Is a portable humidifier the same as a console model? Not exactly. While both types of humidifiers are considered portable, since console units usually have wheels, the ones that are generally considered portable are small (you can carry them), while console models are too bulky to handle. There are also other differences in function.
Console vs. Portable Humidifiers
As for humidification purposes, both the portable and console models are designed as room humidifiers, though some console models are designed for a larger area such as a whole home. That's why reviewing the manufacturer's recommended coverage area (rather than room vs whole home) becomes an important buying consideration when buying any humidifier.
A portable humidifier is often placed on a dresser, table, or counter (though there are floor models), and is designed to humidify a certain square footage area or size of an average room, whether small or large. Whereas a console model must be placed on the floor.
The moisture coverage area is important to note since it will be insufficient for a space larger than what it is designed for. And that usually is the amount of moisture expelled to the room, measured in gallons, during a certain time frame, when operated on the lowest setting. In other words, if you run a humidifier on high, you can expect to run out of the water much sooner than you might expect.
Portable humidifiers have either an evaporative or ultrasonic type of humidification system and come in cool or warm mist models. So a small unit gives you more choice than a console-style. A console humidifier is much larger and often resembles a piece of furniture. Most are evaporative and since they have a larger water capacity, they require refilling less often than a smaller model.
The console type usually has wheels that make it easy to position it where you need it most. This type typically has a much wider coverage area when it comes to moisture output. Though these (console) are often sold as a whole-home unit, how effective they are for that area really depends on the format of your home.
An open concept home will benefit more from a console unit than one that is divided into several small rooms. The more obstacles or barriers to airflow, the less efficiency to get moisture circulated to those areas. A console unit can quickly humidify the area and removes the necessity for several small portable units. Before purchasing, you should decide where you will be placing it and ensuring there is an electrical outlet nearby.
How to Choose
If you're struggling between deciding on one style over the other, you should look at whether one room or the entire home needs more humidity and take the format of your living quarters into consideration.
For some, it's more practical to have a small humidifier in the bedroom and one in the living room, where the family spends the most time. You should also consider whether there are spaces or rooms where moisture is already at the optimum level, so you do not add excess humidity there. A basement is generally damp, though there are exceptions, so adding humidity might not be a good idea.
Humidifiers can range from $20 to $200 or more depending on features, style, and type of humidification. It's not unusual to find that a larger console unit costs as much as a table model.
Regardless of the type you purchase, humidifiers require regular and seasonal cleaning and might also require a change of filter. Keep in mind that a smaller unit is much easier to handle to clean or empty. That might be an important buying decision for you.