Best Cordless VacuumsBy Jonathan Chan
Cord-cutting isn't just for television anymore. With better batteries and more powerful motors, today's cordless vacuum cleaners give you the freedom to clean where the mess is—not where the cord can reach.
That's why we rounded up seven of the most popular cordless vacuums—from Hoover, Dyson, Kenmore, Dirt Devil, and Electrolux—to see which one best fits your freedom-loving lifestyle. We timed how long their batteries lasted, measured how much dirt and debris they could pick up, and weighed them to know what they'd be like to lug up the stairs. We also looked for neat features—like a detachable hand vacuum, removable battery, or innovative storage solution.
In the end, we found that each battery-powered device presented a series of tradeoffs. For every aspect that peeved us, we found a feature that delighted. None of these machines could replace a full-size vacuum, but some might make your life a little cleaner.
Updated July 06, 2016
Dyson V8 AbsoluteBest Overall
The Dyson V8 Absolute is the pinnacle of cordless vacuum technology. Available solely from Dyson until Sept. 18 (some third-party sellers are offering it with a jacked-up price), it's one heck of a vacuum.
The "absolute" moniker is apt, since the V8 comes with absolutely everything: a unique, powered brush head that's designed for hardwood floors, a motorized mini brush for cleaning upholstery, a soft brush for hardwood, a combination upholstery/bare floor tool, a crevice tool, and a soft dusting brush for computers and delicate items. They all attach to a 5.6-pound wall-mountable package, making it one of the lightest cordless vacuums on the market.
The brush head is made from carbon fiber and nylon. It's softer than a puppy—and infinitely more gentle on floors and better at picking up dirt. In our labs, the V8 picked up 88 percent of the dirt we put down for our tests. That's better than any other cordless vacuum we've tested.
On the low setting, the battery lasted an amazing 40 minutes. (The max suction setting will drain the battery in 7 minutes, though.) When you're done, the newly designed dustbin empties out dirt with the pull of a single lever on top of the machine.
The one major downside of the Absolute is that it's absurdly expensive. The V8 retails for $599 at the Dyson shop, and other retailers are currently selling it for a lot more. Those without budgets will do well to check out the Dyson V8 Absolute for their cordless cleaning solutions. For everyone else, our Best Value pick works almost as well, but costs a quarter as much.
Hoover Air 2-in-1Best Value
The Hoover Cordless 2-in-1 Stick and Handheld Vacuum—part of the Air lineup—is the cordless vacuum we'd recommend to our family and friends. Although the 2-in-1 didn't come in first in any of our tests, the overall package impressed us with its versatility. For instance, the 2-in-1 suctioned up about half of the dirt we laid out for it, and its 13-minute battery life was in the middle of the pack.
What clinched the deal for us was the removable battery, which charges in an included cradle. You can even buy a second battery for $69 (an extended-life model sells for $99) so you're never caught without power. Unlike most of its sealed-battery competitors, the swappable system also means you don't have to trash the whole vacuum when the battery eventually stops taking a charge. Or, if the vacuum dies, you can hold onto the battery and charge a whole suite of Hoover cordless models.
That's why we think the 2-in-1 is such a good value. When a battery goes on a cordless vacuum, it's typically cheaper to buy a whole new unit. With the 2-in-1, you can get a new battery and keep on cleaning.
Formerly Dyson's cordless flagship until it was replaced by the V8, the Dyson V6 is the cordless vacuum to buy if even your smallest messes require significant cleaning. The V6 sells for $299—about twice as much as most of its competitors—and it proved to be the most powerful of the cordless vacuum we've tested, making quick work of dirt and debris. It's as powerful as the V8, but it doesn't clinch the top spot because of its weaker battery life (20 minutes on low compared to the V8's 40 minutes) and lack of a bare floors attachment.
However, the V6 does not lack for customizing options. It can be reconfigured to better clean your car, the stairs, the ceiling, the floor, and your carpets. On paper, that's all very well and good, but we found it cumbersome in practice. That's because there's no place for the extra parts to go when they're not in use.
For all its faults, the V6 has the best cleaning-to-price ratio. It picked up 10 percent less dirt than the V8, but costs half as much. The V6 is the second most expensive cordless on our list, and it cleans the second best. Normally, we'd give it some sort of laurels, but it lacks the raw power of the V8 and the flexibility of the Hoover 2-in-1.
Only available at Sears, Kenmore is new to the cordless vacuum game. We think its first offering—the Kenmore 10341—is a promising debut, although we weren't thrilled with some of its rough edges.
We'll start with what we loved: the charging dock and the look. A docking dock is great because it allows you to simply plop the whole unit down, standing straight up and forget about it until your next cleaning session. We also loved the look of this vacuum. The glossy silver and black finish gave the 10341 a futuristic design that's just toned down enough not make you want to shove it in a closet. Unfortunately, we found the touch controls didn't always respond on the first try.
In the cleaning department, we kicked the 10341 up to is highest setting in our labs and it picked up 67 percent of dirt. The handheld portion fared a little better, cleaning up all crumbs we left out for it. The tradeoff is that we only got 11 minutes of power before the battery gave out. That battery can't be swapped out, either—it's sealed within the machine.
Dirt Devil Extreme Power
The Dirt Devil BD20040RED Extreme Power 14.4 Cordless Bagless Stick Vacuum proves that you get what you pay for. Easily found online for less than $50, the Extreme Power failed several of our tests. It only picked up 40 percent of the test dirt we put down, and its sealed battery is of the nickel-cadmium variety.
Such batteries suffer from a myriad of problems that newer, lithium-ion batteries don't. Be prepared to see this Dirt Devil lose the ability to charge over time, and get ready for less suction as the battery drains. When we put the battery to the test, we got about 10 minutes of normal suction before the power started to fade, finally dying out at the 20 minute mark.
The Extreme Power isn't the best performer but it wasn't designed to be. It will work for a dorm room or small kitchen, although you'll need to take it to a proper recycling facility once the battery goes kaput. After all our testing, we can say the Dirt Devil Extreme Power isn't the best, but at least it's cheap.
Electrolux Ergorapido EL2081A
The original stylish stick vac, the Electrolux Ergorapido EL2081A has been around for a decade. The lineup got an update in 2014 that made the Ergo a great all-rounder. A 2.2-pound handheld vac detaches from the main cleaner for easy spot cleaning. We measured a 16-minute battery life, with decent dirt pickup: on average, 56 percent of soil and dust got picked up after a single pass. There is also a swivel joint in the brush head so the Ergorapido can twist and turn around corners.
While this Electrolux showed good performance in every category, it excelled at none of them. It's not as affordable as the Dirt Devil, as powerful as the Dysons, and—unlike the Hoover 2-in-1—it has a sealed battery. Even the original can only hold out against its competitors for so long.
Hoover LiNX BH50010Avoid
The Hoover Linx BH50010 combines the design of the Kenmore 10341 and the removable battery of the Hoover 2-in-1. It sounds like a winning combination, but the Linx lacks the power of the Dysons. In our dirt pickup tests, the Linx performed the worst of all the cordless vacuums we tested, leaving a whopping 80 percent of dirt still on our test surfaces. However, the battery life was pretty decent, with a 17-minute lifespan on the highest setting. It weighs 7.3 pounds, so it's a little on the heavy side.
Overall, we think that if you're looking for a Hoover cordless, it's best to stick with the 2-in-1.
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