- This unit has a great LED screen, long run time, two batteries, a host of accessories and is surprisingly quiet and light. We wish it came with a soft power brush (for this you'll need to spend an additional $100 to get the S12 Plus), but this model is still the best in our comparison.
- Great suction and run time (up to 50 minutes per battery).
- Easy to view and understand LED screen.
- Comes loaded with accessories (less the soft power brush) and an extra battery.
- Ultra-lightweight and HEPA filtration.
- Quite pricey at over $500.
- If you want a power brush, you'll need to spend an additional $100 to get the S 12 Plus.
- This unit has impressive battery life, a large dust bin and is tied with the V11 Torque Drive as the most powerful in our comparison (we don't feel that model's mini dusting brush and LCD are worth the extra $100). Our runner up because we wish it had detachable batteries and, in this price range, an LCD screen.
- The best suction in our comparison (tied with the V11 Torque Drive).
- "Auto Mode" adapts to floor type.
- Great for allergy sufferers (HEPA filter equipped).
- Up to 60 minutes of run time in "Eco" mode.
- Quite pricey for a model without an LCD screen (it only has an LED indicator).
- Battery is not detachable and takes 4.5 hours to charge.
- "Boost" mode will still drain your batteries in 12 minutes or less with a powered attachment.
- This solid all around vacuum comes with a powerful-ish motor, two removable batteries, two motorized power brushes and a host of other accessories. It's not the latest and greatest, but all this and a competitive price make the A11 Master a great "budget" pick in this high-end category.
- Competitive price point (just under $400 at the time of our writing).
- Great for allergy sufferers (HEPA filter equipped).
- Includes a host of common and not-so-common accessories.
- Solid battery life (12 minutes in max and 30 min in regular PER battery).
- On the heavier side.
- Not as powerful as the other vacuums in our comparison.
- Although competitively priced when considering the features and accessories, this isn't a budget vacuum.
- Likely the most powerful cordless handheld on the market. It has all the extras such microscopic particle filtration and the ability to auto-adjust to different flooring types. The price, however, is ridiculous (list is nearly $700)—go with the slightly "dumbed down" V10 or even V7 and save big instead.
- Market leading suction power and relatively quite to boot.
- Dynamic Load Sensor automatically adjusts motor speed based on floor surface.
- Large dustbin.
- Battery lasts up to 70 minutes in "low" setting.
- By far the most expensive model in our comparison (list price is nearly $700, although we've seen heavy discounts).
- Built in batter takes 4.5 hours to charge.
- "Max" mode will still drain your batteries in approximately 8 minutes with a power tool.
Premium Doesn't Require Overspending
Must Haves, Nice To Haves and Who Cares
Trigger Control – One of the biggest complaints we had with the Dyson models is that you have to keep the trigger pulled for the machine to stay running. Specifically, trying to keep the trigger squeezed while you vacuum can be inconvenient and can quickly become a problem for those with hand and wrist issues. Look for models with a locking trigger, such as those by Tineco if you think this will be an issue for you.
LCD Screens and Battery Life Indicators – While not all models have these features, they can come in handy when you have a larger area to clean. Those with easy to read built-in metering systems take the guesswork out of battery life and also make it crystal clear what power mode you are operating in.
LED Headlights – Having LED lights might seem silly to you, but when the time comes to vacuum under the bed or couch, they can actually come in pretty handy. The Tienco models have LED headlights on there full size powered attachments while those from Dyson do not.
HEPA Filters – Most of premium cordless vacuums come with a HEPA filter (all four of the models in our review have them), so make sure the model you select does too. HEPA filters help trap dust and a host of allergens far more effectively than a standard air filter, all helping to keep the air in your home much cleaner.
Accessories and Bells and Whistles – Most cordless vacuums in the premium segment come with a wealth of attachments, but there are differences (Dyson, for instance, tends to be stingy on attachments). In fact, the range of attachments can make a vacuum that otherwise wouldn't make our top spots, like the Tineco A11 (at least in this premium category), a strong contender because of the extra value added. Conversely, you may not need to pay extra for certain bells and whistles that are nice to have, but which do not increase the effectiveness of your vacuum (we are thinking about the V11 Animal compared with the V11 Torque Drive—with these models you are paying for the suction power, making the nicer display on the Torque Drive of only negligible additional value).
Detachable Batteries – These are a BIG deal and one place we think that Dyson comes up far short. Specifically, models like the Tineco's have detachable batteries and come included with a spare. These not only keep your vacuum operational if you have a battery issue, but also allow you to effectively double your run time by swapping out batteries mid-clean. As an added bonus, you can also charge one battery while you clean with the other, something that is not possible with the models by Dyson.
Battery Type – While we are on the subject of batteries, its also worth noting that lithium-ion batteries are a much better choice than the old-school nickel-cadmium batteries. Specifically, lithium-ion batteries typically last longer and, unlike "NiCad" batteries, they don't have much charging memory. This means you can charge them from completely dead, halfway or anywhere in between—doing so will not create a battery that only charges halfway because you've done so frequently. For your first few cycles with a new lithium-ion battery, however, we do recommend going through complete discharge/re-charge cycles to obtain optimal performance over the life of your battery. By the way, all of the vacuums in today's comparison come with lithium-ion variants.
Tips and Tricks
A Few Pointers For Your New Vacuum
- Keep the batteries fully charged, so they are ready when you need them.
- Never attempt to vacuum any form of liquid with your cordless vacuum.
- Keep pets away from the brush end as the bristles spin at very high speeds that can severely injure your pet.
- Along that line of thought, make sure to keep human fingers, toes, and hair away from the spinning brush in order to avoid injury.
- Always empty the dust bin after each use. Not only will this keep you from having to do so when you are ready to use your vacuum, but certain items you pick up may cause damage if left in the plastic bin.
- Never attempt to use damaged batteries, this can lead to short circuiting and the risk of burns or fire.
- Use your cordless vacuum on the lowest setting for the longest battery life. In most cases, the "Low" setting—especially with a premium model—will be more than powerful enough to do the job.
Why Four Best?
We started Four Best on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Photo of dog digging on beach from iStock.
- Photo of vacuum and one hundred dollar bills from iStock.
- Photo of blocks spelling "TIPS" from iStock.
- Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.