Taking the Dyson Ball for a test spin

4 Jun

Geoff Meeker gives the new Dyson Ball technology two thumbs up. Apparently, his dog was less impressed. (Geoff Meeker photo)

In July of 2007, I reviewed the Dyson vacuum cleaner. I was in need of a new vacuum at the time, and was intrigued by the promise of James Dyson, that it would “work better” and “never lose suction.”

Because, quite frankly, everything I had used prior to that just plain sucked. Would the Dyson actually deliver the goods?

In a nutshell, it did. The canister model proved itself immediately, when I vacuumed a 5’ by 8’ area rug in the living room. That rug had been cleaned once weekly by the old machine, so I didn’t expect a lot of dirt.

But I was wrong. It picked up a LOT from what I assumed was a clean carpet. You can see a photo and read the review by visiting my Technofile column archive (meekertech.wordpress.com) and clicking the July 2007 folder.

Last month, I received a media release from Dyson, announcing that Canada had been selected for the launch of its new line of “all Ball technology” vacuums, and would I be interested in trying the new product? I replied in the affirmative, and the new “ball” vacuum arrived several days later. It was the upright DC43, the largest in the Dyson line.

The ball technology supposedly enhances the mobility of the vacuum. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t change the suction of the machine itself. According to the release, the Ball “replaces the wheels with a smooth, free flowing and lightweight ball that steers into difficult places… The result? Canisters and uprights with greater maneuverability. No awkward moves.”

They’re not kidding about the ball. It’s a large globe with a diameter of about 8.5 inches, containing the motor and other components. Sitting above the ball is the canister and handle, with the suction head projecting out the front.

I plugged the baby in and went to work. For starters, I did the same area rug as in 2007 (yes, maybe it’s time for a new rug). The vacuum uses one head for both carpet and bare floors, which is a big convenience for those who have to keep changing from power nozzle to bare floor attachment. There is a switch that activates the power nozzle brush. For bare floor, you just turn it off.

Right away, the Dyson chewed down into the rug. You could feel it gripping and sucking out that dirt, even as it moved smoothly across the surface. It was a reassuring feeling.

After two minutes of vacuuming, I checked the canister. It had picked up a respectable amount of dirt, though not nearly as much as the first test, back in 2007. And that stands to reason, given that we’ve been using a Dyson on the rug ever since.

The new Dyson DC43 picked up this much dirt from a small rug – one that I thought was clean! (Geoff Meeker photo)

By this point, I was hooked on a feeling. I kept going and vacuumed the entire house, up and down, moving things out of the way, reaching under things, catching all those errant dust bunnies.

The ball takes a bit of getting used to. It steers cleanly and easily, with a flick of the wrist. However, it took me a while to figure out the steering dynamics. Sometimes, I missed the corner I was aiming for, and my first instinct was to slide the vacuum to the left or right. This is not wise. It’s a heavy machine, and doing too much of that will throw out your back. Far better to pull it out, adjust course slightly, and roll it back towards the target area. Keep doing that and you will master the steering in no time.

The cord for the DC43 is much longer than the older model. I was able to plug it into a centrally-located outlet and do an entire floor of the house without having to unplug, a small but pleasant convenience.

When finished, the canister was filled with an impressive clot of dirt. It was time to dump it – which brings me to a major new innovation over the old model. The canister removes easily but, rather than remove the lid on top – as before – you just hold it above a wastebin, press a button and a trap door on the bottom opens, releasing the dirt before snapping shut. It locks back in place on the vacuum just as fast, and off you go. This is easier and more convenient than the canister.

To vacuum underneath the china cabinet or between the banister spindles, you stand the vacuum straight up until it locks, diverting the suction to a hose that is tucked away neatly inside the handle, and slip on the appropriate attachment. This feature worked like a charm.

It’s pretty much impossible to measure these things without losing a finger or two, but the DC43 seems to have better suction than the old model. I think that’s due to the motor being right on top of the suction mouth (with the canister, there is about seven feet of hose between the two).

The Dyson Ball really does work as described. It handles like a sports car, while cleaning like a hungry beast.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.

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