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Inside Consumer Reports Test Labs: Does the performance of the Dyson DC28 Animal upright vacuum match its lofty price?

Consumer Reports News: June 08, 2009 04:41 PM

Cleaning carpets is a vacuum cleaner's toughest job. That's why it's also Consumer Reports' most demanding test for upright and canister vacuums. In fact, the ability to remove embedded talc and sand in our carpet-cleaning test helped separate the strongest from the weakest performers in our March 2009 report on vacuums (available to subscribers).

Dyson's new DC28 Animal upright vacuum with "Airmuscle" technology, $600, includes an automatic adjustment system aimed squarely at the kind of performance needed to deep-clean carpeting. And as if Airmuscle and Animal don't sound macho enough, the DC28 includes hardware that seems more suited to muscle cars.

A pneumatic actuator "pulls the cleaner head deeper into the carpet" while a high-torque clutch adds "more power to the brush bar, enabling the stiff bristles to open carpet pile and dislodge dirt," says Dyson. There's even a "powered cam" designed for better bare-floor suction. You half expect to find 0-to-60-mph acceleration time and horsepower specs for this vacuum.

The promise behind all that technology is better cleaning, since the system separately adjusts the vacuum head and brush to the cleaning surface. Dyson also says the automated process makes the vacuum easier to push.

This latest Dyson earned a very good in our carpet-cleaning test and did better than most of its brand mates, getting a very good instead of Dyson’s usual good. It also scored well in our pet-hair test and in airflow for tools—a plus when you need to get spilled cereal and other messes out of the nooks and crannies of a couch. Four friendly push-button height settings are another plus, since you can still do some adjusting on your own.

But as our handling test revealed, the DC28's added pulling power made this 21-pound vacuum relatively hard to push and pull. And while Dyson has been among the most reliable brands of upright vacuum in our repair surveys, some recommended models and CR Best Buys from similarly reliable brands cost hundreds less. The D17 Absolute Animal, $550, also scored a very good in our carpet tests.—Bob Markovich | | Twitter | Forums | Facebook

Essential information: Check our ratings of upright and canister vacuums (available to subscribers) for top values from other reliable brands. Before you shop, use our free buyer's guide to vacuums.

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