Sebo Automatic X4 Upright Vacuum Cleaner Review
The Sebo Automatic X4 may feel like a precision tool, but a high price and design quirks get in the way.
Sebo is a no-nonsense vacuum manufacturer based in Germany. Their products aren't styled extravagantly, you won't see ads for Sebo in lifestyle magazines—heck, even the company's name is an acronym for the German phrase that roughly translates to "semi-professional vacuum cleaner."
Minus any glitz and glam, we were hoping that Sebo's bread-and-butter product—the pricey Automatic X4 upright (MSRP $679)—would clean efficiently and effectively. While it did do a good job, vacuums that cost 80 percent less clean just as well and don't suffer from some of the Sebo's aggravating design flaws.
Design & Usability
Our expectations didn't fall right away. In fact, unboxing this vacuum was a joy. Well-crafted parts clicked together with ease, and the whole package felt sturdy and solid. The cord required manual winding, but that's not uncommon on lightweight uprights. Sebo's bags click into place using a foolproof mechanism—the front of the vacuum won't close if the bag is installed incorrectly—and all hoses and attachments securely lock on the cleaner body. Even the release lever, which unlatches the vacuum from the upright position, impressed us: Bright orange plastic on a metal frame, it's a study in rugged simplicity.
After plugging it in and turning it on, the Automatic X4 greeted us with a soft whirr. So far, so good. But a curious thing happened when we pushed it onto high-pile carpet: It stopped.
See, the X4 has an automatic, motorized height adjust that moves the cleaner head up and down depending on flooring type. Unfortunately, it can take a full ten seconds to adjust, and sometimes can't raise itself in time to keep from getting caught in the carpet. To keep from burning out the motor, the vacuum shuts itself off automatically. We went through this dance every time we switched between flooring types.
Another quirk: There's no way to turn off the powered brushroll. That high-speed spinner may damage wood or tile floors, and it'll definitely shoot debris into the far corners of a room. The omission of a brushroll on/off switch is regrettable on a $70 vacuum, but it's unforgivable on a machine that costs ten times as much.
Features & Performance
The Automatic X4 did very well when it came to picking up dirt and debris. On long carpet, which can sometimes trap up to 80 percent of dirt even after vacuuming, the Sebo rustled up more than half of the dust and sand we put down. Short carpet cleaning was OK, and—powered brushroll aside—wood floors ended up spotless.
The X4 had no issues cleaning up small pieces of debris, like noodles and rice. It did have some trouble with heavier items, like coins, which the brushroll shot across our lab before they could get sucked into the bag.
The issues with this Sebo all involved usability. The detachable hose could only reach about six feet from the cleaner itself, and three feet in the air, so cobweb cleaning is impossible if you've got tall ceilings. Pet hair pickup was subpar, and cleaning tools were nothing special. If you've got stairs, be prepared to lift the Automatic X4's entire 16.6 lb. heft.
The Sebo Automatic X4 is great at individual tasks, but terrible at multitasking. Case in point: Ask it to switch from low carpet to high carpet, and it'll invariably take ten seconds to adjust—or it'll stop cleaning altogether. But once it gets on that high carpet, it'll clean better than many of the other vacuums out there.
It brings to mind a highly-paid, yet inflexible employee, one who wouldn't dream of doing anything outside of his or her official job description. For a $679 MSRP, we're not willing to put up with that kind of crankiness.
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