Mila
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Mila hands-on: Much smarter (and pricier) than your average air purifier

It offers a ton of customization options, plus it's great for data nerds too.
Nicole Lee
N. Lee|03.12.21

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Whether you have allergies or just want to breathe the freshest air possible, an air purifier could be a wise purchase. Air purifiers are able to remove fine particles like dust, pollen, pet dander and smoke. They’ve also been proven to capture airborne pathogens such as the virus that causes COVID-19 (at least according to this NASA study that states HEPA filters are efficient at capturing ultra-fine particles). That’s not to say you shouldn’t wash your hands or wear a mask when around strangers, but at the very least, an air purifier can provide some peace of mind.

Smart air purifiers have pretty much the same cleaning properties as regular air purifiers do, except with some extra tech thrown in. There’s often a companion app that lets you control it remotely or tell you when it’s time to replace your filter. Some let you schedule cleaning cycles at certain times of the day or simply give you more data about how clean or dirty your air is. A few are also compatible with smart assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.

Smart purifiers have been on the market for a few years now — examples include the Levoit Smart WiFi Air Purifier, Coway Airmega 400, Winix AM90, Dyson Pure Cool Air Purifier and the TruSens Smart Air Purifier. Some of these are more expensive than their not-smart counterparts — the original Molekule is priced at a whopping $800 — but not all of them are. The Levoit and Winix, for example, each retail for under $200. Until now, I’ve not been convinced smart air purifiers are all that much better than the non-smart variety.

The Mila, which debuted last year, could be different. It isn’t compatible with any smart assistant and it’s slightly pricey at $360, but it also promises to be much more customizable than most air purifiers on the market. After a few weeks testing it, I have to say I’m impressed with just how capable it is, so much so that I’m considering buying one of my own.

Mila
Engadget

When purchasing the device, you can choose one of seven pre-configured filters to use with it. The default is the Basic Breather, which is designed for larger rooms like your main living area. It includes an H12 HEPA filter optimized for maximum particle filtration. Another filter is called the Big Sneeze, which has an H13 HEPA filter designed for allergens like pollen and dust. However, neither has an activated carbon filter, so they won’t remove so-called volatile organic compounds (VOC for short) like those found in odious gases.

If you do want a carbon filter, consider the Rookie Parent, the Critter Cuddler, the Home Wrecker, the Mama-to-Be or the Overreactor (yes, these are real names), each of which are designed for specific concerns. The Overreactor, for example, features an upgraded H14 HEPA filter for ultrafine particle filtration and a more robust carbon filter targeted for formaldehyde. The tradeoff with stronger filters like these is that they’re less efficient at clearing out larger spaces, and are therefore better suited for smaller areas like bedrooms or studio apartments.

I tried both the Basic Breather and the Critter Cuddler, which features an H13 HEPA filter optimized for pet dander; a carbon filter made for ammonia removal (which I definitely appreciated for reducing the stank of our litter box); and a washable sock designed to capture fur and larger particulates. I like the Critter Cuddler based just on the odor removal but if it weren’t for our cat, I would likely stick to the Basic Breather, as that worked well enough the most part.

Setting up the Mila is fairly easy; all you have to do is plug it in and it’ll immediately go into calibration mode, where it automatically assesses the size of the room and how filthy the air is. A display on the top of the Mila shows the indoor air quality index (AQI) as well as the outdoor rating, which it culls from Purple Air sensors in your neighborhood. There are also physical touch controls, but it’s a lot easier to use the companion app instead.

Mila
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From there, you can choose to use the Mila in either manual or auto mode; manual is where you’d set the target AQI and fan speed yourself, while auto essentially hands control over to Mila to adjust the settings automatically based on your surroundings. Telling Mila which room you’re using it in (e.g., the living room, kitchen or bedroom), whether you’re in an urban or suburban setting, how large your house is, and whether it’s an old or new construction gives Mila more information on how to adapt to your environment.

You can customize the Mila even further. For example, you can activate “Bubble Boy Mode,” which prompts Mila to go full blast regardless of noise level to get rid of as many particles as possible. Then there’s “Housekeeping Service,” which does essentially the same thing, but only when no one is in the room. The opposite of that is “Quiet Mode,” which reduces the fan speed when it detects your presence.

There are also bedroom-specific options, including Sleep Mode (lights off, reduced fan speeds and controlled fan fluctuations) and Turndown Service (it automatically turns on an hour before bedtime to “deep clean” the room and reduce night-time allergies). Additionally, there’s a White Noise Mode that adjusts the rhythm of the oscillating fans to mimic soothing sounds (Chasing Waterfalls, for example, is equivalent to 2.7 air changes an hour, whereas Meditative State equates to 1.6 air changes an hour). As someone who sometimes turns on my fan just to use it as a white noise machine, I really love this mode.

Mila
Engadget

Thanks to Mila's various sensors, it also gives you tons of information about the air in your home. It can track particulates, humidity, temperature, VOCs, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. If it detects carbon monoxide in the air, it’ll beep to alert you. If the humidity is too high, it warns you of possible mold growth. As someone who lives in a 104-year-old home near wildfire country, I’ll admit that having all of these sensors feels reassuring.

Of course, Mila isn’t perfect either. Measuring 12 inches wide by 15.5 inches tall, it has a relatively large footprint, especially in a small room. It actually doesn’t look too bad design-wise, but I do wish there were a smaller version better suited for a bedside table. Also, on top of the pricey machine, the filters themselves cost at least $59 each. Unfortunately, it seems that the filters are proprietary, so you’ll likely want to sign up for the subscription service that sends you a new one every six months.

Aside from those issues, the Mila offers great value above and beyond a normal air purifier. Yes, it costs around $100 more than my existing (and not very smart) Coway AP-1512HH Mighty (which I do love by the way), but it also offers a lot more features. If all you want is a simple air purifier, the Mila might be too much for you. But if you want one that’s highly customizable, offers lots of data about your air quality and can be upgraded over time, the Mila is worth a look.

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