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You might have noticed the Coway Mighty AP-1512HH on a number of “best air purifier” lists online. It’s one of the models in the most recent batch of air purifiers CR tested, so we wondered, How does the Coway air purifier stack up against a similarly priced top-rated model in our air purifier ratings?
For this face-off, we chose the Blueair Blue Pure 211+ to go up against the Coway air purifier. It’s comparable in size and price, and performs very well in our lab tests (only its big brother, the Blueair Classic 605, does a better job at cleaning the air but it’s rated for very large rooms).
Read on for more information on each model and details on how they perform in each of our tests. For more on air purifiers, check our air purifier buying guide.
Coway Mighty AP-1512HH
This 18.5-inch-high x 17-inch-wide x 10-inch-deep air purifier looks like a subwoofer speaker and comes in glossy black or white. It has a prefilter that needs to be vacuumed clean every two to four weeks, a HEPA filter for catching particles, and mesh activated-carbon filters for odors, gases, and VOCs (CR does not currently test activated carbon filters’ claims, but in past tests, we found that scant amounts of carbon, like what’s found in this filter, aren’t enough to deal with odors). The Mighty also has an ionizer that generates an “electrochemical reaction” to reduce airborne particles.
The Coway air purifier is Energy Star certified, but while it claims to clean rooms of up to 360 sq. ft., it does not have AHAM certification verifying this claim. However, when we measured the Coway's air cleaning rate (which is used to estimate the room size a machine is appropriate for), it was very close to what Coway advertises. It has a timer, filter replacement indicators, and three speeds plus an energy-saver mode and auto mode, which uses an air quality meter to measure the particles in a room and adjusts the fan speed accordingly. The Coway is backed by a three-year warranty.
Blueair Blue Pure 211+
This 20-inch-high x 13-inch-wide air purifier takes up a little over a square foot of floor space. It looks like it would be at home in an IKEA catalog. The large, four-sided filter fills up the entire bottom half of the unit, and is a combination filter—in addition to having a particle filter that catches pollen, dust, pet dander, and mold spores, there is also an activated carbon mesh lining that target odors, gases, and VOCs. (CR does not test carbon filters’ claims at this time.) This main combination filter is surrounded by a washable spandex-like prefilter that catches large particles, such as human hair and pet fur.
The machine is Energy Star certified and AHAM verified to clean rooms up to 540 sq. ft. It has three speeds and a filter replacement indicator. All parts, including the filter, are recyclable. The Blue Pure 211+ comes with a one-year warranty (two years if you register it).
Test by Test
CR’s Dave Trezza and his team of engineers test each air purifier in a sealed chamber, into which they inject smoke and dust particles. A particle counter measures the change in particle concentration as the air purifier runs for 15 minutes on the highest speed, and then again at a lower speed. Our engineers also measure noise levels while the air purifier is in use from 4 feet away. Here’s the breakdown of how each model performs.
Particle Reduction and Noise at High Speed
The Blueair aces our particle reduction test on high speed, meaning it effectively clears the air in the room of both large (dust) and small (smoke) particles quickly. The Coway scores slightly lower than the Blueair for particle reduction, meaning there were more particles left floating in the air after 15 minutes.
Both models rate Fair for noise at high speed, which is on par with the sound of rainfall. But since the Blueair clears the room a bit better, it wins this test.
Particle Reduction and Noise at Low Speed
The low-speed setting is where we see the biggest difference in performance between the two models. The Blueair once again earns an Excellent rating for clearing the air in the room of particles. The Coway is no match here: It removes far fewer particles at this speed than the Blueair, earning a Fair rating in this test.
As for how loud these models are while operating at low speed, the Coway does better than the Blueair, earning a Very Good rating compared with Blueair’s Good rating, but that lead is moot since the Coway does a poor job of cleaning the air at this setting. The Blueair gains major ground ahead of the Coway in this test.
Annual Cost to Operate and Maintain
In order to maintain clean indoor air, purifiers should operate 24 hours a day. We estimate it will cost $52 for the electricity needed to run the Blueair all day (based on an average of high and low speeds). The filter needs to be changed about every six months at $70 a pop, so the total annual cost to maintain and operate the Blueair is $192.
The Coway makes a smaller dent in the electric bill: $44 a year. Plus, its HEPA filter is good for one year (the carbon filters need to be replaced every six months). Replacement filters for an entire year come out to $43, making the total annual cost $87. “That’s really low,” says Trezza. “The average annual cost for our top-rated models is about $200.” As long as you run it on the high-speed setting and don’t mind some din in the room, the Coway can save you some major bucks in the long run. It wins this comparison by over $100 annually.
Ease of Use
The Coway scores a Very Good rating for ease of use while the Blueair gets a middle-of-the-road Good rating because of a couple of factors: It doesn’t have a carrying handle or wheels, making it a little more cumbersome to move from room to room, and it has only one unlabeled button that you push multiple times to control power and speed settings. Some users may appreciate the minimalist look, while others may find it confusing to operate. The Coway is a nose ahead of the Blueair in this assessment.
The Blueair outscores the Coway in our crucial particle reduction tests, both at high speed and low speed. True, it’s a little louder than the Coway on low speed, but it’s still pretty quiet. And considering the Coway couldn’t clean the air well enough at low speed, it being whisper quiet is a moot point.
“Getting an air purifier that performs well at a quieter low speed increases the likelihood that you’ll keep it running," says Trezza. "An air purifier is only beneficial if you actually use it, but most people turn them off because of noise."
Trezza also points out that the Blueair has a faster cleaning rate than the Coway and is made for a slightly larger room. So it would be even more efficient in medium-sized and small rooms. Depending on the air quality in smaller rooms, you may be able to get away with running the Blueair solely on low speed, thereby saving on energy costs. All this makes the Blueair our winner in this contest.
However, the Blueair's annual costs for energy usage when averaging use at high and low speeds, plus its filter replacements costs, are more than twice as much as the Coway’s. If that’s a primary concern, the Coway air purifier is a reasonable option—it will still do a good job on its high-speed setting, but you’ll have to live with a little more background noise.
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