By Shouvik Das
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New Delhi: About five years ago, just as air purifiers picked up popularity as air pollution reached visibly alarming levels, the first brands to attempt to tap this space were not the tech firms — but the old-school names in domestic home appliances. Think Philips, Havells, Eureka Forbes.
This made sense, too. Home appliance brands are names that have been trusted in India for years, and with air pollution being taken seriously (probably for the first time in the history of humankind), you can see why more consumers might put their faith and money in a brand that they’ve at least known of for decades.
All of this holds true, as long as you’re looking at the entry range of air purifiers — and even those that sell at around ₹20,000.
However, this notion of brand familiarity changes when you shoot the price tag upward of ₹50,000. This is when you wish to look for a ‘premium’ appeal to a product — and even brands that amplify this appeal. Think of what Bang & Olufsen is to audio products, or Hasselblad is to cameras.
At ₹49,999, the Havells Meditate air purifier arrives in the market at a price tag that is higher than all but one of Dyson’s air purifiers — pretty much the benchmark in the appliances market for overpriced but definitely premium products.
Taking on Dyson
As the de facto brand for buyers looking at premium air purifiers that fit seamlessly into suave living rooms, Dyson has successfully established a standard that is there for all to see. The revolving bladeless fans, apart from offering 360-degree air distribution, offer an aesthetic that looks fluid and seamless.
Along with this, the Dyson purifiers have an LED display, an app that is easy to set-up, and a compact remote control as well.
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For a premium air purifier, features such as a good aesthetic, and a functional display and remote control are fairly basic asks. Somehow, the Havells Meditate falters in almost each of these points.
One issue too many
To begin with, the Havells Meditate attempts to add premium appeal by inserting faux veneer on its top panel, and the rounded base. Think of this as a similar attempt as what the affordable segment cars tried to do a decade ago, in a bid to coax customers into paying for higher variants. However, customers paying a premium for an appliance they can get at less than half the money would definitely want more than just a ‘wooden finish’, to find a product to be actually premium.
The drum-shaped body of the air purifier feels decidedly plasticky too, and no amount of faux wood does anything to alleviate these concerns.
The biggest pitfall, however, is the remote.
This large bowl-shaped device looks like an appliance in itself, and is actually a completely detached part of the purifier. It has a tiny display on the top, which displays the Air Quality Index (AQI) score, along with segment-wise views of PM2.5 (particulate matter), PM10 and so on. The display quality reminds you of the basic colour displays that you’d see at railway stations today — definitely not befitting of a ‘premium’ home appliance.
But, more than such visual issues, the remote controller of the Havells Meditate somewhat defeats the entire point of a remote controller. Instead of being a compact controller that can be easily placed on bedside tables to switch modes in the middle of the night, the controller takes up a hefty chunk of your table — and for no good reason, either.
It also keeps switching off every few minutes, and the capacitive switches offer no haptic feedback if you were to use it in the dark, either. At night, the only way for you to switch on this ‘remote’ is by tapping it randomly and hope that you find the capacitive power button at some point. To put it mildly, the remote controller is quixotic at its best.
There is also the Havells Sync mobile app, which is powered by an artificial intelligence (AI) chat-based assistant meant to make your life easy. Instead, what it does is ask you for the same details as that of any login page — but in what appears to be a slow and painstakingly tedious stretch of animations.
Even after you sign up, multiple attempts to set-up the purifier to sync with the app failed. There is a combination of button presses on both the purifier and the remote controller that you are required to do, before you can set the app up. Neither worked, and the app simply failed to move beyond the screen that asks you to select the product that you wish to register on it.
This, coupled with the inexpensive plastic feel of the purifier’s body, makes it a far cry from the kind of premium home appliance that you’d expect to buy for ₹50,000.
Take the filter casing on the purifier, for instance. On a Dyson purifier, you have a release button that ejects the panels. Even though the latter aren’t absolutely seamless, they work easily and smoothly enough when you’re needed to change the air filter. The Havells Meditate, however, has no visible markings to open the outer casing to access the filter — leaving you to comically tug at the vents.
At this point, you’re half-hoping to not damage the expensive new purifier — and half-praying that you probably missed a page in the user manual booklet.
Unfortunately, there is no page in the booklet explaining a hidden button that releases the filter casing, and the only way for you to do this is apply brute force on a plank of curved plastic casing that never exudes any confidence of durability.
Fitting it back feels the same, and the mechanism is, in fact, actually smoother in the budget Philips air purifiers that start at around ₹7,000.
If you still decide to buy it…
…you’d find yourself with an air purifier that does a comparable job of purifying the air — as any other purifier in the market. In peak pollution season, running the Havells Meditate in a closed bedroom, with the ceiling fan switched on at its lowest speed, saw the AQI come down from 580 to 45, in about three hours. Within an hour, the AQI neared 150, and went subsequently lower in the following hours.
The top-speed ‘turbo’ mode of the fan is expectedly noisy, but at lower speeds, the Havells Meditate doesn’t particularly disturb your sanctuary.
There is also a wireless charging pad built into the top panel of the purifier, which you can use to charge the remote controller, and even other devices. For instance, the panel is compatible with MagSafe — the wireless charging standard of Apple’s iPhones and AirPods. Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly an integral feature, and you can do with or without it, really.
There is also no way to completely turn off the LED indicators on the purifier itself. The ‘Night’ mode is only available through the remote controller, and took at least three days to discover. Even in this mode, the white power LED on the purifier remains on. If you are a light sleeper (or even a conscious one), this could be irksome.
The final verdict
To be sure, the Havells Meditate does a good-enough job of purifying the air quality in your room. The pitfall, though, is that so do purifiers that cost about a seventh of its lofty price tag.
At ₹49,999, the Meditate gives you no reasons to buy it over a comparable Dyson. The body of the purifier is extremely plasticky, the overall finish does nothing to exude premium-ness or luxury, and the remote controller is far from being a seamless, compact unit that helps control the device. Add to this an app that is still hardly functional, and the Havells Meditate is an air purifier that you’d rather give a miss.
- FIRST PUBLISHED24.11.2022 | 11:40 AM IST