Best Countertop Reverse Osmosis System Reviews + Portable RO Water Filters
Written by: Tim Stanley // Last Updated:
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Generally speaking, countertop reverse osmosis systems provide far better filtration than regular countertop water filters, removing up to 99% of all contaminants your water might contain.
Compared to most under sink reverse osmosis systems they may feature less filtration stages, but therefore countertop units don’t require installation or plumbing. No drilling through your countertop or sink to accommodate the extra dispenser, no drain line connection, no nothing.
Countertop RO systems are either standalone or they can be hooked up to any standard faucet in seconds. This makes them perfect for apartments where renters cannot make any changes to the plumbing and for everyone who simply doesn’t want to mess around with under-the-sink connections.
What’s more, many filtration systems are compact – ideal for people living in a small home as well as students and travelers who are constantly on the move and want a highly portable water filter system to take with them.
Sounds great? Then let’s find you the best countertop/portable reverse osmosis system out there!
1. Best Countertop Reverse Osmosis System: AquaTru (Including Coupon Code!)
In our opinion, the best countertop reverse osmosis system in 2021 is the AquaTru. It’s independently tested and NSF certified against 5 standards (42, 53, 58, 401, P473) to remove up to 99.99% of 82 different water contaminants. In other words, it provides highly pure, safe, and great-tasting drinking water.
But the best thing about the AquaTru countertop RO system is that it’s a plug & play model that doesn’t require any kind of installation/plumbing – ideal for renters and to save money. On top of that, maintenance is a breeze and super low-cost. 4.5 stars!
2. The Runner-Up: Frizzlife WA99 Reverse Osmosis Countertop Water Filter
Our second most favorite countertop reverse osmosis system is the Frizzlife WA99. It’s arguably the best looking unit that is part of this guide, which isn’t to be neglected when talking about RO systems designed for countertops.
Besides, the Frizzlife WA99 is installation-free and thanks to its circular multi-filtration process, it has the best pure-to-drain-water ratio (5:1). An NSF 58 WQA Gold Seal is the cherry on top. Highly recommended!
Frizzlife WA99 Reverse Osmosis Countertop Water Filter
3. Zero Installation Purifier Countertop RO Water Filtration System – AlcaPure Edition
The Zero Installation Purifier is another standalone reverse osmosis water filter that doesn’t require installation. It’s just that we’re missing NSF certifications or testing (only the RO membrane is NSF 58 certified for several contaminants). Still, overall customer feedback is positive with people being most happy about the ease of use and great looks. 4 stars!
Alkaline RO Water Filtration System: Zero Installation Purifier
4. Best Portable Reverse Osmosis System: Crystal Quest Thunder
In our opinion, the best portable reverse osmosis system in 2021 is the Crystal Quest Thunder. It’s not the only countertop model that’s installation-free but it’s probably the one with the highest portability. Plus, it doesn’t require electricity so it can be a great reverse osmosis water filter system for camping if you have access to a standard-sized faucet. 4.5 stars!
Please note: The Crystal Quest Thunder misses NSF certifications with specific contaminant reduction rates which is why we prefer the AquaTru when portability is not a must!
The Crystal Quest Thunder portable 10-stage countertop reverse osmosis water filter system is easy to install in no time – all hardware included.
Measuring 16x7x7 inches, it’s very compact and might even fit in your trunk when travelling – size is similar to the APEC Water Systems RO-CTOP (a.k.a. APEC RO-CTOP).
Produces great-tasting water.
Uses granular activated carbon (stage 2) to trap chlorine, pesticides, VOCs, bad tastes and odor, and more.
Uses RO membrane (stage 4) to reject most organic and inorganic contaminants.
Uses copper-zinc oxidation media (Eagle Redox Alloy, stage 6 + 7) to primarily reduce water-soluble heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and chromium. The blend also prevents bacterial growth inside the system.
Uses ion exchange resin (stage 8) to lower heavy metal content even further and also addresses water hardness.
Uses granular carbon post-filter (stage 9) to eliminate residual tastes.
A 1-micron filter pad before and after each filter stage blocks suspended solids and cyst.
Additional filter cartridges can be added to the countertop RO system.
Production is around 2 gallons of purified water per hour so the system is probably best used in combination with a large container to eliminate long waiting times.
The high-capacity filters keeps maintenance at a minimum.
Replacement is fast and easy thanks to quick-connect fittings.
Cost: $65-100 per year, so not much!
Customer service is great.
No data on performance or NSF certifications is provided.
Not that important with reverse osmosis systems unless you want to remove one or more specific contaminants.
Our #1 tankless reverse osmosis system in 2021 is the Waterdrop WD-G3-W. Sleek design, straightforward install, effortless filter replacements, and great water taste – people love this water filter which is not a countertop but an under sink unit. 4 stars!
Internal pump increases pressure for 0.28 gallons per minute clean water flow.
One cup of water fills in about 12-13 seconds. No long waiting times!
Higher pressure also lowers the amount of waste water going down the drain to one gallon for every gallon of filtered water.
Stage 1: Composite filter (polypropylene cotton + coconut shell activated carbon block) eliminates chlorine and large solids (sediment).
Stage 2: 0.0001-micron reverse osmosis membrane rejects heavy metals, bacteria among other microorganisms, fluoride, and common contaminants such as arsenic.
Stage 3: Another activated carbon block filter removes residual chemicals and tastes.
System was designed for easy installation to save money.
Make sure to follow the provided instructions and helpful explainer videos found on YouTube.
All plastic is BPA-free to prevent contamination of the water.
Smart faucet uses built-in LED light to indicate filter status so no need to remember when to replace. Blue: Everything is good. Yellow: Less than 40 gallons or 15 days filtration capacity remaining. Red: Filter change required immediately.
Same indicator can be found on the system’s front panel.
TDS monitor also tells you about the condition of the filter elements.
Filters can be changed with a simple twist, no need for tools. Takes less than 10 seconds. Cost: About $115 per year.
Other features: Auto-flushing after 24-hour inactivity to prevent fouling and leak protector which shuts off the system if it detects continuous flow.
30 days satisfaction guarantee.
1-year manufacturer warranty (only when countertop water filter is used with tap water).
Only NSF certification is Standard 58 for 94% total dissolved solids rejection. We would have preferred more thorough testing.
Some people have to drain about one gallon of water before the system reads TDS <30 ppm.
Still haven’t found the ideal countertop reverse osmosis filter for your needs? Maybe you are looking for something a bit more tiny…
The PuroSmart is probably the smallest RO system of all. You might find it useful if the number one thing you lack in your home or kitchen is space, or if you’re constantly on the move and want a basic water purification system wherever you go.
Smallest Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System: PuroSmart
The PuroSmart is easily the most compact countertop reverse osmosis water filter system we’ve ever seen. Length: 8.25 inches.
It’s convenient to use and there’s no permanent installation required. Simply replace your kitchen faucet aerator with the diverter valve included in the package. Then mount the unit on the plastic stand and make the tubing connections. From now on you can enjoy clean and refreshing reverse osmosis drinking water straight from the tap!
A mini carbon block pre-filter removes chlorine. Capacity: 400 gallons or 3 months filter life.
The RO membrane does its thing reducing TDS.
Produces up to 50 gallons of purified water per day at 60 psi feed pressure, according to manufacturer.
Comes with a limited warranty (one year).
We wouldn’t rely on this reverse osmosis water filtration system to produce water 100 percent safe for consumption.
The PuroSmart is more expensive that you’d think, both at initial purchase and when replacing the filter elements. Annual cost: $50-125.
We doubt that you’ll get 50 gallons of RO water out of this unit per day.
High Quality Filter Can Process 4 Gallons Per Hour (More than 90 Gallons Per Day), For Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Reduction from Drinking Water, No Installation Required
Frizzlife WA99 RO Countertop Filter System
No Faucet, Filters 1,000+ Contaminants
Zero Installation Purifier Reverse Osmosis Filter
One of the Top Reverse Osmosis Water Filters, Can Provide Up to 75 Gallons Per Day, No Installation Required
Crystal Quest Thunder RO Filter
5-Stage Filtration, Long-Lasting Filter Life
5-Stage RO Water System Removes Up to 99 of Contaminants Including Lead, 50 Gallons of Drinking Water Per Day
Waterdrop WD-G3-W Reverse Osmosis Filter
High Quality, For Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Reduction from Tap Water, Easy Installation
PuroSmart RO Filter
50 Gallons of Drinking Water Per Day
Buying Guide: Planning to Buy a Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Filter? Consider This!
As a general rule, countertop water filters fit standard kitchen faucets only. Yes, there are adapters for bathroom taps and garden hoses etc., but if you are using a designer, pull-down, or sprinkler faucet that’s bad luck!
In any case, double-check that the faucet in question allows for a standard hose connection. If not, try to find a compatible adapter. By the way, most reverse osmosis countertop systems are shipped with a few adapters to try out.
We like to rely on certifications according to NSF standards. They guarantee that a certain water filter model or system is capable of removing/reducing a considerable amount of potentially harmful contaminants in water in addition to those affecting aesthetics.
Searching for the best countertop reverse osmosis water filter system, you should look out for NSF Standard 42 for water aesthetics, Standard 53 for contaminants with health effects, Standard 58 for further substances, Standard 401 for emerging contaminants, and NSF Protocol P473 specifically for the reduction of PFOA and PFOS.
Some of the standards also cover a product’s material safety and structural integrity.
Water Pressure & Wastewater
Reverse osmosis water filters without a built-in pressure pump rely entirely on the water pressure in your home’s pipes to force water through their different filter stages. This has the benefit that no extra power supply is needed.
What might come in handy on a camping trip can be an issue if the water pressure in your home is too low. Because low water pressure not only results in a slow flow rate, it also increases the amount of wastewater going down the drain.
To be more precise, the filtered to drain water ratio declines: Under normal conditions and without applying a pump, reverse osmosis systems waste 2 to 4 gallons of water for every gallon that you can drink or use otherwise. In cases of extremely low pressure, this ratio can increase to 1:6 or even 1:8.
Most RO systems tend to perform best at around 65 psi. Anything less than 35 psi is considered insufficient.
Simply put, RO systems producing water on demand should have a high enough flow rate to avoid long waiting times.
Countertop/portable reverse osmosis water filters are low in maintenance, so no need to worry about that. What you should pay attention to, however, is maintenance cost.
While some units are more expensive to purchase, they might be cheaper to maintain, and vice versa. So don’t forget to check the cost, capacity & longevity, and availability of replacement filter elements. (Of course, that’s exactly what we did with each product reviewed above!)
Do yourself a favor and don’t choose the ugliest system if it’s going to sit on the top of your counter for the next 5 to 10 years.
More on Countertop and Portable Reverse Osmosis Systems
Simply put, a countertop (counter-top) reverse osmosis system is a device for filtering water, making it ready for drinking. As the name suggests, countertop RO systems rely on reverse osmosis filtration technology to remove up to 99% water contaminants including lead, chlorine, fluoride, chromium, microorganisms, chemicals, and much more. In other words, they are highly, highly effective.
Apart from reverse osmosis filters that sit on the countertop, there’re under sink units and whole house systems.
Countertop models are either standalone or they connect to a faucet. Furthermore, we can differentiate between systems producing water on demand and those featuring a tank to store the purified water in.
Pure water flow: Anywhere between 2 to 6 gallons per hour.
How Does a Countertop RO Water Filter Work?
Countertop reverse osmosis water filtration systems are either fed through a faucet connection or they have a feed water tank that requires manual refilling. Once in the system, the water goes through several filtration stages – the specific setup varies from model to model – before it’s ready for dispensing. Here’s what a typical reverse osmosis process looks like:
The first filter stage is usually a sediment pre-filter. It protects the rest of the system from clogging.
Next comes an activated carbon filter, either granular or block. The carbon adsorbs chlorine, bad taste and odor, VOCs as well as other chemicals, and discoloration.
At the heart of the countertop water filter is the reverse osmosis membrane which rejects 98-99% of all total dissolved solids. It does the bulk of the contaminant removal.
A second coconut shell GAC stage filters residual tastes.
Some water filtration systems make use of remineralization. It releases calcium and magnesium and possibly other minerals into the water which improves overall water quality.
Reasons to Invest in a Water Filtration System: Advantages (& Limitations)
Reverse osmosis water filtration is a tried and tested technology. It removes up to 99.99% of hundreds of different contaminants that could be present in your water supply giving you access to safe and healthy reverse osmosis drinking water.
Filtration speed is solid.
Setting up a countertop RO unit takes no more than a few minutes and doesn’t involve plumbing or drilling. The non-permanent installation is great if you’re a renter.
RO filter system maintenance is nice and easy, and affordable!
All countertop reverse osmosis water filter systems are compact. And some are even suited for travelling.
Reverse osmosis doesn’t rely on electricity. All you need is a standard-sized faucet with enough water pressure.
Units fit standard kitchen faucets only.
Some people don’t like the taste of RO water.
Reverse osmosis produces wastewater.
Small, Compact & Portable – Perfect for Camping?
In our opinion, portable countertop reverse osmosis water purifiers are perfect for camping, since they’re small and compact.
Now you might be thinking, why would I use a water filter when I’m in the great outdoors? I can either bring bottled water or drink the water Mother Nature provides. Yeah, well…
Natural and man-made water contamination does not stop at creeks, ponds, lakes or any other surface or groundwater source.
So remember: Whenever you go on a camping trip and there’s a standard-sized faucet, always bring your portable RO filter system.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is reverse osmosis worth it?
Definitely. Reverse osmosis water filtration provides exceptionally pure water.
Do I need reverse osmosis if I have a whole house filter?
Most whole house water filters aren’t effective enough to provide water that’s safe to drink. A reverse osmosis water filter system makes a great addition.
How much does a home reverse osmosis water filtration system cost?
It depends on the type. You can spend anywhere between $50 and $500 USD.
And keep in mind: We’ll add new countertop reverse osmosis water filter reviews occasionally. So come back for more!
About the Author Tim Stanley
Tim Stanley is our content creator veteran. His daily tasks involve everything from research to editing. His expertise: Water Softeners. When he is not working, Tim spends most his free time cycling and shaping his body doing calisthenics. To calm down he also likes to watch Netflix (who doesn’t?).
Learn more about Tim and the rest of the BOS Team.