice Maker

Same model, different label

This model is almost the same as our main pick, so buy whichever one costs less when you’re shopping. $116 from Walmart  

The Della Premium Portable Ice Maker is almost the same machine as the Frigidaire EFIC108, with a slightly different motor as well as some minor cosmetic differences. It’s one of several models that are essentially identical (among a bunch more that are quite similar, even if they have different capacities). Most of them are sold by the same company, Curtis International, which likely sources them from the same original manufacturer and then leases the rights to use familiar brand names (like Frigidaire or Igloo) to help the products stand out.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Frigidaire EFIC108

The best ice maker

In a category with little variety, this ice maker is the fastest and one of the most compact.

Buying Options

$120 from Amazon

Runner-up

Della Premium Portable Ice Maker

Same model, different label

This model is almost the same as our main pick, so buy whichever one costs less when you’re shopping.

Buying Options

$116 from Walmart

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The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who should get this
  • How we picked
  • How we tested
  • Our pick: Frigidaire EFIC108
  • Flaws but not dealbreakers
  • Runner-up: Della Premium Portable Ice Maker
  • What about the FirstBuild Opal Nugget Ice Maker?
  • The competition
  • Care and maintenance

Why you should trust us

I’ve covered appliances since 2012, first for Reviewed.com and now for Wirecutter. I’ve also written our guides to freezers and portable air conditioners, so I know a bit about compressors and cold appliances.

For this guide, we acquired and tested six ice makers and ran each through a battery of tests. We also interviewed a couple experts, including Larry Portaro, director of FirstBuild (the company behind the Opal Nugget Ice Maker).

Who should get this

Portable ice makers (sometimes called countertop ice makers) are best suited for RVs or boats, camping, or tailgating—situations where you want ice but you’re near neither a fridge nor a cooler filled with store-bought ice. They might also have a place in offices or hotel rooms. But most people really don’t need a portable ice maker. Compared with a fridge’s ice dispenser, portable models are more likely to grow mold, can’t keep ice frozen indefinitely, and don’t work any faster. Even if you don’t have a fridge with an ice dispenser but you do need a bunch of ice for a party every now and then, it’s probably more convenient to buy bags of ice and stick them in a cooler. And don’t forget that ice cube traysare always an option.

How we picked

First we made a spreadsheet with all the ice makers we could find at Amazon, Home Depot, Target, and Walmart. We found 33 different model names and numbers, but discovered that many of them are very similar to one another. For example, look at the Magic Chef HNIM27SV and the Costway Portable Compact Electric Ice Maker: They’re the same machine with different labels and much different prices. Comparing the product photos and specs, we found just 13 unique designs.

Here are the features we looked for within that small group:

Important features

  • Speed: The faster it makes enough ice for a drink, the better. We found in our testing that the quickest models make a batch of ice (enough for a couple small drinks) in about seven minutes, and the slow ones take 13 minutes. Smaller units tend to make batches of ice faster.
  • Colder ice: It stays frozen longer. We found that smaller units tend to make colder ice than larger units do, and maintain those lower temperatures for longer (as long as the ice stays inside the machine).
  • Small footprint, light weight: The most common places you’d use a portable ice maker are RVs and boats, we think, so they can’t take up too much space or be too heavy to move around. Sizes vary significantly, though, with some as small as coffee makers and others as big as a subwoofer. But even if the weight and footprint aren’t that important to you, remember that smaller models work faster and keep the ice colder than big ones.
  • Underside drain plug: You should drain your ice maker when you’re done using it (otherwise it can get moldy). We found that it’s much easier to empty models that have a drain on the bottom, rather than the side.
  • Mesh filter: These can help keep ice free of dirt, residue, or hair. Purification filters, on the other hand, are overkill. It’s more effective to filter your waterbefore you put it into an ice maker. (Contrary to popular opinion, filtered water does not necessarily make clearer ice.)

Less-important features

  • Large capacity: This is listed as the pounds of ice a machine can produce per day (for example, “26 lb/day”). The majority of models are rated to crank out between 26 and 28 pounds per day, so this barely matters. Speed is more important.
  • Cube sizes: Most ice makers have two size options, some have three. Smaller ice cubes get made quicker, but they also melt faster. The actual size difference is negligible (just a few millimeters), so we don’t think the size options are very important. Every portable or countertop ice maker (except the Opal) also makes the same hollow bullet-shaped ice, so this isn’t a differentiating factor, either.
  • Timer: We doubt most people would use this feature.
  • Self-cleaning cycle: This feature’s value is pretty marginal because you’ll still have to manually supply it with a cleaning solution. We don’t know how well it works, either. (See our care and maintenance section for advice on how to manually clean an ice maker.)

Many of the 33 portable and countertop ice makers we found are essentially identical to each other. Photo: Liam McCabe

Looking at the 13 unique ice makers, we narrowed the list to four affordable, portable units with the most promising specs and tested them (along with one special model):

  • Igloo ICE108 (or the identical Frigidaire EFIC108, or the Della Premium Ice Maker)
  • Igloo ICE103
  • Magic Chef HNIM27SV
  • NewAir AI-215
  • FirstBuild Opal, a high-end model that makes specialty nugget ice

How we tested

Portable ice makers don’t use water lines, so you’ll need to fill their reservoirs manually. Photo: Liam McCabe

The most important test we ran was measuring the time to make the first batch of ice. It turned out to be the biggest differentiator between models. Most make nine cubes (or bullets) at a time. The best models finished a batch in seven minutes, and the slowest took up to 13 minutes. (The Opal spits out ice nuggets continuously, rather than in groups, so we measured the weight of the ice in 15-minute increments instead of timing it.) Most portable ice makers freeze cubes (or bullets) in batches. Video: Liam McCabe

We let the machines keep running after their first batch so that we could time how long it took for each model to either use all the water in its reservoir or totally fill its bin. This typically took a little over an hour for smaller machines and almost two hours for larger ones. Then we weighed the ice after the cycle completed. Smaller ice makers yielded 1 to 1½ pounds, with the largest ones making as much as 3½ pounds. The results of this test didn’t really impact our picks, though.

Using an infrared thermometer, we took the temperature of the ice a few times during the capacity test: once right after completing the first batch, another after the fourth batch, and again once the machine reached capacity. In most models, the temperature hovered just above freezing, which means the ice was melting in the bin. A few models (typically the smaller ones) stayed cold enough to keep the ice frozen during this testing period. We measured the surface temperature of the ice a few times during each testing session. Photo: Liam McCabe

We also measured the noise level of each machine. Most of them run at about the same volume as a window air conditioner on its quietest setting, which makes sense because both products use compressors.

Finally, we took into account how easy it was to clean each machine, how easy it was to drain them, and how intuitive the control pad and indicators were.

Our pick: Frigidaire EFIC108

Photo: Liam McCabe

Our pick

Frigidaire EFIC108

The best ice maker

In a category with little variety, this ice maker is the fastest and one of the most compact. $120 from Amazon

If you need a portable ice maker, get the Frigidaire EFIC108. In our testing, it was one of the quickest to make its first batch of ice, and it continued to crank out ice at one of the fastest paces until it reached capacity. It’s also one of the most compact and lightweight models we’ve come across, so it’s easy to move around and won’t take up much counter space. This model is cheaper than most, and also easier to empty after use. The downside—apart from portable ice makers in general not being all that useful for many people—is that it makes only hollow-bullet ice, in just two sizes. But that’s typical for this type of appliance, and we don’t think most people will mind.

In our testing, the Frigidaire EFIC108 cranked out its first nine-cube batch of ice in about 7 minutes, 15 seconds, which is enough for two small drinks. After 75 minutes the EFIC108 had made more ice (81 cubes) than almost any other model. That’s enough ice for about 10 drinks if you like a lot of ice, or about 15 if you’re fine with less. The only model that made more ice in that time was the NewAir AI-215, which is twice the size, double the cost, and produces 12 cubes per batch rather than nine. (Note that the model we tested was the Igloo ICE108, which is no longer available, but we’ve confirmed with the manufacturer that it’s identical to the Frigidaire EFIC108.) The Frigidaire EFIC108 makes bullet-shaped ice—the same as most portable ice makers. Photo: Liam McCabe

The EFIC108 is lighter and smaller than most of the models we tested. It weighs a little over 20 pounds, with a footprint of 14.5 by 9.8 inches. The NewAir AI-215, by comparison, is 16.88 by 14.25 inches and about 38 pounds, and the FirstBuild Opal is 15.5 by 10.5 inches and a hulking 44 pounds. The EFIC108’s relatively small size is a good thing, because compact ice makers are easier to move around, make ice faster, and keep the ice colder than big machines. After our first batch, the surface temperature of the ice in the EFIC108 was just above 32 °F. At capacity, the temperature fell to 31.1 °F, cold enough for the ice to stay frozen. In contrast, the temperature was 33.4 °F in the ICE103 and 32.7 °F in the Magic Chef—warm enough for the ice to start melting.

The EFIC108 was one of the cheapest ice makers we came across in our research, yet it outperformed most others. The Magic Chef HNIM27SV was a negligible 15 seconds faster, but it usually costs $70 extra. The rest of the competitors were slower, heavier, and less efficient.

The EFIC108 also has an underside drain plug, which makes it easier to empty at the end of your session than side-drain models. The interface is simple, with just a few buttons and indicator lights for when the unit is at capacity or needs more water. Like most (but not all) of the models we tested, it also has a mesh filter to keep debris and hair our of your ice.

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