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Looking for top performance in our tests of small vacuums

Consumer Reports News: April 08, 2013 02:38 PM

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Some vacuuming tasks like spilled Cheerios or the dirt the dog dragged in are too small to break out the big upright or canister vacuum. And for homeowners tight on storage space, a smaller vacuum may be all you can accommodate. That's why, in addition to Consumer Reports tests of large vacuums, we're just wrapping up our testing of 20 smaller hand and stick vacuums that range in price from $30 to $400.

Compared to a full upright model, a stick vacuum doesn't have nearly the oomph for deep-cleaning carpets. But if you have more than one vacuum, a stick model can be just the ticket for a quick pickup before guests arrive. These slim vacuums are also far easier to maneuver, including under furniture. Among the stick models we're testing are the Dyson DC44 Animal, $400, which has a detachable, long-reach wand for cleaning the cobwebs out of the corners, and the Hoover Platinum LiNX BH50010, $150, which claims a "fade-free" lithium-ion battery that doesn't weaken before it runs out of charge.

Handheld vacuums are great for getting into tight places and picking up small messes. The models we're testing include the Dirt Devil Gator BD10175, $60, (pictured), the Black & Decker Flex FHV1200, also $60, and the Dyson DC34, $200.

Of the models in our labs, a half dozen function as both hand and stick vacuums when the handheld component is detached from the handle. All of the models mentioned above are cordless although others in this latest batch have electric cords. In addition to testing cleaning capability and charge time for all the cordless models, we're measuring run time, a common complaint among consumers.

The results of our small vacuum tests will be available online soon and, later this year, we'll be testing robotic vacuums. In the meantime, if you need a full-sized upright or canister vacuum, check out our buying advice and the results of our vacuum tests. Top picks include the upright Hoover WindTunnel Max UH30600, $180, and the Kenmore Progressive 21614 canister, $300. We named both CR Best Buys.

Ed Perratore

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