I’m a big fan of … a big fan

Dyson Air Multiplier

As I sit here sweltering in 27-degree heat, I find myself asking the question: how much would you pay for a desk fan? £20? 30, maybe? So why am I wrestling with the impulse to lay out two hundred pounds on one?

There’s very little rational or logical about my thinking here, I’ll be the first to admit. A quick flick through the Argos catalogue tells me that £30 is a top-end price for your common-or-garden desk fan. You know the sort of thing: a seven to ten-inch diameter blade sitting behind a grille of some description, sounds a bit like a helicopter taking off, doesn’t take too kindly to piles of paper anywhere within its blast radius.

Or, as Heather has – rightly – reminded me on more than one occasion over the past 24 hours, for £200 I could purchase a low-end portable air conditioning unit (and then spend the next three months bitching about the exhaust hose, and its bulk, and …)

But my point is this. A bog-standard fan is what it is, and so is an air conditioner on wheels – but neither is the wonder that is a Dyson Air Multiplier.

You may remember there was quite a bit of press coverage of this when it was first announced to the world last autumn. It is to the world of fans what the original Dysons were to the universe of vacuum cleaners. But instead of it being a bagless vacuum cleaner, the Air Multiplier is a bladeless fan.

The Air Multiplier works by using a turbine in its base to pull in air, which is then ejected at up to 55mph through a tiny slit around the edge of the ring. There’s some fancy physics to explain all that in more technical terms – or alternatively there’s this explanatory video on YouTube.

Is it any better or more quiet than a traditional whirry fan? That much still seems unclear, as online reviewers seem quite polarised. Certainly, most seem to struggle to justify the stratospheric price tag (although there are clear safety benefits from having a fan with no accessible high-speed moving parts that, say, an adventurous toddler could explore with his fingers).

But then I seem to recall people said similar things about the iPod – or, more topically, the iPad – when it first launched. Overpriced. Meets a need that doesn’t really exist. A triumph of aesthetics over functionality.

And yet the Air Multiplier is conceptually more revolutionary than either the Pod or the Pad. It is often said that, in a world as fast-moving as ours now is, that true innovation is virtually impossible, and that anything even remotely landscape-changing is rapidly engulfed by waves of copycat imitators taking the original design and producing improved versions at a lower cost. But Dyson’s bladeless fan is a genuinely different take on a machine – the electric fan – of which the basic design has remained essentially unchanged for over 100 years.

Yes, it is eye-wateringly expensive. But the reason I am considering buying one is for the same reason I bought my iPod, iPhone and iPad – you are buying into something which is category-defining and utterly brilliant. You’re not just buying something functional; you’re buying something beautiful. Is that worth £200 of – as Theo Paphitis would say on Dragons’ Den – my children’s inheritance? Maybe.

To buy or not to buy: that is the question. I am genuinely undecided at this point. But regardless of what decision I reach, I’m genuinely a big fan of James Dyson‘s bladeless wonder.