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Dyson Root 6 Hand Vacuum

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One of the drawbacks to living somewhere quiet and rural is that dust, not confined by asphalt and poor urban planning, is everywhere. It gets everywhere, too. Dust measurably shortens the life of technology, and we have a lot of technology.

One of the drawbacks to living somewhere quiet and rural with a hundred and fifty pound Newfoundland dog is that huge tumbleweeds of shedded black dog hair make the issue of dust immaterial by comparison.

Hand vacuums have long been as much a part of our technology as computers, and until our last move – when several boxes of hand vacuum pre-history went to the technology recyclers – we could trace their origins back to the original “dust busters.”

One of the constant qualities of hand vacuums throughout recorded history is that none of them have worked very well. Beset with ineffectual motors, lackadaisical batteries and dust collection systems that were prone to respiratory seizure after a few minutes of exertion, they were typically at their best when they were scaring the dog into another part of the building.

The Dyson Root 6 hand vacuum is notable for having a great deal more marketing behind it than its antecedents, and a truly impressive price tag. To its credit, however, it looks like a death ray from a bad science fiction film and comes with some attachments, which is more than could be said for its immediate predecessor. We sprang for a Dyson when its immediate predecessor’s ineffectual motor erupted in blue smoke one day, and thereafter worked even less well.

The first thing that must be said of the Dyson Root 6 is that it largely lives up to its expensive marketing. It summons forth a great deal of suction, and it lacks a perforated paper filter to clog with dust. Whatever gets ingested into its transparent plastic dust chamber swirls happily in free-fall, but it doesn’t get involved in the inner workings of the machine.

This being the case, the suction provided by the Dyson Root 6 remains at maximum suck until its batteries finally snuff it, and it needs to be recharged.

The fact that it actually works, and keeps working, arguably makes the Dyson Root 6 worth what its costs – this being about three times the price of a conventional hand vacuum.

While easily the most effective hand vacuum we’ve tried to date, the Dyson Root 6 isn’t without its issues. Its impressive suction is wrought by a considerable motor, which makes substantial demands upon its lithium-ion battery. We experienced about five minutes of vacuuming before the battery closed its tired little eyes and wanted a snooze in its charger. The charger required three hours to recharge the Dyson’s battery.

I’m reluctant to complain about the battery life in the Root 6, in that it’s a hand vacuum, not a shop-vac. If it’s used as we use it – to clean up a few clumps of dog hair and send the odd dust bunny to the seventh level of hell – its battery life never really becomes an issue. It can be back in its charger before it starts wheezing. Should you require a vacuum cleaner to handle your entire house, we recommend the Beam central vacuum system, which doesn’t use a battery.

The plastic used to encase the Dyson Root 6, however, was a genuine disappointment. It’s very soft, and easily scratched. Considering what it cost, we would have liked to have seen it built of somewhat sterner stuff.

The documentation included with the Dyson Root 6 is arguably the worst manual we’ve ever seen in any device costing more than a dollar ninety five. The warranty and legal disclaimers are explained in considerable detail, and in three languages. The operation of the machine itself is left to a two-page cartoon with almost no text, and periodic ambiguities. In attempting to decrypt the instructions, one can’t help thinking that Dyson imagines the bulk of its customers to be illiterate.

Finally, it’s worth noting that while Dyson’s television advertising makes a great deal of noise about their vacuum cleaners operating without filters, the Root 6 does in fact have two. They need to be washed every few months. While they don’t appear to exhibit the clogging problems of traditional paper dust filters, they’re a notable maintenance issue.

Despite its shortcomings, the Dyson Root 6 hand vacuum has proven a worthwhile addition to our collection of toys. It does what it claims to do, does it well, and doesn’t frighten the dog. It looks cool, too.

Afterword: About a year after its warranty expired, so did the Root 6. Its motor emitted a very large bang, followed by grinding noises and a lot of smoke. To their credit, the staff at Dyson’s 800 number – conveniently printed on the back of the vacuum cleaner – answered our call without so much as a moment on hold. Things deteriorated shortly thereafter, in that repairing our three-year-old Dyson was to cost about a hundred dollars, or about two thirds of what we paid for it.

In reflection, while the Root 6 was undeniably cool and worked well, it was somewhat funky to use, requiring considerable filter-cleaning and periodic respiratory maintenance with an air compressor. The smoking motor was a dust bunny too far, and we ultimately replaced it with a DeWalt DC515K hand vacuum. The DeWalt isn’t anywhere near as elegant – and it’s somewhat noisier and it weighs a lot – but it’s built like a tank.