Review: IQAir Atem Desk Air Purifier


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Sep 21, 2023

Review: IQAir Atem Desk Air Purifier

In June, I published a review of the IQAir HealthPro Plus. This is a highly

In June, I published a review of the IQAir HealthPro Plus. This is a highly capable air purifier using HyperHEPA filtration technology that's been proven effective at scrubbing everything from pollen and smoke particles to viruses like SARS-CoV-2 (the one responsible for Covid-19) from the air. IQAir's HyperHEPA purifiers have been used in hospitals for decades. The only downsides to the HealthPro Plus are its size and cost. However, the company has a much more compact and affordable option in the IQAir Atem desk air purifier.

The IQAir Atem in action.

I work from home, don't venture out a whole lot unless I have to (having to arm wrestle the kids for one of the vehicles is a part of that), I have been good about masking indoors when I do go somewhere, and I have been triple vaccinated. Despite that, my number came up at the start of July and I tested positive for Covid-19. It quickly became an unpleasant experience.

I isolated in my home office (which has a full-sized couch, thank goodness) and masked up. We cranked up the IQAir HealthPro Plus air purifier, which was still sitting in the living room. I realized it would probably be more effective in my office — scrubbing the air as I exhaled — but it's not small and my office is. In addition, I was worried about our family vacation. It was booked for later that month and we had actually pre-paid the accommodations in 2019. The pandemic and resulting border closures had delayed it for three years. No-one wanted to face the prospect of cancelling it.

However, assuming I was recovered and asymptomatic soon enough to go ahead with the trip, it involved a 13 hour drive in our minivan with my wife and kids. Even if I was officially "safe" I did not want to expose them to the virus. So I killed two birds with one stone and bought an IQAir Atem desk air purifier. It uses the same HyperHEPA filtration technology as the HealthPro Plus in a compact size that was perfect for my office and would also fit in the minivan. In fact, IQAir sells a car-specific version as well as a car adapter kit.

The air purifier was up and running in minutes.

The Atem arrives largely ready to go, with the HyperHEPA filter preinstalled. The only assembly required is to plug in the power cable, then attach the stand base. That stand has a premium feel to it — it's metal and complements the modern design of the air purifier itself. Once mounted, the air purifier can be rotated to change the angle that air is dispersed.

There is a mobile app that can be used to control settings, or you can use touch control on the side of the purifier itself to cycle through speed settings or to put the unit in standby. An LED light glows blue (or red) under the clear plastic air diffuser to indicate status and speed.

Mobile app control is not required, but does give you extras like filter life remaining.

Back to that stand. It holds the Atem solidly enough. But, it's not physically locked in. If you accidentally hit the air purifier from the side, it's possible to pop it right off the stand. In addition, the stand connects over top of the power supply plug. That makes for a neat and tidy look, but you can't easily remove the power cable. Which means if you move the Atem, you have to carry its power supply and cable along. Those two issues aren't show stoppers — and if you leave the Atem in one place they may not be an issue at all — but if there's one area that needs a little more engineering, it's that stand setup.

After waiting eight days from when I first tested positive for Covid-19, with no signs of a fever in five days, and coughing only happening in short fits several times a day, we loaded up the van, plugged the air purifier into a portable battery power station and positioned it on a tray between two mid-row seats.

The modest power station (I used this Goal Zero Yeti 200X) was enough to power the Atem air purifier at maximum speed for the duration of the drive and then some. My son did have to steady the unit on sharp turns due to that stand design, but it was perfectly stable for 95% of the time. If I had chosen the car-specific version or the car adapter kit, stability would not have been an issue at all.

Between the Atem and my wearing a KN95 mask for the duration of the drive, there were no further Covid positives. Everyone tested multiple times and came up with negatives.

On arrival at our condo, I left the Atem running 24/7 in my bedroom. That had the bonus effect of eliminating the airborne allergens that were in play.

Top view of the Atem.

Minor quirks aside — namely the stand design and power cable — the IQAir Atem was a worthy purchase. There is no way to say for certain that it prevented my family from catching Covid from me, but given our close quarters and its ability to effectively filter the SARS-CoV-2 virus, I have to think it played a large role. Both at home and while confined in a minivan for 13 hours. It also proved effective in filtering out airborne allergens.

The air purifier is compact and portable, the design is modern-looking, it features three speed settings (none of which is particularly loud) and it can be app-controlled. Filters last for a year of use and are reasonably priced.

It's not an impulse purchase at $399, but I don't regret buying the IQAir Atem for a second. It will be here to go into the room of the next family member who inevitable tests positive for Covid.

Disclosure: IQAir had no input into this review.