Cordless "stick" vacuums have long been a handy back up around the home. Good for a spot clean or to suck out the crusty dregs lurking in dark car crevasses without having to drag the monster out of the cupboard. But Dyson is so confident in the abilities of its new Cyclone V10 cord-free vacuum that it has shifted its design and development focus away from corded machines. So is this cord-free cleaner so good that you can toss out your conventional vacuum? We spent a few weeks pushing the V10 around to find out.

At a glance:

  • New Dyson digital motor V10 delivers incredible suction
  • Durable design with a bigger bin and cleaning attachments for every job
  • Larger bin holds 0.76 L (0.14 gal)
  • Captures 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns
  • Up to 60 minutes run-time with non-powered cleaning head
  • All-round performance as both an upright of handheld cleaner

Most consumer goods these days have an iceberg quality about them – beneath the shiny exterior there lurks a massive lump of tech development, testing and engineering. When it comes to Dyson's products that iceberg is of the Titanic-killing variety.

Dyson has been in the vacuum business for 25 years, expanding to hair dryers, hand dryers, fans, lighting and, for a time, washing machines. Justifiably, the company sees itself as being in the business of technology, not just vacuum cleaners; it now employs thousands of engineers and has garnered a well-deserved reputation for innovative, premium products, and even has its sights firmly set on producing an electric car.

The making of the V10

At the core of the new vacuum is the Dyson digital motor V10, a tiny masterpiece that took five years to develop. It spins at up to 125,000 rpm to force air through each of the 14 cyclones at 120 mph, generating over 79,000 G and delivering 20 percent better suction while weighing half as much as the motor in Dyson's previous stick model, the V8, at 125 g (4.4 oz).

The new ceramic shaft for the impeller is cured at 1,600° C to make it harder than steel with half the density, while the impeller itself is made from P.E.E.K – Polyether Ether Ketone – stuff that's used in satellite systems. Some 880 layers of thin laminated steel generate magnetic fields to spin the motor, while a sophisticated control system monitors barometric pressure so that you get the same result on a hearth rug in the Himalayas as you would on a hall runner in the Netherlands – apparently it can even tell if you're cleaning the table and the floor and optimize its performance accordingly.

Throw in a raft of other new design features, extensive prototyping, a massive amount of computer simulation and half a million hours of EM, acoustic and abusive use testing, and you have an undeniably well engineered piece of kit.

On the floor

Beyond this impressive set of numbers, the V10 does an incredibly good job of cleaning your floor. The first thing you notice is how light and easy to maneuver it is. The whole unit weighs just 2.6 kg (5.7 lb) and the articulated cleaning heads track beautifully to make navigating tight spots around furniture simple. The pistol grip trigger operation is light and responsive, so you don't get finger cramp, and the head design also allows you to suck up dirt right against the wall. Run it over your carpet or your couch on the maximum setting, even after you've already cleaned it with a run-of-the-mill corded vacuum, and the results are awesome – embarrassing even. Who knew there was so much hair and dust on furniture and carpet that looked clean to begin with.

Unlike almost any other vacuum cleaner I've ever used, the V10 is also useful on the lower settings, which is important when it comes to extending battery life. All three settings will run the powered heads and even in setting 1 you can deal with light jobs – though it takes a few more passes. Setting 2 became our default as it strikes a nice balance between power, noise and battery life, while we only needed to crank up to full power when tackling a particularly luxurious rug or crud-laden crevasses in the car.

Part of the recipe here is the change in the alignment of the cyclone and bin assembly. It's now inline as opposed to sitting at 90 degrees to the extension tube, which improves performance, places the weight above the handle for easier maneuvering and allows for a 40 percent bigger bin than the V8. Suction is maintained even when the bin is getting full.

It is relatively easy to empty – remove the attachment, point it over a bin and push a lever and you're done. The lever feels a little flimsy compared to other moving parts of the machine and it can be a little sticky – sometimes you need to pull it in and out a few times to get rid of everything – but it's a simple and usually hands-off process. If the bin is really full you can remove it entirely from the unit. Similarly, the filter on the top of the unit is easy to remove and clean – turn, click, rinse and leave it to dry for 24 hours.

On filtration, the V10 is a fully sealed to ensure that none of the dust from your floor ends up in your nose – according to Dyson, it captures 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.3 microns. The only issue we had with dust had nothing to do with filtration, rather that in max mode on a dirty rug, the powered brush head can kick up a bit of a cloud, so it's best to do the first couple of passes on a lower setting.

On the max setting tThe V10 also does a great job of picking up larger debris – crisps, rice, oats, small stones, and even coins.

Battery life

This is the big one. Dyson says it's done with cords, but is that practical? In the average home the answer is probably yes. The V10 uses a 25.2 V, 525 W, seven cell lithium-ion battery pack of the nickel-cobalt-aluminium variety that doesn't fade out when it's running low – it runs at full power until it stops. In testing we got about nine minutes on the maximum setting using the direct-drive head and holding the trigger down the whole time. On the lowest setting with non-powered attachments we managed almost an hour, and setting two delivered around 30 minutes.

Nine minutes doesn't sound like much, but there are a couple of factors that make these numbers more positive than they might sound. As mentioned, you don't really need the max setting most of the time, and because it's light, powerful and maneuverable you can cover quite a bit of ground in a short time. Run-time is also dependent on the surface you are cleaning and whether or not you're constantly holding the trigger down, which you don't need to do when cleaning a car, for example.

Charge time is around 3.5 hours, and the most obvious issue here is that the battery isn't swappable, you need to plug it in and wait.

After a few weeks of use these considerations tend to fade into the background. Once you're aware of its limitations you can easily change the rhythm of your cleaning to suit. We had no issue giving our small three bedroom house the once over, but if you find yourself on the end of a vacuum for much more than half an hour at a stretch then you you might want to hang onto the old wall-socket thumper. There's also the fact that you need to wait 24 hours for the filter to dry after you rinse it, so you need to plan around that.

Attachments and docking

The model we tested, the V10 Absolute+, comes with six tools, including two powered cleaner heads (one for carpet and one for hard floors) and six tools for fiddly jobs, including a mini-motorized head, a flexible hose attachment and, a small detail we appreciated, a bag to put them all in. The wall-mountable docking station has room for two attachments and makes it easy to store and keep charged. The indicator lights on the handle turn off when the battery is fully charged, so there's no vampire power issues. There are also indicator lights that let you know if the filter needs cleaning or if you have a blockage.

Most of the time we used the powered brush head, which is essential for carpet but also works on hard floors. On polished wood or other delicate hard surfaces the soft roller head is a better bet for removing fine dust and almost works like a buffer. When using it as a handheld the mini-motorized tool is great for furniture and the combination tool is the most versatile for whipping around windows and other nooks and crannies. A clever skirt that sits inside the bin also means that it will perform well when pointed upwards.

The value of excellence

It's pretty tough to fault this machine. It's very quiet on the lower settings and, while the max setting still makes a reasonable racket, it's a fair trade off for the incredible suction power on the occasions that you do need to crank it right up. It's built to take a beating, the connectors are rock-solid, it's light enough to use as a handheld, it's easy to remove the bin and filters for cleaning, and likewise the head rollers can be taken out and cleaned using a coin – no special tools required. The attention to detail is outstanding, right down to the rubber section on the handle that lets you lean it against a wall without slipping.

The bin is an improvement on the V8, but it does fill up reasonable quickly. On the flipside it can be emptied in seconds. Of course, you could always use more battery life – though you can say that about everything from a toy train to a Tesla Model 3, and if it was the only consideration in our product purchases, none of us would be using mobile phones. Overall, the balance between weight, performance and run-time seems about right here, unless you have some serious floorspace to cover all a once.

The Dyson V10 is design at its finest, a machine where form and function combine to achieve exactly what it was made to do. It's definitely the best cordless vacuum I've ever used and it puts the vast majority of plug-in machines in the shade, too. Not surprisingly, it will also go some way to cleaning out your wallet. The Cyclone Absolute+ model is priced at AUD$999 (US$699.99), while the Animal, which comes with one cleaner head and four tools, costs AUD$899 (US$599.99). If you can stomach that, you're in for a state-of-the-art dirt-sucking treat.

Product page: Dyson

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