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Dyson AM06 review: Dyson's desk fan is very cool but very costly

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This review originally stated that without the remote, you'll only be able to turn the AM06 on and off. We've since learned that you can actually adjust the airflow intensity with a long-press of the power button, though you'll still need the remote in order to use the sleep timer or to turn oscillation on and off.

The Good

With a quieter, more efficient design that sacrifices none of the original's unique appeal, the <b>Dyson AM06</b> is about as luxurious as desk fans get.

The Bad

At $299, it's as expensive as desk fans get, too --- by quite a bit. Also, with basically no controls on the unit aside from the on/off button, you'd better hope you don't lose the remote.

The Bottom Line

The AM06 is an impressive spectacle to behold -- but it's still just a desk fan. For such an expensive device, we wish that it doubled as a space heater, like Dyson's AM05, or featured a more noticeable bump in performance. It doesn't, and that makes it difficult to recommend.

After a particularly nasty winter, no one would blame you for looking ahead to warmer days, but when those days finally arrive, you're going to need a good way to cool back down. Fortunately, Dyson thinks it has just the thing with the AM06, its new update on the original, eyebrow-raising Air Multiplier.

Though the bladeless, futuristic design and the focus on a steadier airstream remain largely the same, the Dyson AM06 claims some pretty significant improvements over the original AM01. For starters, the AM06 is up to 75 percent quieter -- so quiet that the Noise Abatement Society awarded it with the Quiet Mark, an award for noise-conscious product design. On top of that, the AM06 claims to be the more efficient appliance, consuming 30 percent less energy than its predecessor. There's also a new remote control, as well as a stylish, vanishing LED display on the front of the unit.

Are you a fan of Dyson's new air multiplier? (pictures)

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However, one thing that hasn't changed about Dyson's desk fan is the price, and that's a disappointment for anyone who was hoping that the new generation would be more affordable than the last. At an MSRP of $299.99, the AM06 is just as expensive as the AM01 was when it first hit shelves nearly five years ago. Still, considering the AM06's improvements over the AM01, I appreciate that Dyson is at least keeping the price point steady -- even if that price point is rather astronomical.

So, can a desk fan -- even one as forward-thinking as the AM06 -- really be worth $300? For consumers who just want something simple to help keep them cool this summer, I think that it almost certainly isn't. Remember that this is still a desk fan we're talking about. It still just blows cool air around the room, the same as fans that sell for one-tenth the price -- or less. Those fans probably don't have remotes, they're probably noticeably louder than what Dyson is offering, and they probably don't look nearly as cool, but ask yourself: does that justify a 1,000 percent price increase? Unless you can honestly tell yourself that it does, this fan, as cool as it is, isn't for you.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design and features
Design is Dyson's calling card, and the AM06 has it in spades. No matter which of the three colors you go with, it's a bold, borderline audacious-looking device -- but there's more at work here than just attention-grabbing aesthetics. From the durable, ABS plastic construction to the silent, perfectly smooth oscillation to the touch-to-tilt design of the base, it's easy to see that Dyson's engineers put a great deal of thought into this desk fan, and got almost all of the little things right.

That doesn't mean that they got everything right. My biggest gripe is the fact that, unlike the AM01, there aren't any controls on the base other than an on/off button. In fact, Dyson didn't put any other controls anywhere on the fan. If you want to turn oscillation on and off or set the sleep timer, you're forced to use the remote, because those controls just don't exist anywhere else. You can change the intensity of the airflow with a long-press of the power button, but still, you won't have anything near the full, quick controls offered by the remote.

I get that Dyson wanted to make room on the base for the vanishing LED display, and I can appreciate that they opted for a clean, simple design, but moving the majority of the controls onto a remote is putting a lot of eggs into one basket. Lose it, and you'll be out of luck.

The remote nests on top of the fan, but it does so with the buttons facing down. Colin West McDonald/CNET

For convenience, the remote nestles neatly on top of the fan, secured in place thanks to a cleverly concealed magnet. This is a nice feature, and one that might help keep you keep track of the thing, though it didn't stop me from accidentally walking off with the remote in my pocket on more than one occasion during testing.

My only qualm about this is that the remote is designed to nest face down only. This means that you'll have to pick it up in order to use it -- you can't just leave the remote on top of the fan and use it as if it were a permanent part of the main body.

Aside from the remote and the LED display, the AM06's other new feature is a sleep timer. Using the remote, you'll be able to set it for anywhere from 15 minutes to 9 hours. When the time runs out, the fan will automatically shut off, a nice feature for those prone to leaving their appliances on for too long.

The Dyson AM06 is a very good desk fan -- but is it 10 times better than a conventional desk fan, which costs one-tenth the price? Colin West McDonald/CNET

Performance and usability

Dyson's emphasis on design carries over to performance, as well. Like the AM01 before it, the AM06 is designed to distribute air more smoothly and evenly than conventional desk fans, thanks to a process called "entrainment." A turbine-like device (Dyson calls it a "mixed flow impeller") spins in the base of the AM06, drawing in air and propelling it up and out through an aperture along the inner rim of the fan's loop. This "induced air" shoots forward over an airfoil-shaped ramp along the loop, which draws in "entrained air" from outside the loop and adds it to the flow -- hence "air multiplier."

All of this is really just to say that the Dyson is designed to shoot out a steady, uninterrupted stream of air, unlike bladed fans, which Dyson claims produce currents of air best characterized as choppy or turbulent. Dyson calls this turbulence "buffeting," and claims that their air multipliers eliminate it altogether.

Dyson

To be honest, I hadn't noticed any particular choppiness to the desk fan I use at home during the warmer months of the year. That fan, a faux-vintage, classic-looking, brushed metal model, cost me $35 at a department store about two years ago. I actually considered it a splurge at the time, since it was that or the same fan in ugly beige plastic for $25.

In my tests, I had a hard time discerning much difference between the way the two fans performed. Having never found buffeting bothersome before, I can't say that I noticed it here, either. The air from my fan felt smooth enough to me, not at all like the choppy air in the diagram Dyson provides to explain air multiplication's appeal.

We did our best to remove the subjectivity from the equation. Using a high speed camera, we captured footage of cloudy air passing through each of the fans. The bladed fan definitely sent the air out in more of a vortex pattern than the straight and steady flow of the AM06, but we couldn't see any discernible buffeting taking place, either. We even used microphones to capture the sound of each fan's airflow, then examined the soundwaves to look for telltale differences. The bladed fan was clearly the noisier of the two, but aside from that, we couldn't detect any difference here, either.

I'm not saying that Dyson's buffeting claims are bogus, but the effect might be more subtle than Dyson would have you believe. If you're especially sensitive to it, upgrading to a bladeless fan like the AM06 might make sense, but if you're anything like me, you won't notice much of a difference.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Buffeting talk aside, the feature-rich AM06 certainly has several usability advantages over lower-end competitors. My budget fan definitely didn't come with a remote or an LED display, and I can't set it to turn off automatically after three hours. If these kinds of usability-oriented features are important to you, then perhaps the AM06 merits your consideration because Dyson nails them, for the most part.

Another interesting point worth considering is that bladed fans tend to collect a great deal of dust on their inner workings, then blow it back out into the room as soon as you turn them on. What's worse, cleaning these fans out can be especially tricky since accessing the blades is typically difficult by design. With the AM06, you aren't going to see that same level of dust accumulation, and if you do, cleanup is as simple as wiping a rag around the inside of the loop.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that the AM06 is a quieter, fancier, more feature-rich desk fan, and all of these things matter when you're making a buying decision. However, it isn't necessarily a noticeably better performer, and at a price like $299 that sits so very far above the rest of the field, I think that it's fair to say that it ought to be.

At that price, I think it's also fair to look for new functionality, and with the AM06, you won't find any. Style-points aside, it's still just a desk fan. It still just blows cool air around your room. Sure, the design is audacious, but frankly, so is the price.

Looking at Dyson's line of air multipliers -- which includes new large-sized floor models, as well -- I'd be much happier with the AM05, a larger, taller unit that's capable of blowing both cold and hot air. Right now, Dyson's selling them new for $399, which seems more reasonable to me than the AM06.

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7.7

Dyson AM06

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Usability 9Performance 7