Impressions: What it's like using Dyson's Zone, the bizarre wearable air purifier

Newshub's Daniel Rutledge wearing the Dyson Zone in Singapore.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Recently I tried out Dyson's latest and weirdest device to date: the Zone, a wearable air purifier you stick on your head so it can clean the air you breathe while you're on the go.

It's also a set of wireless noise-cancelling headphones, making it both the British tech company's first audio device and its first wearable.

Despite how weird this thing looks and how mocked it has been online already, I've been excited to try it out since I first heard about it - largely because of how weird it looks. 

It's perhaps the strangest device I've ever seen produced by a major tech company and it's going to cost at least $1500 when it's available here in New Zealand.

I can assure you that the Zone is not a joke, that it is real and it is coming - but it's not a device I can easily recommend, for reasons I'll detail below.

I tried it out recently on a trip to Singapore and this is what I thought. 

Is the Dyson Zone real? Yes and this is what it's like.
Photo credit: Newshub.

What using the Dyson Zone actually feels like

When this thing was on my head and the purifier was turned on, it was really quite pleasant having clean, cool air flowing gently at my nose and mouth.

It definitely was not amazing, but it did feel pleasant.

I could still smell stronger smells around me but there was a reassurance with the purifier running, especially given how much trust I have in Dyson's air purification ability after using their units in rooms in my house for years.

Using the Zone for a few hours, the novelty never escaped me. It looks futuristic in photos I'd seen online and that feeling remains with the unit on.

In Singapore at least, I didn't get many weird looks while wearing this and certainly didn't have anyone make a comment. I'm curious if you'd get more unwanted attention in New Zealand.

Newshub exclusive: first New Zealand outlet to try out the Dyson Zone.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The headphones are heavier than what I normally use, but never felt uncomfortable. They have a really great, premium feel to them, too. 

The only thing that was awkward was getting the visor in the right position in front of my face meant moving the headphones, which could mean the overhead band wasn't in the most comfortable position - but I couldn't adjust that or else the visor wouldn't be quite right.

Is the Dyson Zone actually good?

This isn't a full review as I only used the device for a few hours and that was in Singapore, not Aotearoa, but based on my time with it I will say this: the Dyson Zone is a very niche product.

I don't expect this to catch on in the way the company's vacuums, traditional air purifiers and haircare products have.

That might seem obvious due to how out-there it looks, but actually using it changed how I think about what the product is and made me realise it's for an even smaller group of people than I had initially thought.

Basically, the air purifier will only be used for a few relatively brief periods per day. It's not the sort of thing where you could have that running all day, which I guess I'd assumed.

If you crank the airflow on full and have active noise cancellation on with the headphones, you'll drain that battery in less than a couple of hours.

What the Dyson Zone app looks like.
Screenshots from the companion app. Photo credit: Newshub.

The air purification seems good and as stated above, Dyson has proven its expertise in this over the years. But the Zone is not sealed, so an N95 mask should give you better filtration - plus protection from COVID-19 etc which the Zone doesn't - and you could wear a cheaper, better pair of headphones with that facemask if you wanted.

That would be what most Kiwis would go for.

But I wouldn't write off the Zone. In recent years I've become very conscious of air quality - not so much because of COVID-19, but because I have a family member who suffers respiratory problems around a dust mite allergy and asthma. There's also more and more research being done into air quality and it can make for very worrying stuff.

The Zone is able to constantly measure air quality and can be set to auto mode, so it'll just kick in when needed. That intelligence it has is something an N95 mask obviously doesn't.

That intelligence is wonderfully represented in the app, too. You can look at a constant live reading of air quality and noise levels, or look back at what they have been over whatever period you like.

Even taking the subway in Singapore and hanging out near downtown traffic, the air quality never registered as bad. I'm not sure what it would be like in urban New Zealand, but there's definitely other places in the world where it would be a lot worse. I would quite like to use a Zone on a long-haul flight - it's always a bit icky thinking of the air you're breathing in alongside hundreds of people in those tubes in the sky.

The app is really well designed and fun to use. The whole unit is marvelously designed and the physical controls are fantastic, especially this little joystick type thing for audio control that has better functionality than most wireless headphones.

The Dyson Zone will start at NZ$1499 in New Zealand and go on sale in 2023.
Photo credit: Newshub.

As for the audio? It's good, but not amazing. The audio quality and noise-cancelling, to my ears, were both about as good or almost as good as what you get from recent Sony and Bose units.

When you turn the purifier on, as the fans are in the earcups, a little whirring sound starts up which can interfere with your audio unless you have the volume right up.

As Dyson's first set of headphones, they're a solid effort, but certainly not mind-blowing. Of course, if you're seriously interested in buying one of these you're looking at handing over a large sum of money for the air purification more than the headphones.

In New Zealand, the Dyson Zone will start at NZ$1499 and be released "in the coming months", the company told me, although the exact date hasn't been announced.

There's no getting around that price being really quite high. To put it into perspective, when Sony and Bose release new editions of their acclaimed noise-cancelling wireless headphones, they cost around NZ$500. When Apple got into the noise-cancelling wireless over-ear headphones game with the Airpods Max, they raised eyebrows for launching at NZ$1000.

But no other headphones have an air purifier built into them.

The cheapest you'll get a Dyson air purifier at the moment is around $650 from The Warehouse, according to PriceSpy. But that's an old-fashioned one that sits in a room all the time, not on your head.

The Dyson Zone truly is a unique device that's hard to compare to anything else. I enjoyed using one to see what it was like and think for a few people it will be a delight, but there aren't many people I would recommend it to.

Newshub travelled to Singapore courtesy of Dyson for this article.