Kicking the Tires on the New Harbor Freight Icon Tool Cabinet

Harbor Freight recently launched their new Icon line of pro-grade tool storage products. Given the level of reader interest and my own curiosity, I traveled to the closest Harbor Freight store that had an Icon tool storage combo on their sales floor to check it out firsthand.

I would describe myself as being very experienced with consumer tool storage products. I own or have tested a variety of brands’ tool storage cabinets and chests, and have used different industrial tool and parts storage products before as well.

I am not intimately familiar with Snap-on, Mac, and other tool truck products. My closest reference point in that regard would be the Proto 550S tool storage review sample that continues to wow me.

Keep in mind that I have only “kicked the tires” on the Icon tool storage combo at the local Harbor Freight. I don’t own one, and I don’t anticipate buying one. If I’m going to equip my garage or workspace with premium tool storage products costing thousands of dollars, I’d sooner go with Lista for stationary storage, or maybe Proto or Strictly Tool Boxes for a mobile tool storage solutions.

Still, I like to think that I made enough observations to offer some commentary and context.

First, it is without any doubt or uncertainty that these Icon tool storage products are of much higher build quality than any tool cabinets or chests I’ve ever seen at a retail store before. The cost of components are a lot higher, and there’s more attention to detail.

I can’t tell you how well the Icon tool storage system competes against Snap-on offerings, but I can tell you that Harbor Freight’s pricing (after 20% coupon of course) doesn’t really seem unreasonable.

The fact that there’s a 20% coupon disappoints me. Right off the bat there’s a 20% off any Icon tool storage coupon. If Harbor Freight intends for Icon to be their pro offering, they could have offered introductory pricing, or some kind of bonus promos where you buy a tool cabinet and get something free as a bonus, such as a stainless steel worktop. A coupon like this dilutes the “pro” aspect a bit, at least in my opinion.

The Harbor Freight Icon coupon has a limit of one coupon per customer per day. So, if you want to build up a combo, you need to visit your local store every day for maybe a week. Icon tool storage products have free delivery, and so there doesn’t look to be any downside in having to place several different orders. Given the price of the Icon components, you won’t want to just order everything at once with the discount only applying to one of the items.

I’m not a fan of this particular red and silver trim color scheme, but the design looked very clean.

The accessory components – the locker and sidebox – could have been connected to the main Icon tool cabinet a little tighter, but that seems to be more of a minor assembly issue. The whole unit is on anti-fatigue matting, which could have played a part.

I didn’t notice any alignment issues, something I now look for after seeing a crooked Craftsman Professional tool cabinet and chest combo at a Sears store a few years ago. Ben’s review samples of that Craftsman combo were also crooked.

I was surprised that the drawers’ handle pulls were not capped at their ends, but I didn’t feel any sharp edges or corners.

The drawer slides are more massive than the ones Harbor Freight uses on their US General tool cabinets, which is expected. They feel sturdy, and the adjustable drawer retention latches seem to work well. My Proto review sample has a similar feature, but the Icon version seems to work a little better, or at least the effects are more noticeable.

One of the drawers made a racket when it was slammed shut. Before buying an Icon combo, I’d load up a drawer or two and off-the-shelf tools and close them hard. I couldn’t easily determine what was making the noise, and wasn’t about to start removing drawers from the floor sample.

The longer drawers have reinforcement underneath.

One thing I checked for was racking, jamming, or side-to-side rocking, but the drawers were very smooth to operate. There was some wiggle, which is normal, but quite frankly it was less than I had anticipated. In my opinion, they got this right. The construction and setup of these drawers didn’t scream “Beta project,” but seemed to be well-designed and properly executed.

Again, this is an in-store opinion. I want to hear from someone who loads up the drawer with 200 lbs and uses it daily for a year.

It’s also worth remembering that each pair of drawer slides are rated for loads of up to 265 lbs.

The internal power station has a power bar, which was expected, and a roller chain to tame the power cord – that part was quite unexpected. This drawer seems to be meant for charging up cordless power tool batteries or tools and worklights with built-in batteries.

I then checked out the internal power cable routing for the cabinet’s external-facing power bar. Both of my photos are dark and dim, but it looks like the cable clamp could use a second screw.

With so many modern features, I would have liked to see an electronic keypad lock. But, I guess keys are tried and true. Maybe Harbor Freight will come out with a conversion lock in the future.

The caster wheels are beefy and have spring suspensions. I didn’t try them out. Can you even move a fully-assembled combo like this?

There’s a power and air tool holster bay, and it looked like it could be removable. The individual cups looked repositionable, giving users some customization options.

I didn’t notice anything worth discussing about the side box. The side locker seemed alright, with sturdy adjustable shelves and slide-out drawers on the bottom. I closed the door and it bounced open. If you close the door gently, magnets hold the door in place.

The floor sample was equipped with a 56″ 12-drawer cabinet, a side tool box, a locker, a hutch with door and back panel, stainless steel worktop, and an overhead compartment.

If you could move something like this, the side handle seemed sturdy enough for the job.

The Icon tool cabinet also has what I guess is intended as a slide-out worktop. The lid is easily removed. I’ve seen better featured laptop drawers on consumer tool storage, with hinged lids and independent locks.

Harbor Freight says that their Icon tool storage products are the result of thousands of hours of design, refinement, and rigorous testing. Icon tool storage products are designed to be the finest tool cabinets on the market and compete against tool truck brands but at a fraction of the price.

Harbor Freight’s US General tool storage products are generally very well regarded, and compete favorably against pricier tool storage products from other brands. Can they do the same with Icon tool storage?

Overall, I think that Harbor Freight is making a pretty impressive showing with their new Icon tool storage products.

There are other options at similar pricing to the Icon tool storage products. Forget about the “Icon beats Snap-on” language. Icon might never be an attractive lineup for many users who would otherwise choose Snap-on. I see Harbor Freight’s Icon line as being more of another option in the mid-priced tool storage market, competing against brands such as Montezuma, Strictly Tool Boxes, and Extreme Tools. Compared to some of those brands, it’s nice to be able to kick the tires of Icon tool cabinets at a Harbor Freight store, rather than shopping sight-unseen.

It’ll take time to see how successful Harbor Freight will be with their Icon tool storage products. But, one thing I find certain is that they poured time and effort into the new line, and it seems that they made a big effort to avoid cutting any corners.

While not for me, given my needs and budget, I was impressed with what I saw.
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