What we're buying: Dyson's Supersonic hair dryer

It's an investment.

This month, Associate Editor Swapna Krishna is singing the praises of Dyson's advanced but pricey hair dryer. Compared with her old model, it's like night and day.

Swapna Krishna
Contributing Editor

I have hair problems. Specifically, I have thick, curly, long hair (layered, but to my waist at its longest) that is incredibly dry all the time. It's so bad, the only way to ensure that my hair is manageable is if I don't wash the conditioner out. If you know anything about curly hair, I have type 3a curls.

Frizz is a major issue for me, which is why blow-drying isn't much of an option, even with a fancy diffuser. The second a hair dryer even approaches my hair, it begins to frizz. Even just quickly running a dryer through it to take some of the moisture out on a chilly day is a recipe for disaster. My hair immediately becomes sharp and spiky, which means I end up throwing it into a bun so I won't have to deal with it jabbing me all day. It's not fun, which is why I let my hair air-dry and just try not to schedule anything important before 4 PM.

All of this is why I've been so curious about the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer. Everyone I've talked to who has used it speaks about it evangelically, even people with curly hair. Most of the reviews online seem pretty great. With a price in the US of $399, it seemed pretty ridiculous to pay so much for a device I can buy for $20 at the drugstore, but if it had the ability to literally change my life and allow me to leave the house before noon with dry hair, it might be worth it. So I took the plunge.

Let's start with aesthetics. It's a weird-looking device, for sure, but if you've seen one of the Dyson heaters or fans, the design will seem pretty familiar. The packaging is really nice, which may seem trivial, but it helps explain that price tag, at least a little. It comes with multiple tools: a smoothing nozzle, a concentrator and a diffuser. The body is a nice combination of gray and pink. All in all, it's an attractive package.

The dryer itself is lightweight, and the cord is very long. I was especially struck by the dryer's diminutive size. It's relatively compact and would easily fit in a small suitcase or an overnight bag for travel. It has small buttons for both heat level and airflow, as well as an on/off switch and a button to press for a burst of cool air. It all feels high-quality and minimalist.

The real value of the Dyson hair dryer for many people is the sheer amount of airflow it can generate, which was actually a concern for me. Given that I have extremely frizz-prone curly hair, I didn't need a vortex whipping my hair around at incredibly high speeds. What I needed was a low volume of air and consistent, even, high heat.

The Dyson gets very hot (I was warned to be careful with it near my scalp, something I quickly learned to pay attention to), but it has onboard tech to make sure it doesn't fry your hair. The supersonic air also makes it work incredibly fast, so you don't have to subject your hair to the heat for long. I started with my normal post-shower wet-hair routine (mainly DevaCurl products) and then applied a heat styling spray and creme for protection.

To dry my hair, I attached the diffuser (all the tools for this hair dryer are magnetic, which is incredibly convenient) and got to work. I gathered bunches of my hair in the diffuser and dried them at the highest heat setting but lowest air setting. Thanks to the supersonic air, my hair was about 75 percent dry in five minutes, with no more frizz than usual.

Let me say that again: My long, thick hair, which takes about eight hours to air-dry, was almost fully dry in five minutes, with no additional frizz, thanks to the Dyson hair dryer. It feels and looks exactly the same as it would have with air drying -- soft, smooth and shiny. I can't even compare the results to my $80 BaByliss Tourmaline hair dryer, because it's like night and day. The fact is, I couldn't use a hair dryer before. Now I can.

Yes, $400 is pricey for a hair dryer. No one, least of all me, will dispute that. But sometimes it's worth spending money one time on something that works well, improves your quality of life, and will last a long time. My only complaint at this point is that it isn't dual-voltage; for the price I paid, I would like to be able to take it everywhere I travel so I never have to wait around with sopping wet hair for hours and hours ever again.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.