Bestcovery evaluates the affordably-priced Okaysou AirMax 8L air purifier in the middle of one of the worst wildfire seasons in California's history
One of the most unexpectedly in-demand products of 2020 is the home air purifier, particularly when it comes to the more affordable choices. A quick search on Amazon shows hundreds of options ranging from $40 to well over $400, but it seems the sweet spot is in the $100-150 range. The other thing that stands out is the sheer number of competing brands, with no shortage of new names thrown in the mix. One of the better-reviewed options is the Okaysou AirMax 8L, with a 4.6 out of 5 average rating on Amazon at the time of publishing. We had the opportunity to try one out for a week and compare our experience with the positive feedback seen online.
- Great build quality
- Intuitive controls
- Quiet operation with dedicated sleep mode
- Priced very competitively
- Confusing initial set-up instructions
- Limited availability
- No automatic air quality detection mode
Disclosure: Okaysou sent Bestcovery.com an AirMax 8L air purifier to evaluate for a week.
The timing couldn't have worked out better - our test period coincided with some of the largest wildfires in the history of California, many of them burning at the same time. The smoke and ash from the fires in both Northern and Southern California created a blanket of unhealthy air quality all the way down to San Diego, resulting in our test location in the LA Metro area looking like an approximation of Mars on a Hollywood movie set. Thus, the unusual conditions made for an extreme test of whether Okaysou's AirMax 8L performs as well as advertised.
At a glance, Okaysou went with an established template instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. The design of the AirMax 8L is very straightforward, emphasizing pure function over form. Much of the external casing is constructed of glossy white plastic, while the top portion that caps the unit is matte black plastic and houses the control panel. The air intake is located on the rear of the unit, drawing untreated air through the removable access panel and into the filters. The fan then vents through the top of the unit, dispersing purified air upwards into the room. Okaysou chose this design over the commonly-seen side intake boxes based on the ability of the fan to draw a higher quantity of air directly through the entire filter panel, and it makes perfect sense considering the large filters on this unit. The claimed air circulation capacity at the recommended 500 square foot room size is right around 3 times per hour.
The AirMax 8L comes with sturdy packaging within its box, with dense foam protecting the unit from rough treatment during shipping. The flip side of this packaging is that it's a bit of a pain to remove the purifier from the box, though that's admittedly a minor complaint. It's not quite ready to go out of the box, though - there's more packaging hidden inside the unit itself. The AirMax 8L utilizes a pair of filters, both of which are pre-installed in the unit. The access panel is secured with tape; once the panel is removed, the filters pull straight out of the back of the purifier.
Following the air flow direction, the HEPA filter comes first. It's packaged nicely in a plastic bag to prevent contamination during shipping, but the manual fails to mention this fact in the "Getting Started" portion. Directly behind the HEPA filter lies the activated charcoal filter. This filter is also shrouded in its own plastic bag, and the manual again fails to mention it in the "Getting Started" section. We certainly appreciate the extra effort that went into all of the packaging, but the ambiguous instructions create the possibility of confusion with new owners eager to use the air purifier directly out of the box. It goes without saying, but switching the AirMax 8L on without first removing the filters from their protective plastic bags will simply create fan noise with very little air purification.
The two filters are easy to install in their respective slots; unfortunately, it's just as easy to install the filters in the wrong order or facing the wrong way. The activated charcoal filter goes in first, and the HEPA filter layers on top. Both filters have a small cloth pull tab on top to ease removal in the future, and this tab needs to face the rear of the unit for the filters to be installed correctly. The access panel snaps into place with a magnetic latch and requires no tools to remove or reinstall. The magnetic latch also seems to activate a hidden switch - if the access panel is removed while the power is on, the unit will automatically shut off. The panel must be put back in place to turn the unit back on, though this requires manually activating the power switch. Thankfully, all of the settings prior to deactivation are retained. With that out of the way, the AirMax 8L is ready for use.
All of the controls are integrated into the touch-sensitive top panel and require only a light tap to activate. A large power button is located in the center of the panel and illuminates when the AirMax 8L is switched on. It's flanked by the fan speed control and child lock to the left, and the timer control and a button marked "SLEEP" to the right. The fan speed is indicated via lighting up the chosen speed, just to the left of the "SPEED" button. There's another light in line with the fan speed indicator that looks like two sheets stacked on top of one another; this light will only turn on when the filters are worn out and require replacement. Between the three fan speeds, the lowest of the settings is so quiet that it's easy to forget that the unit is even running. There's a fair bit more noise when set to the highest fan speed; that said, it's no louder than a PlayStation 4 Pro situated across the living room. Most users should be happy with the middle setting, as it allows the AirMax 8L to work efficiently without creating a distracting amount of background noise.
Since the controls are capacitive, they're easier to activate inadvertently. This is doubly true when it comes to households with curious toddlers (or pets) that can and will experiment with everything in sight, and can lead to the AirMax 8L being switched off or the fan speed being adjusted. Thankfully, there's a "CHILD-LOCK" control that will lock out any input to the panel. To activate this mode, the button needs to be pressed and held for 3 seconds; the unit will beep once to indicate that the lockout has been activated, as well as illuminate the button itself. Disabling the child lock requires another 3-second push-and-hold of the same button, and the unit will beep and shut off the indicator light to confirm that the child lock is off. Opening the access panel with the child lock on will cause the AirMax 8L to shut itself off, and it will not restart on its own when the access panel is reinstalled. The child lock light remains on while the panel is removed, and the unit will remember all previous settings and requires deactivating child lock to adjust any settings. It's a minor thing, but tired parents across the country can breathe a sigh of relief.
The "SLEEP" button activates sleep mode - or night mode, if you prefer to call it that. In a nutshell, it locks the AirMax 8L into its lowest/quietest setting and deactivates all of the panel lights except for the "SLEEP" button itself. This is a real boon for anyone with noise or light sensitivity at bedtime, since it allows the purifier to continue operation without drawing attention to itself. Pressing any button on the top panel will deactivate sleep mode. There's also a secondary function built into the "SLEEP" button - if the filter replacement reminder is lit, holding the "SLEEP" button for 3 seconds will reset the light.
The "TIMER" button resides on the right side of the control panel. Activating it will set the AirMax 8L to automatically shut off after 1, 2, 4, or 8 hours of operation. There's no option to set the timer for an in-between interval otherwise, though the options provided are flexible enough where it becomes a relative non-issue. One notable missing feature is an air quality sensor, but that's par for the course in the price bracket that the AirMax 8L finds itself competing in. The timer is the only method available to have the unit shut itself off without manually doing so.
As mentioned earlier, our week with the AirMax 8L coincided with major state-wide wildfires and the accompanying smoke and ash that created extremely unhealthy air quality. Various colleagues mentioned a lingering "campfire-like" smell throughout the entire Los Angeles area, which is as grim as it seems. Wildfire smoke causes drastic increases in PM2.5 and PM10 air pollution; long-term health issues aside, exposure to elevated levels of either causes irritation to the eyes and airways. Typical reactions include difficulty breathing, coughing, runny nose, and watery eyes, which makes poor air quality quickly obvious.
While we weren't able to obtain any instrument-based measurements during our evaluation period, we can confidently state that the AirMax 8L went a long way towards making the indoor air highly breathable. As an attempt at creating a "control" sample, we tried opening the windows despite a 200+ AQI index and immediately regretted the poor decision. The windows were quickly closed and the AirMax 8L was cranked to its highest output setting; the involuntary coughing and eye irritation subsided after less than 15 minutes. The "smoky" odor from the polluted air dissipated in roughly the same time, returning the indoor air quality to a livable level. As subjective as it is, this performance showcases the ability of the AirMax 8L to function in extreme cases.
One of the most compelling arguments in favor of the AirMax 8L is its price - at just around $120 online, Okaysou has priced this model extremely aggressively against similar air purifiers. Replacement filters are very reasonably priced and can be found on Okaysou's website as well as Amazon, though it's important to remember that the AirMax 8L requires two filters which are sold separately. We noted hit-or-miss availability from either source for both the AirMax 8L and its filters at the time of writing, but we'll chalk that up to the unexpectedly high demand for this type of product considering the craziness of 2020. There are certainly cheaper options available, but we're convinced that the AirMax 8L is worth the few extra bucks due to its higher capacity and filtration capabilities. The factory warranty is the real clincher here - at 5 years, it's longer than most automobile warranties, let alone other air purifiers. Okaysou requires registration on their website to activate the warranty, though that's a minor hassle compared to the coverage offered in return.
Though Okaysou may not be a household name, the AirMax 8L stands up on its own merits and requires no excuses or qualifiers. The sturdy construction, unobtrusive design, easy controls, and highly effective performance during a series of wildfires are all major highlights, but the affordable price and lengthy factory warranty on top of an already-excellent product allow the AirMax 8L to stand out from the crowd. In light of this, we can forgive the ambiguously-written manual and the confusing initial set-up process. The lack of reliable availability is also completely understandable, since the AirMax 8L is priced right and appears to sell out frequently. For an air purifier as solid as the Okaysou AirMax 8L, that's the best possible compliment.