IQAir Atem Review – Is this portable air purifier effective?

The IQAir Atem is a personal, portable air purifier that’s new on the scene. Recently, we were asked by Vincent to review the IQAir Atem – which IQAir calls “the most effective personal air purifier.” Here was Vincent’s question:

Vincent's question regarding the IQAir Atem

Being the data nerds that we are, we decided to get some data to help us answer the question. Unfortunately, since the Atem costs 3,680RMB (550USD) in China, we just didn’t have the budget to buy and test an actual unit. However, in true Smart Air fashion we DIY-ed our own version, and put it to the test!

Here’s how we can break down Vincent’s question:

1. Can the IQAir Atem clean a small room?

Looking at the official numbers from the IQAir Atem tech specs, the Atem has a CADR of 13 cbm/hr.  That makes it good for a space up to 1.4 sqm according to the AHAM 2/3rds rule.

In short: the IQAir Atem can’t clean rooms. With a CADR that low, unless you’re living in a closet, it won’t clean the air in the entire room.

But wait: I’m kind of missing the point. The IQ Air Atem wasn’t designed to clean a whole room (IQ Air customer confirmed this in a chat).

IQAir customer Support on IQAir Atem

So let’s get to the more important question. The IQAir Atem is a portable purifier. It’s only supposed to shoot clean air into a small area around the purifier, giving clean air to whoever’s sitting next to it. If this is the case, there shouldn’t be a need to clean the air in the whole room. This method could be more effective and efficient than cleaning the whole room, but is it?

2. How effective is directing clean air at your personal space?

IQ Air isn’t the only company to think of this idea. Several kickstarter projects have sold the idea of portable purifiers that direct air into a single space, such as the Wynd portable air purifier:

wynd portable air purifier

To find out how effective it is to direct air in a specific direction,  we modified the Smart Air Blast Mini to mimic the Atem. To do that, we created a nozzle similar to the “PureJet diffuser” on the Atem.

IQAir Atem nozzle replication

Then we tested the air flow. The air coming out was strong. Windspeed was 3.52 m/s out of the nozzle. For reference, that’s what the air flow would feel like if you were standing about a step away from this box fan.

Lasko box fan

That means the machine is putting out 25 cubic meters of air an hour, based on the size of the nozzle. That’s pretty close to what the Atem gives on its high setting (30 cubic meters per hour). From this we deduced that our prototype gave a decent replication of the Atem.

airflow of IQAir Atem -like nozzle on Blast Mini

Next we used a laser particle counter to measure the particulate at different distances away from the Atem-style nozzle.

Air quality out of IQAir Atem - style nozzle

And then plotted this data on a graph, showing amount of clean air delivered for increasing distances away from the fan. Here’s what we found.

IQAir Atem air quality vs distance measurements

So how far do I need to be from the purifier?

At a distance of 30 cm from the purifier, the air was about 50% cleaner than the air in the rest of the room. That’s all right, but it’s far below the results of purifiers cleaning air in the whole room.

Image result for ruler

But remember, 30 centimeters is the length of an average ruler. That means this thing is blowing right on your face. You’d be so close you could swing your neck and bite the air purifier!

Results at a comfortable distance from the fan: At a more reasonable distance of 60 centimeters (about the distance of an outstretched arm), the reduction in particulate was 25%. Once you get out of arm’s reach (70 centimeters away), the effectiveness drops below 20%. Below 20%, I think a lot of people would say the reduction is so small it’s not worth the hassle.

Bottom line: it seems like portable air purifiers that direct air at you do work, but you need to be within 30 centimeters of the purifier to breathe significantly cleaner air. At an arm’s length away (60 centimeters), particulate is 25% lower.

Noise

The IQAir Atem does well at noise. On high, it’s 44 decibels. That’s a comfortable level for most people, which is good considering it’d be sitting right next to you.

Size and Weight

The Atem is designed to be a personal space, portable air purifier. If you’re always on the move or have to commute to and from work, the Atem would need to be portable. So is it?

The Atem is bigger than an average laptop. Most laptops are 9 x 13 x 0.8 inches. The Atem is 12.4 x 11.8 x 5.5 inches (31.5 x 30 x 14 cm; IQAir tech specs). It’d be tough fit that in a backpack, but it could fit into a suitcase, which IQ Air portrays on their website:

The Atem weighs a whopping 6.3 pounds (2.8 kg, including the stand and power supply). That’s like carrying three 2015 MacBook laptops in your bag (specs). So it’s not impossible to carry around, but it would be heavy.

Are there any other solutions?

In the past, travelers on business trips have stopped by our Beijing office to buy a couple of DIYs for their travels around China. The DIY1.1s aren’t tiny, but some people have packed them in their suitcase! Find yourself a fan and a filter, and you could be in for a much more budget-friendly option!

Here’s how the DIY compares to the Atem:

And of course it’s about 8% the price of the IQ Air:

 

Bottom line: The IQAir Atem portable purifier provides a modest amount of clean air within an arm’s length of the purifier. Beyond that, it’s close to useless. If the Atem doesn’t fit into your budget, you could opt to find your own fan and DIY your own purifier, like the DIY1.1 Smart Air provides.

 

The Sqair air purifier Kickstarter

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GARY-AIDEN

I often use the 1.1 up close and personal. Using a ventilator pump to sleep at night, I place the 1.1 within a few cm’s of the ventilator input filter and am assured (thanks to egg confirmation) that I’ll be having forced into my lungs 0 particles of pm2.5. during waking hours the 1.1 dutifully cleans the room.

I’d love if Smartair was able to develop a smaller version of the 1.1 that was portable enough to place on your lap or desk at work.

I’m sorry, Paddy, but I am with Michael on this one. You can’t effectively make a comparison without actually testing the product. This is especially true when you are an air filtration company reviewing a competitors product. The need for an ulterior motive is directly related to you HAVING a dog in this race. While I respect SmartAir’s ability to actually run a real test, it would not kill you to order an IQAir Atem from amazon.com and apply Global Shipping to to China for under $100 USD. You could easily re-sell this model in Beijing on the internet for… Read more »

Michael Stein

In 2003 Fighting the spread of SARS a viral disease known as Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) spreads quickly in Asia. IQAir® is sought out for its expertise in air cleaning technology. After weeks of testing and installation of trial systems, the Hong Kong Hospital Authority chooses IQAir systems to help stop the spread of SARS. IQAir provides systems to 150 hospitals and health care facilities in Hong Kong to help contain the virus. Below is a longer discussion on the use of hyper HEPA filters in 2003 in Hong Kong (https://www.iqair.com/newsroom/iqair-selected-provide-hong-kong-hospitals-new-tool-fight-against-sars-virus) I don’t know too much about China but… Read more »

Michael Stein

you are not taking into consideration that the filtration goes down to .003 micron and not the .3 microns of standard HEPA filters. In my eyes, the ultrapure hyper HEPA filter blows extra clean air just around your immediate location. It is basically blowing ultra pure air and displacing the less purified air that around your face with super clean air. their so-called bubble effect that IQAir claims. I am very impressed with the air I breathe from the Atem. The air blown at me is really wonderful and does help with allergies is my case. I really love this… Read more »