Those little $80 cube-shaped mini fridges are de rigueur in dorm rooms, but before you buy, make sure you're getting a real refrigerator.
It turns out that the smallest of these units, like the $60 Chefmate BC-50A aren't using a compressor and coolant like regular refrigerators; instead they use thermoelectric (Peltier) cooling, much like the portable coolers that can be plugged into a car's cigarette lighter. That means they can only cool down to about 40 degrees -- and only in cooler rooms. If the ambient room temperature creeps over 70 degrees F, these little fridges just can't keep up. That makes these coolers dangerous for storing leftovers and perishable food since there's a good chance the unit just can't keep food cold below the 40-degree maximum recommended by the USDA.
These small coolers are fine if you only want to chill soda or other drinks, but owners report that while your drinks will get cool, they won't get ice-cold.
It's not easy to tell whether the fridge you're eyeballing is a real fridge or a cooler, but look for these indications when shopping:
If you just want a small beverage cooler and never plan to store anything perishable, reviewers say the $100 Haier NuCool C-RNU1708 does a good job getting drinks cool, but not ice-cold. For the same money, you could consider the Kenmore 92779, a true refrigerator that's a bit larger and includes a small (but fairly useless) freezer compartment.
See our ConsumerSearch report on mini fridges for best-bets among compact refrigerators, including those appropriate for dorm rooms.