Pros: Clear, clean water. Removes chemicals, tastes, and odors. Long filter life, low cost. Bypass mechanism.
Cons: Does not remove bacteria/viruses, reduces vertical clearance in shallow sinks.
The PUR Ultimate Water Faucet Filter is a reasonably-priced faucet-mount filtration system. It consists of a cartridge containing activated carbon that absorbs offending chemicals (specific chemicals are listed on the box) from one's tap water. It does not offer microbiological filtration. One should never use this filter on water of unknown microbiological purity.
Newer "3 Stage" cartridges contain a particulate filter, the carbon block, and "taste enhancing minerals" through which the water flows. I don't notice any significantly enhanced taste, but maybe that's just me.
Use of a water filter of this type provides many advantages, some of which may be more noticeable depending on the quality of one's tap water. Such benefits are as follows:
* Easy installation. PUR provides in-box adapters for many faucets, and you can order others if the included ones don't fit. Installation takes only a few minutes and does not require the use of tools or feats of strength.
* Great tasting water. I consume a fairly large amount of water in any given day, and the water in my area is chlorinated quite a bit, giving it a distinctive taste. Through the use of this filter, I've been able to achieve water free of offending tastes. My tropical fish also seem to like it, though they don't exactly hold up little signs saying "Hey, that water's great! Keep it coming!" If they did, I would be highly alarmed.
* Removal of many harmful chemicals. Filters containing activated carbon absorb numerous chemicals that may present health issues (i.e. lead) and bad tastes/odors (i.e. chlorine). The list of chemicals the filter is rated for is printed on the side of the box.
* Bypass feature. By tilting the filter unit parallel to the ground, one can bypass the filter, and unfiltered tap water flows out of the normal faucet. This is useful for applications not requiring filtered water, such as watering plants, washing dishes, etc.
* Indicator shows remaining filter life. PUR claims the filter is good for 100 gallons of water, depending on water quality (obviously, really dirty water will clog the filter faster). A small, easy-to-read indicator is included in the filter unit body. When a new filter is installed, a black bar is displayed. As you use the unit, the black moves off to the right of the indicator and is replaced with white. A red indicator appears when it is time to replace the filter. Additionally, the filter unit will stop allowing water to flow once the filter's life is up. The indicator does not measure the current status of the filter itself, but rather simply counts the number of gallons that have gone through the filter -- it's very possible for the cartridge to become clogged and useless long before the meter registers it needs to be changed.
In areas with hard water, such as where I live, it seems as though the dissolved calcium and lime in the water doesn't present a problem when dissolved, but when the water stands in the filter for some time, the calcium and lime precipitate out and rapidly clog the filter up, greatly reducing flow rate. I can't really say this is a flaw with the filter, but those of you, dear readers, who live in areas with hard water should be aware of this.
* Low cost. I purchased this unit at Walgreens for $39.99, which was slightly less expensive than the comparable Brita filter, though more expensive than the Culligan product. Replacement filters are $19.99 in-store, though new, sealed replacement cartridges can be found in great number on eBay for significantly less. The ongoing cost of the filter and cartridges are dramatically less than bottled water, and offers similar quality. (If you ever look at a bottle of Aquafina water, note what it says about the source...not "mountain spring water", but "purified drinking water". Essentially, they take tap water, run it through a large-scale reverse osmosis filter, bottle it, and sell it at a tremendous markup. Why pay more for water that you can filter water yourself?)
* Small size. This filter is approximately the size of a soda can, and does not get in the way of normal sink activities. It also requires no external power source like some undersink units.
* Attractive appearance. The filter is offered in several options. The one I purchased is a neutral white, which goes well with most kitchens and bathrooms. Other options include "chrome", which is quite silvery and reflective, but does not match well with stainless steel. It blends a bit better with chrome-plated brass fixtures, but still looks a bit awkward. I prefer the white color over the chromed, but that's just me.
* Different configurations. The particular filter I purchased has a rotating body (when in the vertical position the unit filters water, when rotated back to the horizontal position water is not filtered) which works well in many sinks. PUR also offers a horizontal-only model where a rotating valve controls if water is filtered or not. I found the horizontal-only model does not work well when held at a slight incline (many faucets are not precisely level, but are inclined to direct the flow of water a few degrees toward the user), as some water dribbles down the body of the filter rather than all of it coming into the cup that one is filling. I recommend the version that rotates between horizontal and vertical over the horizontal-only one.
Every product has advantages and disadvantages. Below are the disadvantages I encountered with my PUR filter.
* Reduces vertical clearance in sinks. My bathroom sink is not a particularly deep sink, and I now need to tilt my Nalgene 32 oz water bottle in order to fill it properly. Those with deep sinks, or who use the unit in their kitchen will have no such problem.
* Low flow rate. In order to achieve maximum filtration of the water, more "contact time" with the carbon media is required. Unfortunately, this works out to be a much lower flow rate than your unfiltered faucet. Filling my aforementioned 32 oz bottle takes nearly 40 seconds. Still, this is faster than drip-filtration pitchers.
* Does not "purify" water. This filter only removes the listed chemicals and certain biological agents (cysts and protozoa) from the water stream. It does not remove bacteria or viruses, so do not, under any circumstances, use this filter on water of unknown microbiological purity. It will not protect you from things not listed on the box.
* Does not "soften" water. The water at my house has a very high concentration of lime and calcium. This makes it very frustrating to own a tropical fish tank, as one is constantly removing a crust of lime and calcium from the glass and exposed areas of the tank. The filter unit does not remove those minerals from water, much to my chagrin.
I looked at several units, including near-identical units from Brita and Culligan. The Brita unit was more expensive for both the filter unit itself, and replacement cartridges. The Culligan unit had a smaller filter cartridge, yet claimed to be good for over 200 gallons. Somehow, this seemed suspicious, so I went with the PUR unit, which was between the two. The initial and ongoing costs were lower than the Brita filter, yet slightly higher than the Culligan unit. Brita was a known entity, Culligan was not (I know them for their bottled water, not their filter units). Thus, if PUR could get the same results as Brita, I was definitely interested.
I purchased the unit, brought it home, and had it installed in less than 10 minutes. Most of the time was spent reading the instructions to make sure I didn't cause the thing to explode. Actual installation took less than one minute, and the instructions recommended that I "flush out" the system for a few minutes.
So far, it works exactly as described, with no problems whatsoever.
If you are looking for a home filtration system to get rid of offending chemicals, tastes, and odors in your water, this product is perfect for the job. Small, unobtrusive, and efficient, the PUR Ultimate Water Faucet Filter does precisely what it's advertised to do, at a far lower cost than bottled water or Brita filters.
Addendum on 11/3/06
I moved to Tucson, Arizona several months ago and brought the PUR filter with me. While the filter continued to work well, I was more concerned with the quality of water here than in San Francisco where I lived previously. Due to a variety of reasons, the water in Tucson is much more heavily treated, and the taste is quite poor. Many of the the chemicals -- while still listed by the EPA as being low enough to be considered "safe" -- in the water were not on the list of chemicals the PUR filter removes.
As such, I purchased a Watts WP-4V reverse osmosis system from Coscto for about $165, installed it myself, and have been enjoying extremely purified water since then. The four stages of filtration provided by the RO unit provide excellent water, free of nearly all impurities, at a very reasonable cost. A separate tap is beneficial, as it does not reduce clearance in shallow sinks.
If the water in your area is such that the PUR filter does not improve its taste, consider an RO system. Prices have come down a lot recently, and it's simple to install. If epinions had a rating for that system, I'd write a review for it.