Quirky, cool and pricey. In other words, it's a Dyson
Mar 8, 2012 (Updated Mar 9, 2012)
Review by jstlawrence
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Dyson's one of those polarizing companies, like Apple, whose focus on design and high-end appeal alternately delights and infuriates. Mr. Dyson "just thinks things should work properly," and by and large, his products seem to do that, so long as you don't mind paying dearly for the privilege and putting up with some of the less entertaining quirks of the company's forward-thinking designs.
Recommend this product?
We have one of the earlier Dyson "ball" upright vacs at home -- the DC24,and it was my first introduction to Dyson's odd mix of qualities. Amazingly maneuverable, but possessed of a power button so flimsy and loosely attached that it's seemed ready to fail since the first day. Almost impossible to clog, but almost impossible to clear said clogs when they do inevitably occur. And so on. But on balance, it's a great machine that does the job every time.
So when our household's most recent Dustbuster stopped busting dust and starting biting it – the dust, that is -- instead, I had to look at Dyson's claimed solution to the portable vaccuum -- the DC35 "Digital Slim," a version of Dyson's existing cordless vac, but with an extension and a power head to let it function as a "stick" vacuum as well as a handheld. The DC35 costs $299, and as much as $329 now in places. I have never seen a new one selling for much less. Dyson apparently controls its retail pricing the way Bose, Apple, et al. do -- any sales are small, and Dyson will tell you when they're coming.
But Christmas came, with a smattering of gift cards that could, with some creativity, be cobbled together to make actually buying the thing seem rational, so I braved the madding crowds of Best Buy and picked up a sleek, silver and purple DC35 and hung it up in the kitchen on the slick wall bracket it comes with.
I love the bracket, first of all. This is not a tiny handvac, and having it off the floor and ready to hand, accessories and all, is the only way to go. I never bothered "hanging" the Dustbuster because it just didn't seem worth the effort. It hunkered awkwardly on a bookshelf for its entire, unlamented life in my house. Dyson's doohickey is worthy though. Two screws into your studs -- no wall anchors are provided -- or screws either, now that I think about it -- and in.
The power cord winds cleverly through the back and the unit hangs securely with the wand and powerhead attached, clicking onto a charging nub that fits neatly into the dock. A brush and extension snap onto the sides. A simple push upward, a tilt up, and a slide forward releases the vacuum. That said, while the bracket looks good, it feels flimsy, like the shiny, superlight plastic should snap into a hundred brittle pieces, but I know it won't, because Dyson makes everything out of that same wobbly, flimsy-feeling, apparently near-indestructible plastic. The bracket's a microcosm for the whole product, and Dyson stuff in general. Looks futuristic but weird, and even cheap or flimsy in places. Works great. Doesn't break.
Once off the hook in "stickvac" mode, the DC35 feels good in the hand. It’s light, (about 5 lbs) but with the non-collapsible aluminum wand and head attached, it’s heavy enough that after a few seconds, you’ll probably want two hands to use it raised off the ground to get to a stair or something. It activates with a pistol-like trigger that only stays on as long as you keep it depressed. It rolls smoothly over hard surfaces and short-nap carpets with futuristic, canted discs for wheels. The head can make extremely tight turns, and it's a breeze to get it up next to a wall or in a corner or crevice.
The power head is partially transparent, and you can see the "carbon fiber" bristles whirling. They don't spin with a lot of power, but they'll pick up dust and typical light kitchen detritus -- fine coffee grounds, bits of flour, etc. well. So well, in fact, that you do need to pop the roller out of the head after every couple of uses, at most, at least if you have people with long hair and / or pets in the house. There's a cam-shaped latch on the head just as on larger Dyson vacs that makes this fairly easy, as long as you have a coin or screwdriver at hand. While you're down there, you might appreciate the clever bits, like a strip of dust-attractive velvety stuff on the front of the head, and the very stiff, well-made array of bristles. It's all small and light, but unquestionably well put together, with a high-end feel.
The lithium-ion power pack and Dyson's "digital" electric motor are the source of much of the hype, and the hyper price of the DC35. Dyson claims this unit, at 22.2 volts, is the most powerful cordless vac on the market. I believe them, but you don’t necessarily feel that. At normal power, turning the power head and sucking debris all the way up the floor wand seems like a lot of work for the little DC35. Happily, there is a round green-limned "Max (power)" button on the back of the DC35, right under your thumb. Mine stays on most of the time, because I think it needs to be. It shortens battery life, supposedly, but I haven’t actually fully drained the battery yet, so that’s hard to say.
Speaking of which, battery life is a big subject of skepticism and complaints I’ve read about this unit. It’s supposed to be good for about 15 minutes on “normal” power, and only six minutes on “turbo.” I’d guess that’s about right, but in the two months we’ve had it, I’ve never managed to fully wear out the DC35’s battery, even using “turbo” full time. If you think about it, how long does it take to vacuum up the day’s collection of crumbs from the kitchen floor? But I’ve also run the machine on “normal” through the kitchen, dining, living, and bathroom areas on one charge. This is a machine for regular spot pick-ups, not for deep cleaning or running up and down every square inch of carpet. Used that way, to hunt crumbs and dustbunnies and wayward pet hair, 6-15 minutes of little squirts on the trigger goes a long way.
As noted, the DC 35 is not a deep-cleaner – it’s more of a spot-cleaning, powered sweeper. Just grab it off the wall, squeeze the trigger, and go. It’s the modern dustpan and broom. It’s the perfect tool to pick up all the light messes in the kitchen, and the little dust wads that the air-conditioner seems to fire at all corners of the hardwood floor in the living room. It’s also great in the bathroom , where the extremely compact head can actually get between the toilet and wall.
It's a pretty quiet vacuum. Which is to say, it's pretty loud, but subjectively, it's a lot less annoying than the old Dustbuster. You hear more of the air whistling through the unit than the whir of the electric motor.
It's quite pleasant to use overall, and I'm not the only one in the house who has picked up the little Dyson for a quick cleanup, then ended running all over the house with it because it's actually kind of fun.
There's a washable HEPA filter mounted in the top. Nice to have. Nice that it doesn't have to be replaced regularly.
THE BEST THING
The DC35 does have at least one notable superpower as a vacuum – reach. With the long wand, and very low-profile cleaning head, you can actually vacuum all the way under couches, under beds, and in the nooks and crannies of a bathroom like never before. I know of nothing else that will do this. You’re not just blindly shoving an extension wand with a tiny brush head in there – you’re vacuuming. No more lifting up the couch or wondering just how awful it might be getting under the bed. Without the wand, it’s light enough to vacuum shelves and other above-the-ground areas too – with or without the rotating head, which can attach directly to the hand unit. It also comes with a regular flat extension and a brush, making it a solid car vac as well. It will fill its easily emptied dustcup (hold over trash, push button – foosh!) quickly with all manner of dust and junk that should not be on your floor.
THE WORST THING
Good as it is, the DC35 simply has far less power than a plug-in floor vac. So, even at $300, it won’t be enough to be the only vac in a full sized house or apartment. In a dorm room, or a small cottage with only tile or hardwood, maybe. But vacuuming is a power-hungry endeavor, and even the high-tech, expensive lithium ion batteries in this Dyson unit can’t get down in those carpet fibers and deep clean like your regular house vacuum.
The DC35 "Digital Slim" cordless vac is an amazing, useful household tool, and likely the world's best cordless vacuum -- lightyears beyond the typical handheld "Dustbuster"-type cordless. It's especially great for people who need a lot of quick pickups on tile or hardwood. It's a serious household tool. It's also seriously expensive, and it won't replace a full-size vaccuum. But if you have $300 to spend on making your housecleaning chores a little easier to deal with, go ahead and squeeze the trigger on this slick, quirky looking high-tech cordless vac.
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Amount Paid (US$): 300
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