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Which of the BETTER WATERS TOP FOUR is best for me?

Exactly which of the BETTER WATERS TOP FOUR filtration systems may be best for your particular water conditions is often not going to be obvious.  

The main reason is that there are always trade-offs to be made.  Water filtration is not an absolute science - it's about probabilities. (Of course, we're often talking about 99.99% reduction, so the probabilities are high.)  The point is that to some extent you'll want to make your own judgment call as to what your priorities are.  So we'll try, in a narrative way, to give you some guidelines:

All four filters reduce chlorine taste & odor, and all four are sub-micron:

Specifically, the CX9000 and TX9000 (from Everpure) are 0.5 micron, and the XB7000 and XL7000 (from 3M Purification Inc.) are 0.2 micron.  At that level, they are all NSF-certified to reduce, to a nearly undetectable level, parasites like Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba and Giardia cysts.  The difference between 0.5 and 0.2 micron is clearly pretty small - but that small difference is enough to enable 3M to claim reduction of bacteria as well, something no major filtration manufacturer has ever before been able to claim.  Is bacteria a problem in municipal water?  Ordinarily not, but the extra level of protection may be something important to you.

Apart from the difference between 0.5 and 0.2 micron, the CX9000 and XB7000 are fairly similar in the quality of water they deliver. The big differences are flow rate and longevity - and therefore cost.  The CX accommodates a 0.5 gallon/minute flow rate and therefore requires a dedicated faucet, or can be used in numerous office and other commercial applications in which flow does not exceed 0.5 gpm.  The XB handles 2.1 gpm, more than the flow of a standard 3/8" cold water line, and therefore requires no separate dispenser.  It is also NSF-rated for an astonishing 25,000 gallons, compared with the CX at 1500 gallons.

But keep in mind, the difference, in the real world...
... is probably not at all as great as the numbers suggest:  All cartridges should be replaced once or twice annually, and if, let's say, you were only going to use 1500 gallons before replacement protocol kicks in, then there is no functional difference.  So the CX, at a lower price, may actually represent better value.  Finally, the CX uses a steel head assembly and an aluminum-sided (outside only, no water contacts the aluminum) cartridge.  There is a lot of structural strength and longevity there.  The XB is made of a polymer - but, of course, a very, very strong one, as you might expect from a 3M product.

Now let's compare the TX9000 with the XL7000.  They do everything their respective "little brothers" do, and more.  (Also, as with the above, the TX, an Everpure product, is steel / aluminum on the outside, whereas the XL, by 3M, is a polymer.)  

The XL, compared now to the XB, has an even higher flow (2.5 gpm) but less NSF-rated longevity (6000 gallons) because it takes out more contaminants. (That is a basic NSF tradeoff - the greater the spectrum of contaminant reduction, the more limited the NSF-rated capacity, since that capacity number is based upon the presumption that ALL contaminants certified for reduction are actually in the water to be filtered, at significant levels.)  

Here's where some major choices comes into play.  First, as is the case comparing the CX and XB, the TX is flow-controlled at 0.5 gpm, whereas the XL accommodates 2.5 gpm.  Second, while they both reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the XL is currently NSF-certified for a select group of VOCs, whereas the TX is certified for a complete spectrum, including trihalomethanes (THM)s.

A major reason that's the case - and this is one of those factoids that it's good to understand about water filters - is that the quality of filtration has a lot to do with contact time between the water and the filtration media in the filter.  The slower the flow, the more time the water is in contact with the media, so, presumably, more contaminants get taken out.  Generally speaking, that's true, but it's not absolutely determinative.  (Remember, as a company selling NSF-certified products, we want to abide by the NSF way of making claims, even though in reality things are more complex.)

The upshot is...
... we can't claim that the XL reduces at all as broad a spectrum of VOCs as does the TX.  Keep in mind that's not just due to flow rate, but also the rated longevity.  The TX capacity is, strictly speaking, 500 gallons, whereas the XL is 6000.  If we reduced the capacity claim on the XL, we would be entitled to claim a broader spectrum of VOC reduction.  (See VOCs and TTHMs.)

One additional factor:  The XL7000 is the only one of the four NSF-certified to reduce lead.  If that's important to you... keep it in mind. No question, the XL7000 is the best of the best, and the newest.  It is truly the next generation of water filtration, a quantum leap past anything else available.  But that does not mean that the additional cost is necessarily justified - because it depends on your water conditions, your usage patterns, and your budget.

Don't forget: All four of these filters are top value.  We've found over the years that people sometimes get so puzzled by the various claims and considerations out there, and so concerned about making the right choice, they end up... doing nothing at all! Remember that the qualitative difference between tap water and the least expensive CX is far greater than the difference between the CX and the most expensive XL.

Finally, it may be the case that none of these filters is exactly what you need.  You may not require this level of quality, you may need a much higher flow rate, you may have additional water quality factors that require an additional or different technology, such as UV purification or reverse osmosis (R/O).  You will find these and many other selections in our shop, and if you have questions, don't hesitate to contact us.  Remember, too, to check the water analysis section of this site to see water reports from cities across America.  (More are being uploaded every week!)


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