Show here is the new Harbor Freight Fortress 1.2 HP 2 gallon 135 PSI ultra-quiet oil-free professional air compressor, item no. 64596.
They say it’s 80% quieter and up to 28% lighter than “other compressors in its class.” When you load the page, they have a video clip comparing it to a Porter Cable pancake-style air compressor. They also say that it delivers “up to 50% more runtime than similar jobsite compressors.”
The Harbor Freight Fortress air compressor is priced at $190. The “competing” model they show in the video looks like the Porter Cable 150 PSI 6-gallon 2.6 SCFM (at 90 PSI) compressor that’s on sale for $99.
But, I’m curious – how does it compare to a similarly styled and spec’ed California Air Tools 1 HP 2 gallon quiet compressor, currently $148 at Amazon? I would argue that the California Air Tools 2010A is a more appropriate representation of tools in the Fortress’s “class.” At least, that’s the comparison that customers should be making.
Noise Rating: The California Air Tools 2010A has the same noise rating – 60 decibels.
Capacity: Both have the same capacity (2 gallons). The California Air Tools compressor has a rust-free aluminum tank. The Fortress tank construction is unspecified.
Airflow: The California Air Tools compressor has a slightly higher airflow rating (2.20 CFM at 90 PSI vs. 2.1 SCFM).
Pressure: The Fortress is capable of operating at a higher pressure – 135 PSI vs. 120 PSI.
California Air Tools mentions the 2010A’s recovery time, Harbor Freight doesn’t mention this for their Fortress air compressor.
Weight: The California Air Tools compressor is lighter, at 34 lbs vs. 37 lbs for the Harbor Freight Fortress.
Power Draw: The Fortress air compressor says it draws 2.8 amps, but the user manual says 7A. The California Air Tools model draws 8.5 amps.
Fill-up Time: The California Air Tools compressor can be completely filled to max pressure in 50 seconds, or from 90 to 120 PSI in 14 seconds. Harbor Freight does not disclose fill-up times for the Fortress compressor.
Safety Certification: California Air Tools says that their compressor is UL certified.
Couplers: The California Air Tools compressor has (1), the Harbor Freight Fortress has (2).
Warranty: The Harbor Freight model has a 90 day warranty. The California Air Tools has a 1-year warranty.
Other features are similar, such as both having tank and regulator air gauges, drain valves, and emergency pressure valves.
The Harbor Freight Fortress air compressor certainly makes a compelling first impression, but their product description and comparisons prompted me to immediately compare it to a similarly spec’ed California Air Tools air compressor.
The Fortress compressor looks good – literally. Its front panel gives it a cleaner look than the California Air Tool’s open layout.
Spec-wise, the Harbor Freight Fortress has a slight lead in some areas, and the California Air Tools in others.
For small capacity air compressors, popular for trim work or other light use, one quick-connect coupler will usually suffice.
Given that the California Air Tools compressor is more than $30 less expensive ($148 vs. $190), there’s an additional advantage there. California Air Tools also tells you more about what you’re getting, with more detailed performance specs and information.
Personally, I’d be more inclined to go with the California Air Tools 2010A compressor. If the Harbor Freight Fortress were less expensive (it’s not shown in their Black Friday 2018 flyer), and there were more details about its motor and performance specs, its higher pressure ceiling could make the competition a bit tougher.
Why are specs important? While the Harbor Freight Fortress has a max pressure of 135 PSI, how long does it take for the tank to fill from empty or the preset cut-off (the manual says 105 PSI)? The California Air Tools compressor can fill from empty in 50 seconds, and refills from 90 PSI to 120 PSI in 14 seconds.
Which would you buy?