Xiaomi Mi 2 Auto Mode Leaves Air Unsafe for 86% of hours | Review

Xiaomi automode leaves air unsafe 86% effective

Ever since I coughed through a Beijing airpocalypse, I’ve been saying clean air doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. I set up the social enterprise Smart Air to put out open-source data on purifiers and provide low-cost purifiers to people in places like China and India based on that data.

So when the Xiaomi 2 air purifier came out for under $150 (10,000INR / 1,000RMB), I assumed it works just fine. But I had never gotten around to testing it—until now. And what I found shocked me.

 

The Test

Smart Air co-founder Anna ran a brand new Mi2 in the same 15m2 Smart Air test bedroom where we’ve tested the DIYs, IQ Air, Blue Air, and Philips. Anna ran six tests on auto mode and six tests on the highest setting (which the Xiaomi 2 air purifier oddly calls “Favorite mode”).

 

Test setup for Xiaomi Mi 2 Air purifier

 

Anna turned the purifier on in the morning when she left home, and turned it off when she returned home, so there was no one in the home during the tests. The doors and windows were closed during the tests. (More details on the test method and all original data are here.)

A Dylos Pro tracked ≥ 0.5 micron and ≥ 2.5 micron particle counts during the test. Test data shows these 0.5 micron readings correlate highly with the US Embassy’s PM2.5 readings  (r = .90).

As in my earlier tests, I calculated effectiveness as (the number of particles before turning the purifier on) versus (the average number of particles over the last four hours).

 

Results

The Xiaomi purifier scored as one of the worst purifiers I’ve ever reviewed. On average, it removed only about 60% of 0.5 micron particles over the last 4 hours of the test.

Xiaomi Mi 2 air purifier effectiveness and efficiency

And oddly enough, the auto mode and the high mode results were nearly identical. That’s a mystery.

Here’s how the Xiaomi results compare to earlier results from other purifiers using the same method, same particle counter, in the same room.

 

Review of average percentage of particulates removed by Xiaomi Mi 2 Air Purifier

 

The data shows the Xiaomi performed worse than the $30 DIY purifier I’ve been showing people how to make for years!

Below is a normal test day. I put a dashed red line representing the World Health Organization’s 24-hour PM2.5 limit (25 micrograms).

 

Xiaomi Mi 2 Air purifier room test

 

The Xiaomi Really Wants To Be in Auto Mode

What’s wrong? The key is that—even on the highest setting—the Xiaomi reverts back to auto mode after 3 hours (watch a video of it doing so here). To be sure this is what the machine was doing, we put the Xiaomi on the highest setting and tracked noise levels overnight from the Smart Air Lab.

 

xiaomi mi air pollution test Room

 

You can see the noise remaining high for three hours, then it returns to the ups and downs of auto mode:

 

Xiaomi Mi Air purifier noise

 

Here is the same graph with particle counts (measured by the Dylos). The particle counts rise sharply every time the machine turns off.

 

Xiaomi Mi 2 air purifier noise vs PM 2.5 pollution

 

The data shows that the Xiaomi has a loose standard for “safe.” The Xiaomi is turning off when PM2.5 reaches 40 micrograms, which is far higher than even the WHO’s 24 hour limit. And it’s far higher than levels where we know PM2.5 has serious health effects from empirical research. Then it turns on again when PM2.5 gets up to 70 micrograms—almost three times the limit.

 

Really? It can’t be kept on high?

The fact that the Xiaomi air purifier can’t be kept on continuously all night is so strange that Anna asked Xiaomi customer service about it twice to make sure we’re not making a mistake. They confirmed that, no matter what, the machine will go back to auto mode after three hours (full transcript available in the supplemental materials).

 

Xiaomi air purifier support conversation - blurred

 

How often is the air unsafe?

I calculated the percent of hours that the air was unsafe during the tests using this rule:

After the purifier was on for at least 1 hour, for any hour where outdoor air pollution was unsafe (> 25 micrograms – the WHO 24-hour limit), how many hours was indoor air also unsafe (>25 micrograms)?

The Xiaomi purifier left air unsafe for a shocking 86% of the time. The other similarly sized machines in my earlier tests left air unsafe only 7-16% of the time.

 

Percentage of unsafe hours & dirty air for Xiaomi mi 2 air purifier

 

Maybe the Xiaomi Mi2’s auto mode is using the looser Chinese standard for clean air of 35 micrograms. Yet even with that high number, it was still above the limit 77% of the hours the Xiaomi Mi2 was running.

Update: we subsequently ran tests on the particle counter inside the Xiaomi Mi2, and what we found was shocking.

 

Wait, are you sure sure?

I wanted to be really careful about this review. I’ve seen other tests showing that the Xiaomi 1 works just fine, including these tests from Dr. Saint Cyr (although I’ve seen people write about flaws too, such as this guy who kept the filters wrapped in plastic, turned it on turbo mode, and the app told him his air got miraculously cleaner). So I double and tripled checked the data:

 

  1. We tested with a different particle counter in a different room.
  1. I re-analyzed the data throwing out any days with large fluctuations in outdoor air.
  1. I analyzed days when outdoor pollution was low to average (< 150 micrograms).
  1. I compared it to other tests done just two weeks before in the exact same room with the exact same particle counter.

 

None of these analyses changed the result (see details here).  Note however, that we did only test one Xiaomi Mi2 air purifier, so there is a possibility another machine would perform differently. I invite anyone with a Mi2 to replicate my tests using the same method, and I’m happy to publish the results.

 

What now for Xiaomi?

From this data, my conclusion is that the fan and the filter are fine, but the Xiaomi air purifier has a programming flaw. Even if I use it on the highest setting, I’ll be breathing air far above the safe limit for most of the night. That’s a problem.

 

Is it just a Xiaomi problem?

To be fair, I cannot recommend any auto mode I’ve tested. I’ve tested the Philips AC4072 on auto mode, and it averaged 59% reductions in 0.5 micron particles, which is pretty close to the Xiaomi results. So I think this is more of a problem with auto modes rather than the Xiaomi specifically.

Philips Xiaomi Purifier Auto Mode Data Test Review

Yet I can still recommend the Philips. Why? It can stay in medium or high as long as you want, and test data shows it works fine all night as long as it’s not on auto mode.

 

I’m confident that Xiaomi can fix this flaw by simply allowing people to run it on high without reverting back to auto mode. But until that happens, I cannot recommend using the Mi2.

 

Open Data

As always, I’m publishing more details on the test method and the original data for fellow nerds.

 

The Sqair air purifier Kickstarter

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Jeff

Just another data point here: I’ve been using a couple of Mi 2 units for a couple years. Using the smartphone app, I have been able to manually set fan speed. Weirdly though, every couple of months I need to reset the fan speed as going into the app will set manual mode to full speed, which is far too noisy. Other than this, the units have been fine for the small rooms they’re in. I’ve tested them with particle counters. I would use them for room sizes at a max of 90 sq ft though- anything bigger and you… Read more »

Chris Rose

I just bought a Xioami filter to look at and test. The model is the antibacterial filter. OMG shocking. The internal charcoal component of the filer has very little charcoal and I can see light through perhaps 30% of the unit. e.g. maybe 30% or more has zero contact with the charcoal. This won’t treat the majority of gasses passing through it. I am very disappointed.

Jeff

I wouldn’t personally worry about this too much. I’ve seen the charcoal filters of several brands (Sharp, Phillips, Tefal?) and the charcoal filters are about the same with very skimpy fillings.

I think that cost cutting is commonplace with most purifiers. The only units I’ve seen which are different are with a very old but good Sharp which had about a kilo of activated carbon in it, and the IQAir V5 cartridges which are packed with a couple kilos of activated carbon and potassium permanganate.

John

Hello – Xiaomi has just released the brand new Air Purifier 2H (designed for the European market).

Will you test that new model?

Thanks for the heads up John, we’d not heard of this! We’ll see if we can get our hands on it, so that we can test!

Vivek

This article is over 2 yrs old. Did Xiaomi improve anything in this period?

Xiaomi has released the 2S, and we’re actually in the process of testing this as we speak. We’ve heard reports they’ve fixed the ‘revert to auto mode after 3 hours’ bug, but we’re yet to verify it ourselves. Either way, the auto mode may still have issues due to the inaccuracy of the monitor, and its proximity to the air purifier itself.

Kim

Great. I look forward to that review as have been considering purchasing a couple of these. I noticed that there is an MI air purifier 3 now too. Live in Hong Kong and pollution seriously bad and need to buy either these or the phillips soon.

encee

Hello Paddy,Thank you for the extensive tests and data.I was hoping to know if you got around testing Xiomi mi air 2s.Is it worth getting one

We are in the process of testing the Xiaomi Mi Air 2S, Encee! We’ll post the article in our knowledge-base once it’s up!

Parth

Hi Paddy,
Your are doing a great job with these reviews.
Just want to say if possible, please accelerate the review for 2s as pollution in cities like Delhi is at peak at the moment.
Thanks for your work.

ebstr

Indeed . Mi has come up with air purifier 3 which claims uses a hepa class 13 filter . Any thoughts on this ? Could you put it to test too rather than the effort on 2S ?

Anna

Hi Paddy, May I know if you used the HEPA filter for your xiaomi in this test or is it the normal filter? If you’ve used the HEPA filter, will it have a better result?

Hey Anna, we used the standard filter that comes with the Xiaomi for this test. The filter included in the Xiaomi is a H11 filter, that capture >95% of particles down to 0.03µm. Using a higher grade filter (e.g. H12 or H13) wouldn’t necessarily give a better result. This is because they have a higher air resistance and reduce airflow!