Last edit: 10/02/15

Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro Air Purifier Review

The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries MHI-6800 air cleaner has been around for many years. The back-to-the-future styling invokes the days of tail-fins on automobiles.

Over the years, the Japanese-designed MHI-6800 purifier has been sold under many brand names, but the most successful is Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro.

A newer Mitsubishi design, the BioFresh, found success, rebranded as the now superseded Rabbit Air 421a/582a.

Production of the Intelli-Pro has long since been offshored to a Chinese builder and exporter, Neo-Tec.

Numerous importers have rebranded the XJ-3800, some even pretend to be the manufacturer of a brand-new product.

Astute web surfers might want to compare Surround Air's version of the XJ-3800 to;

Heaven Fresh Naturopure HF-380,
AliveAir,
Real Spirit Newport 9000,
Advanced Pure Air Air Shield,
Maier bioHepa Hybird,
Neotec XJ-3800,
Gemni BioHEPA,
AirPodCleaner Airpod AS

These vendors all use some flavor of "The More Air Purification Technologies The Better" marketing.

I disagree with their fundamental premise. intellipro air purifier

More technologies add costs and maintenance, hurrying an air cleaner's journey to the dumpster, without necessarily improving the purifier's cost/performance ratio.

But despite my prejudice against tech-stacking, the majority of user reviews of Surround Air XJ-3800 are very favorable.

The Surround Air model holds the number eleven sales rank for air purifiers at Amazon.com.

Hey, Intelli-Pro still looks Star-Wars era cool, and has all the electronic-automation bells and whistles.

Every air-cleaning technology that could possibly be jammed into one air cleaner is accounted for.

XJ-3800 is "loaded."

I have to admit XJ-3800 is an intriguing air cleaner.

The Mitsubishi chassis has a deep filter bay, allowing multiple technology combinations, and the Chinese manufacturer can print and apply logo labels on the control panel to match various U.S./Euro brand names.

Advertising projects a powerful mystique, a detailed look at the XJ-3800 may demystify the image.

CADR

Four fan speeds pull air through the filter stack at a maximum rate of 106 cubic feet per minute.

While there has been no recent CADR testing, we can assume about 100 Dust CADR for the XJ-3800.

So, hiding behind the broad plastic front and multiple technologies hype is a low powered air cleaner.

The Chinese manufacturer recommends Intelli-Pro for a huge 745 square foot maximum cleaning area.

This room size might be acceptable in smog-choked Beijing, but in the USA we need a minimum of six air changes an hour (ACH).

Surround Air, (in Utah, not China), advertises the XJ-3800 for rooms up to 600 square feet.

With 106 cfm airflow, in rooms with eight foot ceilings, the six ACH room size is 132 square feet, an average bedroom.

This assumes users are willing to run the XJ-3800 on manually-selected high speed for a considerable fraction of the day.

Those choosing to rely on automated air cleaning 24/7 should choose the Surround Air Intelli-Pro for smaller rooms.

Multi-Tech Filter Train

Recently I have reviewed a couple very effective air cleaners that have only one filter.

Blueair 203 comes to mind.

The deep Intelli-Pro air purifier chassis was designed to be stacked with a series of filter technologies.

By counting the sensors and filter reminders as cleaning technologies, some imaginative vendors have found ways to advertise "nine" stages of filtering.

The "nine stage" marketing adds more than $100 to the price.

Yet buyers who believe the hype are paying over $325, keeping the vendor (not Surround Air) in business.

Surround Air correctly advertises Intelli-pro as featuring six air cleaning technologies.

Stage 1 is a permanent washable pre filter, which traps large particles, insect and leaf fragments, and human/pet hair.

Stage 2 is an electrostatic precipitator which uses charged plates to trap particles. Every electrostatic air cleaner has issues with the technology, overwhelmingly popular just a few years ago.

Sharper Image Ionic Breeze, Oreck XL, and Friedrich C90, cited in Surround Air's comparison tests, were all pure electrostatic.

Once top sellers, they were driven from the market by Consumer Reports, citing concerns about ozone emissions and poor performance.

XJ-3800's electronic grid is a mini-version of this technology.

It uses very thin wires to charge the incoming particles ahead of the small collector grid.

Like all electrostatics, these wires and grids must be cleaned frequently to keep cleaning air effectively.

The genius of the Intelli-pro is putting a HEPA behind the electric grid.

Because dirty electrostatics let particles bypass, having the HEPA as backup allows longer cleaning intervals for the electrostatic components.

But stacking doesn't absolve the electrostatic of its main sins, ozone-prone sparking and heavy cleaning chores.

Stage 3 is a thin activated carbon filter.

Combined with the odor-reducing capacity of the photocat (below), the carbon is just enough to make the Surround Air XJ-3800 good for light odor situations.

User reviews report poor results with smoking or secondhand smoke infiltration.

High odor levels will churn these thin carbon layers, maybe every 60-90 days.

Stage 4 is a true-HEPA filter.

Surround Air's website avoids claiming true-HEPA efficiency, offering instead an abstract discussion of HEPA capabilities.

The builder's specs, translated from Chinese, talk about a "Revolve Rate" of 80% at 0.3 microns and 99.97% at 1 micron.

This leaves me wondering if XJ-3800 is really a true-HEPA (99.97% at .3 microns) air cleaner.

The Amazon seller posts "this IS a HEPA filter" on Amazon's questions/answers page.

At least Surround Air sells carbon and HEPA filters as a set for a reasonable $36.

HEPA filter life is projected at 1 to 2 years.

Step 5 is a photocatalytic oxidation grid.

The photocatalytic Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) substrate, when excited by energy from the UV lamp, creates super-oxide and hydroxyl radical oxidizers on the catalyst's surface.

These are strong oxidizers, capable of destroying gas-phase pollutants, like odors and chemical vapors.

The XJ-3800's photocat will also burn micro-organisms that pass too close to the TIO2-coated surface.

While very high-tech and mysterious sounding, this is not an expensive technology to add - Titanium Dioxide is a very common product (used to whiten toothpaste) - a thin coating over an aluminum panel can be cheaply mass-produced.

Of course, when the UV bulb stops working, as it will, this filter reverts to a piece of metal.

The good news is that the photocatlytic grid should last indefinitely unless damaged in handling.

The catalyst itself is never used up.

This has not prevented some vendors (again, NOT Surround Air) from selling photocat replacement grids as if they are expended by use.

Stage 6 is a germicidal UV lamp which powers the photocatalytic process and reduces microorganisms.

But like the rest of the multi-tech XJ-3800, this is a mini-lamp, with just six Watts of power.

The manufacturer's specifications state UV dosage as 20,000 Microwatts per second-centimeter squared.

Premium UV air cleaners use 10 to 20 Watts, and produce 40K Mw/sec-cm2.

XJ-3800's projected UV lamp life is only 3000 hours - very short.

Most air purifier UV installations last 9,000 hours.

This means the average Intelli-pro UV lamp will last 125 days, many will blow before that.

A competing low-priced air cleaner, the $175 Hoover WH10600 TIO2, has a UV/photocat setup with eight Watts and 9,000 hour lamp life.

One selling point for Surround Air, is that they sell all replacement parts for the XJ-3800, and the purifier itself, at fair prices.

The replacement UV bulb is $15.

A UV lamp should be replaced once per year, even if it still lights up.

Some user reviews have mentioned supply backlogs on this bulb at the Chinese manufacturer.

The XJ-3800 uses a 212.1 by 16 mm G5 two prong low pressure mercury vapor 254 nanometer UV bulb.

Again, that's high-tech-talk for "very common lightbulb."

These can be purchased from many light bulb websites.

Step 7 is negative ionization.

Surround Air makes no claims as to the ionizers power, offering instead general descriptions of the benefits of negative ionization.

I strongly agree with Surround Air's positive views on neg-ions, which have unfairly been included in the bad vibes over ozone and "ionizers."

But how strong is this ionizer?

What type brushes are used?

Some vendors advertise their versions of the XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro as having negative Ion densities to 60,000,000/second-cm3.

Others say 4,000,000, and the builder's specs call for a more realistic 2 million ions/sec-cm3, measured at 10cm distance.

In contrast, a popular $120 stand-alone table top negative ionizer claims to output 450 trillion ions/sec-cubic cm, measured at 2.5 cm distance.

Intelli-Pro Automation

Surround Air Intelli-Pro is very intelligent.

XJ-3800 is a complete automated air purifier with every electronic feature except a remote control.

In Auto Mode, two, NOT three, air quality sensors accelerate the fan speed when pollutant levels (dust or odor) get higher than their current baseline setting.

XJ-3800 is also claimed to detect "allergens," like pollen, pet dander, ragweed, and mold spores.

I am quite sure this is marketing translation from Chinese, there is no such thing as an inexpensive "allergen sensor" that can distinguish life forms from dust.

I suspect that the XJ-3800's allergen sensor is just a circuit on the dust chip that detects a specific easily measurable particle size, probably 2-3 microns, and signals "allergen" when this particle size exceeds a given percentage of total particulate load.

Mold spores and most pollens, very common allergy triggers, fall into this size range.

More high tech mystery, far out stuff.

The 1950's space-ship control panel has light-emitting-diodes (LEDs) that show air quality, with 4-level indicators, one each for odor, dust, and allergens. xj-3800 panel

XJ-3800 electronics also include error diagnostics and filter/bulb replacement and cleaning interval timers.

A timer allows auto shut-off after periods of one, two, or eight hours.

User reviews report that XJ-3800 really can sense odors. Many odors trip the sensor - air fresheners, cleansers, detergent smells from kitchen and bath, and cooking.

But other reviewers say more subtle odors like lightly decaying trash may not do the trick.

It is important to follow the instructions for sensor sensitivity setting after the room is cleaned thoroughly - at least eight hours on high speed.

To do this, unplug the XJ-3800, then replug in the cleaned room. This will reset the baseline to "clean." Many users do not read the instructions, then gripe about how their intelligent air cleaner doesn't seem to work.

As a result of my eight years reviewing air purifiers, combined with user feedback in my eMail column, I have lost my former confidence in sensor-modulated automatic air cleaning.

For best air quality, run the XJ-3800 on manually selected higher speeds whenever possible.

Maintenance: Labor and Cost

With Surround Air's fair replacement parts prices, maintenance costs are not a deal killer for the Intelli-Pro 3800.

But buyers should expect the multiple technologies to increase maintenance time and labor.

XJ-3800 is not a set-it-and-forget-it air purifier.

"More technologies are better" might possibly be true of a brand-new Intelli-Pro, but when maintenance chores start, in just a few weeks, the mysterious technologies are decidedly less romantic.

Some users find the required dis-assembly and cleaning of layered technologies too confusing and time consuming.

Sensors must be removed and cleaned to work properly.

Lots of users, and even assemblers at the factory, have installed components backwards.

There are five layers of filters and the UV bulb to get right.

Lots of users have reassembled an Intelli-Pro, only to find it no longer cleans air like it did when new.

HEPA filters are designed for one-way airflow, installed backwards they will not work.

XJ-3800's electrostatically-charged dust collection grid and its charging wires are always problematic, user reviews say they are a real pain to disassemble and clean.

The wires are too fine and break easily during dis-assembly and cleaning.

The Intelli-pro will work with one or two wires missing, but damaged wires should be removed, not left loose inside the XJ-3800's interior.

Several vendors, but not Surround Air, offer replacement wires in three-packs for their XJ-3800s.

Thin Chinese-made UV bulbs are fragile, many user reviews mention breaking them with improper removal technique (never touch the glass on any UV bulb).

UV bulbs are held by a release spring, just pulling won't work.

Users, grasping the metal (do NOT touch the glass) at one end, must carefully twist until the two prongs align, then depress the retaining spring and walk out the lamp.

DO NOT BREAK, FINGERPRINT the glass, or damage these mercury-vapor lamps!

XJ-3800 Emissions

Numerous user reviews mention odors during initial operation, generally the smell of new plastic.

This lasts as little as one day, but may last a full week.

Noise emissions are acceptable, the two lower speeds are reported very quiet.

Sound levels in decibels(dB)are:
Quiet 20 dB,
Low 35 dB,
Medium 45 dB,
High 52 dB.

Like most air purifiers, XJ-3800 is noisy on high. But the limited power means it should run on high most of the time to do any good.

Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro is CARB (California Air Resources Board) Certified to emit less than 50 parts per billion ozone.

Surround Air cites XJ-3800 ozone as "Less than 11 parts per billion at 2 inches away."

While not really zero ozone, this level, combined with the photocat oxidizers, is where most of the Intelli-Pro's odor removal comes from. intellipro rear

I do not recommend XJ-3800 for the chemically sensitive or asthmatic.

Then there is the always-on-way-too-bright-for-bedrooms blue light, which tells you that the UV lamp is working.

Despite being universally despised by buyers, these lights are very common, even on premium air cleaners.

A short piece of black plastic electrical tape is many user's solution.

Photos of XJ-3800 can be deceiving.

Viewed from the stylish front, Intelli-Pro appears to be slim like the newest LCD TV.

Few photos show the rear.

XJ-3800 measures 14 by 10 by 24 inches, and weighs a modest 15 pounds.

A molded-in handle on the top rear makes Intelli-Pros easy to move from room to room.

All those electrical goodies up front burn 80 Watts on high speed, far from Energy Star performance.

Surround Air Warranty

In business since 1998, Surround Air is a division of Indoor Purification Systems, Inc.;

Indoor Purification Systems
Surround Air Division
334 North Marshall Way, Suite C
Layton, UT 84041

Some user reviews say they could find no customer service number to call, but contact numbers are posted prominently on the Surround Air site;
888.812.1516
801.547.1162.

Surround Air Intelli-Pros are covered by a three-year warranty.

There is no requirement to purchase anything else (filters...) to remain in warranty, but Surround Air requires the air cleaner to be returned in the original box, accompanied by proof-of-purchase, with as much of the original packaging as possible.

Many returned XJ-3800s are sold refurbished.

Most user reviews mentioning Surround Air Customer Service are positive.

Users with issues must call for a return authorization number and pay shipping one way.

The Chinese manufacturer is Shanghai Neo.tec Electron Co., Ltd. in Shanghai.

As with any mainland China product, there are numerous quality issues.

Most frequently mentioned is breaking of the light plastic tabs which secure the front cover.

The usual out of round fans squeaking, and UV bulbs going out early, also haunt Intelli-Pro.

Conclusions

As with other Asian export bargains, most buyers report satisfaction, while a few experience frustration.

Buyers should be prepared to take apart and carefully maintain Intelli-Pros.

The Intelli-Pro XJ-3800 air cleaner has been around for years, there is no justification for any price premium.

Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro Air Purifier is low powered, but not terribly overpriced in the low $200s.

Do NOT pay $300 for any variant of XJ-3800, no matter how many "technologies" you are promised!

I would prefer to purchase the Surround Air version of the XJ-3800, as opposed to other brands.

Surround Air is the largest volume seller, has acceptable customer service, and prices the purifier and its inevitable after-sale purchases fairly.

Some of the other importers are less reputable.

It is just too easy to buy a small shipping container filled with the builder's minimum order of Intelli-Pros, set up a website, throw a video on U-Tube, and go into business.

Look for the

Surround Air XJ-3800 Intelli-Pro Air Purifier at Amazon.com.



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