The Unexpected Drawbacks of Dyson's Cordless Miracle

By Adam Clark Estes on at

It was easy to get excited about the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute, when it launched last spring. The cordless vacuum is “so good, it’s killing cords altogether,” wrote a Gizmodo colleague. I’ve now been using my Dyson Cyclone V10 for a year, and it might be too good, too powerful. No wonder Dyson redesigned the thing.

Just in case you haven’t been keeping up with Dyson and its model numbers, the company’s series of V-series cordless stick vacuums now spans from the £250 V7 Motorhead vacuum up to the redesigned £450 Cyclone V10 Absolute to the brand-new V11 Torque Drive, which has yet to make it to the UK; however, the V11 Absolute does offer many, but not all, of the V11 Torque Drive's features. (I’ll talk more about the V11 in a minute.)

The big difference between the cheapest cordless Dyson model and the Cyclone V10 is the sheer force of the suction generated by a redesigned digital motor that spins at up to 125,000 RPM. The V10 is designed so that the motor, cyclone array, and dust bin are all aligned. Dyson says this gives the Cyclone V10 20 percent more suction power than the £350 Dyson V8. The container on the Cyclone V10 is also 40 per cent larger than those on the cheaper cordless vacs and easier to empty as well. But if you’re having trouble keeping track of which Dyson V-whatever does what let me make things very simple: the Cyclone V10 is a pricey floor-cleaning beast, while the V8 and V7 are slightly less fierce.

Photo: Raul Marrero (Gizmodo)

Beastly cleaning comes at a cost, however. As I immediately realised when using the Cyclone V10, the battery life is abysmal when the vacuum is running at full power. Like, so abysmal that the thing dies in less than 10 minutes. This typically isn’t a big deal, since I live in a 700-square-foot flat with only one rug. However, the Cyclone V10 will die if I try vacuuming all the floors and my dog hair-coated furniture in one session. The easy fix is to run the vacuum on the lowest of its three power settings, which gives it close to 40 minutes of battery life. Of course, the simple battery meter on the Cyclone V10 leaves me guessing because there are only three indicator lights to tell me how much juice I have left.

The problem with this power-versus-battery battle is that I never really know what’s appropriate for any given mess. Running the Cyclone V10 at full power feels exhilarating and sounds incredible, so I find myself overdoing it most of the time, and I can only assume that this is harming the health of the vacuum’s battery, which is not super easy to replace, although it’s also not impossible. I almost wish the Cyclone V10 didn’t have its enticing, dust-destroying ultra high power mode and that my life involved making fewer decisions.

My other big gripe about the Cyclone V10 is also somehow counterintuitive. The big new dust bin is great for mega cleaning sessions, and for the first few months I had the vacuum, I enjoyed how its redesigned release latch let me dump my filth in the trash without having to reach my hand inside of the vacuum to pull out wads of hair that tended to clog up my old Dyson V6 Absolute. The container on the Cyclone V6, you see, pops open on the front, sending the dirt in whatever direction it’s pointed. The problem, however, was that the latch that should have secured the container to the rest of the vacuum seemed less effective over time. That means that when I empty the container now, the whole thing pops off the rest of the vacuum and falls in the trash. So now I get to root around in the trash for the container. It’s annoying.

Photo: Raul Marrero (Gizmodo)

Then there’s the filter issue, which I’d argue is downright dangerous. Opposite the business end of the Cyclone V10 there’s a purple air filter that you’re supposed to clean once a month. In part, because the filter’s shell is opaque and offers no visible indication when the filter is dirty, I didn’t realise this until I’d been using the thing for about 11 months, and when I did clean it, I did not consult the instruction manual. Instead, I took off the filter, saw the graphic that shows how you’re supposed to run it under water, did that, and then put the filter back on the vacuum. When I pulled the trigger to start the vacuum’s motor, the Cyclone V10 no longer worked.

So two lessons here. One, read the instructions if you buy a Dyson. The vacuums are very user friendly, but the maintenance they require is more nuanced than you might realise. Two, never put a wet air filter on a Cyclone V10. Internet research suggested, and Dyson support later confirmed that a wet filter can short out the motor and cause it to break permanently. Putting a wet filter can also void your warranty, so you might have to pay for the repair out of pocket. Luckily, I didn’t have to do this. Dyson support told me to let the filter dry for three days and then try installing it again. I did just that, and the Cyclone V10 fired right back up.

Photo: Raul Marrero (Gizmodo)

Considering these complaints—which range from minor to destructive—I have to admit that the Dyson Cyclone V10 is the most powerful cordless vacuum I’ve ever used. It’s more powerful and versatile than the cheaper V7 and V8 models.

However, the new Dyson V11 Torque Drive solves many of the Cyclone V10's problems. Like its predecessor, the V11 comes with three power settings, but it also has an “Auto” mode that uses a sensor to detect what kind of surface is being vacuumed and adjusts the power accordingly. There’s also a slick little LCD screen on the back of the vacuum that displays how many minutes and seconds of juice are left on the battery. The filter cover is also transparent on the V11, so you know when it’s getting dirty.

There’s one other thing that I didn’t expect: the Dyson V11 Torque Drive is quieter than on the V10. I’ve been using the V11 for a couple of weeks now, and the sound scares my dog quite a bit less. The Auto mode also means I have to make fewer decisions about how to vacuum, and the battery meter means I haven’t once killed the thing halfway through cleaning. These upgrades don’t sound very exciting, I know. I’m also not sure it would be worth spending so much more to get the latest model.

Photo: Raul Marrero (Gizmodo)

If I’m really honest with myself, most people don’t need the Dyson V11 Torque Drive. Most people don’t need the Cyclone V10, either. These new super cordless stick vacuums are probably overkill for the average household, and their price tags reflect that reality. Our friends at the Wirecutter think the V7 is the best cordless stick vacuum you can buy, and while I don’t necessarily agree that it’s the very best, the Dyson V7 is probably the best deal right now.

In retrospect, the shortcomings of the Dyson Cyclone V10 feel like growing pains that were alleviated by the new V11 Torque Drive. The Cyclone V10 was a glimpse at Dyson’s future of smarter, more powerful vacuums. But it also serves as a welcome reminder that the older Dyson cordless stick vacuums are timeless in their own way.