Shark Air Purifier vs. Blueair Purifer: Which Is Better?


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May 16, 2023

Shark Air Purifier vs. Blueair Purifer: Which Is Better?

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Every product was carefully curated by an Esquire editor. We may earn a commission from these links.

Say hello to the cleanest air your home has ever experienced.

Pure, clean air is something you don't realize is missing in your home until you're without it. Last summer, I moved into a New York City apartment which, for the first time, was without openable windows; perhaps against fire codes and regulations, all the windows in my apartment have AC units in them, which means opening them up to get fresh air in the apartment is out of the question. And that quickly became a problem.

All the activities that went on in my apartment—cooking, hosting friends' dogs, smoking, vaping, general living—quickly made the air feel stale. I could tell that what my roommate and I were breathing in wasn't as clean as it should be; we were recycling the same East Village air over and over and over in our home. The solution, of course, was to get an air purifier. Or two.

The obvious choices to get our air clean were Shark and Blueair. Shark has been, in various shapes and forms, around my household for as long as I can remember; a Ninja blender here, a Shark vacuum there. I know their products—good, durable, reliable. They get the job done! So for a standard, run-of-the-mill air purifier that would get the job done, I went with the Shark Air Purifier 3-in-1 MAX with True HEPA.

Blueair, on the other hand, was a brand I was less familiar with. Unlike Shark, the Swedish-based Blueair specializes in air purifiers, with an ethos based on providing clean, healthy air to children while making as little an impact on the environment as possible. I thought—do I want to be breathing the clean, sweet, fresh air I would be breathing if I was a happy little child frolicking around Sweden? Hell yeah I do.

So let's see which of the two air purifiers makes my stuffy, stale Lower Manhattan apartment feel more like the Nordic countryside: Shark, or Blueair?

The first thing I noticed about the Shark Air Purifier was the size. This thing is tall, but it's narrow; I had to do some rearranging in my apartment to find a good spot for it, but thankfully, it has a 6-foot cord, so maneuvering it wasn't that difficult.

Though the setup for this air purifier is simple, it is a few steps more than the Blueair. It takes less than five minutes to get ready, though, and then you're saying hello to fresh, clean air.

The Shark was working overtime in my living room immediately: two numbers are on the display; the air quality of the space, and the temperature, as the Shark has heating and cooling functions with it (you can also opt to neither heat nor cool, and just use it as a purifier). It comes with a handy little remote that stores neatly in a crevice on top of the air purifier, so you can change modes, temperatures, and oscillation from across the room, too.

Guys—don't judge me, but when I put this together, the air quality in my apartment was bad. Like, 79 percent bad. But within a day of having the Shark on in the living room, I was at 100 percent clean air, and, boy, could I feel it. I could smell the clean air. Taste it. It was like living in an entirely new apartment. No staleness, no lingering scents in the air; just pure, clean air.

To really put it to the test, I blew smoke into the air about a foot away from the air purifier. I watched the number drop to 99 percent clean air. Waited a few seconds. And we were back at 100 percent in the blink of an eye. That's how fast it is, how strong it works.

Here's the thing, though—this is a powerful air purifier. And if you want an air purifier, you might be thinking, why is that a bad thing? It isn't a bad thing, but it might not be exactly what you're looking for. For a tiny New York City apartment, an air purifier of this size and caliber isn't necessary; yes, the heating and cooling functions are nice, but honestly? It takes up a lot of space, and takes a bit of trial and error to figure out how to use. This is an air purifier befitting of a family home, especially one with kids running around in it. It's an air purifier for when you pick your kid up from soccer practice and are cooking fish in the kitchen. Because of how small my apartment (and many others) already is, I try to be quite intentional and design-savvy about how I fill up the space. For something this large, I wish the Shark Air Purifier looked a little nicer. Instead, it's quite...bulky, loud, and old-fashioned looking, with a glossy white surface and abundance of bright lights. It kind of reminds me of a Doctor Who Dalek, honestly, and since it's so tall and stark white, it's eye-catching, and doesn't exactly stand humble in the room.

So while the Shark Air Purifier is stellar in performance, it might not be what you're looking for if you don't have a lot of room in your living space and want something that looks better with your furniture.

The Blueair Blue Pure 311i Max is honestly a godsend in my apartment. It's small. It's cute. It's sleek. It's functional. And it's quiet.

Setting this up took—no exaggeration—under a minute. I spent more time looking for an outlet to plug it into than I did fiddling with the actual machine. It's super self-explanatory, with a few buttons on top—fan modes, and a power switch. Boom. Easy!

It's also short and slim; I don't notice it when I'm in my living room, because it's quiet, too. I tuck it in the corner and live my life with clean air without wondering where it's coming from. In terms of performance, the Shark might be a bit more powerful and speedy, but with the Blueair, I'm certainly not complaining about the air quality in my home.

While this model doesn't have cooling and heating features (it does have a fan with different speed settings), it has a piece of tech that I find even cooler—WiFi compatibility. We're living in an era where you can control your air purifier remotely from your smartphone. How cool is that? When I'm lying in bed and want to change the fan setting without getting up, I can. A few weeks ago, when I left for a vacation, I was halfway to the airport when I remembered the fan was on and didn't need to be; I just opened the app and turned it off.

If you have other fans with heating and cooling functions, then you won't miss the lack of one on the Blueair. It's entirely helpful on the Shark, though—there was a time when I had a fever and chills, and was rapidly switching between blasting hot and cold air from the Shark. I was testing the Blueair at the time, and made the effort to unplug and replace it with the Shark, just so I could get that benefit.

The Blueair is also significantly cheaper than the Shark. It's fan doesn't have the power to change the temperature of the entire room like the Shark does, and unless you're on the app, you can't see the quality of the air in realtime on the machine. That being said, I think this is the preferable model for small living spaces: apartments, individual bedrooms, and so on. It's ideal for use by one to two people, but for families looking for clean air through their whole home, the Shark may be the way to go. For me and my two-bedroom apartment, though—the Blueair is staying plugged in.

Trishna Rikhy is the Associate Style Commerce Editor at Esquire. Previously, her writing has appeared in Vogue Runway, PAPER Magazine, V Magazine, V MAN, and more. She is based in NYC, but can probably be found wherever the strongest cup of coffee is.

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