Dyson Airblade Tap: Hands-on with the high-tech hand dryer

/ Updated: February 5, 2013 3:11 PM PST
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British tech firm Dyson is best known for its high-end vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans, and Airblade hand dryers , that last having become a staple of airport, restaurant, and hotel bathrooms. That's not enough for Sir James Dyson and pals, however, who have introduced a brand-new invention: a bathroom tap that dries your hands.

At first glance, the Airblade Tap looks like a regular faucet that's collided with a set of handlebars. A central stainless-steel cylinder dispenses water when you wave your hands under it, then you move your paws under the two side bars, which blast the water off with a torrent of air.

Hidden deep within the Airblade Tap's metallic frame is the beating heart of the system, Dyson's new V4 engine. Roughly the size of your fist, this 1,600-watt motor spins up to 90,000rpm in under 0.7 second, sucking air through its vents and funneling it out through the two hand-drying prongs.

Hands-on...or should that be under?
The Airblade Tap does a good job of giving your hands a rinse and -- true to Dyson's claims -- my hands were dry enough for a nonembarrassing handshake in about 12 seconds.

Marc Ganley/CNET

Not having to traipse over to a separate hand-dryer will save you from splashing water all over the floor, but the powerful air vents seemed to blow some moisture off my hands and onto the area surrounding the sink. Later during my hands-on time I spied a stealthy Dyson representative popping over to give the Tap a surreptitious cleaning between testing sessions.

The initial water flow is simple to trigger -- I only had to wave my hands around to get the cleaning process started. That lasts for a few seconds, and then you move your hands under the drying elements and wait for the air to start blasting. You can feel how slim the submillimeter gaps within the cylinders are, because the blast of air is very precise, giving the sensation that the water is being scraped off, rather than evaporated with heat.

Don't get your wallet out just yet...
The motor inside the system incorporates a HEPA filter, which Dyson boasts removes 99.9 percent of bacteria, and sucks up an impressive 30 liters of air per second. That raw air-shifting power does make something of a racket, though, and while the Airblade Tap is no noisier than most automatic driers, it would certainly wake up anyone sleeping in a nearby room.

That's just one reason why this really isn't the kind of bathroom gadget that would suit an ordinary household -- it's more for airports and movie theaters. Indeed, while Dyson told me that anyone who's willing to pay could have the Airblade Tap fitted in a bathroom at home, you might prefer to stick with something more traditional.

Marc Ganley/CNET

For one thing, you can't adjust the temperature of the water flow. Instead, temperature is set by the person who installs the system, making it impossible to switch from hot to cold water, or opt for a comfortable middle ground between the two. If you're fond of grabbing a glass of icy water from the bathroom in the middle of the night, then waking yourself up in the morning with a splash of the hot stuff, you're out of luck.

The Airblade Tap is also prohibitively expensive: a penny under $2,000, or (in the U.K.) a penny under 1,000 pounds. That's an astonishing amount to splash out on a tap that doesn't let you alter temperature, so I'd recommend waiting until your nearest swanky restaurant or cocktail bar pays to have these fancy faucets installed. Then make a reservation and head straight for the restrooms.

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