Editor's Note: a previous version of this article suggested the purifier could use only one of the HEPA 12 filter and activated carbon filter simultaneously. It can use both. The story has been updated to reflect that.
Ikea's first air purifier covers nearly every square on an Ikea Bingo card. Its cutesy Ikea name is Fornuftig, and it looks great. It is cheap, of course — just $55 — and there is some assembly required. It has a few tricks up its sleeve, and it lacks features you would've expected it to have. Is it worth your money, or should you opt for another affordable air purifier (or pull together quarters from the sofa and buy a more powerful tool)? Let's find out.
The wicked looks: Briefly survey the existing air purifier landscape and you'll find Ikea's Fornuftig to be a clear victory in the fight for not-ugly air purifiers. It's hard to tell if the unfortunate-looking air purifiers of the world are the way they are because the companies that build them aren't as focused on looks as they are performance, or if there's a greater conspiracy at work, but the ones that look decent and work well number in the single digits. More specifically, the Fornuftig expands on the linen-dressed tech vibe of Ikea's Symfonisk line of smart speakers and lamps (if you have a Symfonisk bookshelf speaker setup, you could feasibly hide the device within your audio setup). The tactile knob is also a nice touch.
The low price: This is a small-size room purifier, so naturally it will be smaller and more affordable than staple purifiers, but $55 is a wicked price for a machine that's equipped with a legitimate HEPA 12 filter (be careful of brands calling their filters "HEPA like" or any other wishy-washy language). On top of that, the replacement filters cost a whopping $5.49, which is also a category-low. Coway's Airmega 150, which is close to a like-for-like in terms of intended customer, costs nearly $150, with replacement filters pricing out to $45 or so, or nearly the cost of Ikea's purifier.
What's Not as Good
The meh power: Fornuftig is intended for small space living, so you wouldn't expect it to tidy up the air in larger spaces like a living room or pollutant-dense rooms like a kitchen, but even in for a small-sized room purifier, it could use a touch more firepower. For you dear reader, a bit of air purifier comparison dark arts.
The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) uses a number of tests to determine a purifiers effective power to clean air. The most popular of which is Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), which measures the ability of a residential purifier to clean air, as judged by the volume of air cleaned of particles of specific sizes (the test uses smoke, pollen and dust to represent small, medium and large particles). The AHAM suggests the air purifier you buy should hit a CADR "equal to at least two-thirds of the room's area." So if your office or bedroom are 150-square-feet in size, your purifier should run at about 100 CADR to effectively clean the room.
Ikea's machine can run on low, medium or high settings, each with a different CADR. The high setting hits a nice 140 CADR score, or good for a room just under 100-square-feet, per AHAM. Set to low or medium — 30 and 90 CADR score respectively — the machine isn't all that.
This isn't to say it's notably weak, though. Just more underpowered than you'd like. In the budget, small space purifier world, where devices like Partu's HEPA-equipped purifier are standard recommendation, it distinguishes itself well enough. The Partu purifier employs a legit HEPA filter and effectively covers 107-square-feet of room, per the product listing. Assuming the brand arrived at that number using the device's CADR score, which is not given, the machine's CADR is 70, or significantly lower than the Ikea option.
What's Just Not Good
The not-so-smart purifier: Ikea has a robust native smart home ecosystem; why is this purifier not a part of it? Yes, you could plug the purifier into a smart plug and turn it off and on that way, but when the majority of new purifiers come with smart capabilities built-in (many with personal air quality data streamed to your phone), it feels ... weird for Fornuftig to forgo them. Like the filter design, this decision could very well have been a cost-saving measure, but it's worth acknowledging the strangeness of a new, smart home-ready product not getting the smart home treatment.
The filter confusion: There is room for two embedded filters within the machine — a white HEPA 12 filter and a black activated carbon filter. Fornuftig comes with the HEPA 12 filter, but does not come with the carbon filter, the purpose of which is to catch smoke, kitchen odors, formaldehyde and other common carbon-based gas agents. So while the base unit is $55 and replacement HEPA 12 filters are just $5.49, you still need to buy the secondary filter if you want to use the machine to its fullest. Ikea's own press release states the purifier comes with the carbon filter, but the purifier's product listing suggests otherwise.
"Improves indoor air quality and makes the home healthier. Comes with a particle filter and can be completed with a gas filter to purify air from pollutants such as odors, dust, smoke, pollen, and chemicals."
This problem is easily avoided by simply including the gas filter with the purchase of a purifier. Considering they left the space for it in the machine, it's strange that it's an add-on rather than part of the deal.
The Ikea Fornuftig does not compare favorably to more premium machines; but it isn't a premium machine. In the under-$100, small space purifier game, it fares well in terms of power and extremely well in the aesthetics department. If you're keeping costs down and need a purifier for a small room, the Ikea Fornuftig at $55 is definitely worth the money.