On test: Vax Blade Cordless 32V
Vax’s latest offering is packed with features, but does it live up to its claim of being as powerful as a corded vacuum cleaner?
This is the more powerful 32V version of Vax’s new cordless vacuum cleaner. There’s also a 24V model (£280) but it’s worth spending that little bit more because it brings the runtime from 35 to 45 minutes, which is very impressive for a handheld.
Its design is similar to Dyson’s popular-but-pricey handhelds, which range in price from £200 to an eye-watering £520. They offer powerful suction but only for short bursts of time. For example, the Dyson V6 runs for 20 minutes, but only 6 minutes if you use it in boost mode… and who wouldn’t want to use the most powerful mode going?
The Vax also offers a regular and a boost mode. It’s clear that they expect you to use the latter because every time you turn it on, it’s automatically in boost mode. You need to tap a button to turn it off. Whereas it doesn’t automatically switch on the brush bar – you must tap a button if you want to turn that on.
All the buttons are conveniently located on the body of the cleaner, right by where you hold it. You hold the handle in one hand (either hand, it doesn’t discriminate) and there’s a small blue on/off button perfectly located under your thumb. Both of the other buttons though are a bit lower, so the easiest way to use them is to tap them with a finger from your free hand.
Above the two buttons are four lights to indicate the Vax’s charge level, while in use and also while it’s charging.
The design is reminiscent of a Dyson because it’s a handheld cyclonic cleaner with a wand to extend it to clean floors, rather than a stick cleaner where the middle pops out to convert to a handheld. But the Vax uses a horizontal ‘direct helix’ that deposits dirt in a horizontal bin. This creates a direct path for air to travel from floor head to dirt bin efficiently, to maximise cleaning performance. Air travels up the wand and spins over and around the horizontal dirt bin, a bit like a thread winding onto a bobbin.
With the wand and powered floor head, the Vax is good at whizzing around floors. The handheld is a bit heavy in the hand but the wand and floor head are very lightweight. As a result, it’s fast and highly manoeuvrable. It steers smoothly and is even good at getting low to clean under furniture.
We tried it with and without the boost mode and agreed with the makers that it’s just better with boost – it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to switch this off. It would be more fitting to label the non-boost setting ‘economy mode’, for when you really need to eke out more minutes cleaning.
Switch the powered floor head on when you want the brush bar to spin around, to lift dust and pick up hairs. We found that it was really helpful on carpets but less important on hard floors, where we only occasionally felt the need for it.
The Vax was pretty impressive as a floor cleaner. It lifted dirt well and also cleaned right up to the edges of walls and furniture. The machine is described as “as powerful as a corded vacuum” in the marketing blurb but we didn’t feel its suction lived up to this claim. The suction was considerably less that that of a high-end, corded, cyclonic cleaner. It was enough to give a home a quick clean, just not a deep clean.
The floor head attached directly to the handheld, without the wand, was a revelation in stair-cleaning convenience though. It fitted sideways on a stair perfectly and it was great not to have to faff about with a power cable. It was powerful enough for the job and made light work of it.
More than floors
With or without the wand, if you pop off the floor head and add one of its two attachments (crevice tool or dusting brush) you have a compact handheld cleaner.
We found that the dusting brush was best used with the wand for cobwebs. Used lower down you can use it for dusting but there’s just not enough suction to use the brush to pick up chunky dirt.
The crevice tool concentrates the Vax’s suction power, so it’s better at picking up dirt in awkward corners
The Vax weighs in at 3kg (similar Dysons weigh in at 2-3kg). This isn’t heavy, but remember that most of that weight sits in your hand. At first it’s noticeable but no big deal. After half an hour’s cleaning though, your arm is feeling it. In particular, when lifting the Vax overhead to vacuum away cobwebs we found it much more comfortable to use a free hand to help support its weight than do the job one-handed.
The weight isn’t a great big deal, because of the battery life. It’s stated as 45 minutes in normal mode but the tech specs on Vax’s website say 35 minutes. We didn’t find normal mode powerful enough though, so we instead tested its battery life on boost mode, using it to clean around the house. Using it mostly to clean floors, and with the powered floor head spinning just under half the time, we got 23 minutes out of it.
Recharging takes 4 hours and you can't use the Vax while it’s charging. This brings up our biggest peeve: it needs a charging dock. It comes with a small hook for hanging it on the wall – a must because it won’t stand up on its own. And then the handheld has a small socket to plug the power supply into. But a design that saw the cleaner automatically charge itself whenever it’s hung up would be far better. Especially as, thanks to the run time, you will pretty much always want to charge it after use.
Dirt collected in the bin is visible so it’s easy to see when it needs emptying. This is straightforward: press a button and the dirt falls out smoothly, there's no need to prod as long as you haven’t overfilled it. The other side twists open so you can access the washable filters. At this point it’s worth saying that buttons are easy to see in bright blue and the machine’s grey and blue colours are generally well chosen: unobjectionable, classy, unisex.
Would we use it?
Could you use the Vax Blade Cordless 32V as your only vacuum cleaner? Maybe. If you live in a small apartment and you’re not plagued with hairy pets or grubby toddlers, it would do a good enough job.
And if you live somewhere bigger and/or filthier then it’s a great second vacuum cleaner. You’d use it for quick clean-ups and stairs, while using a mains-powered machine regularly for a deep clean.
It’s also easy to imagine children using the Vax to help with the cleaning or simply to vacuum up crumbs after a meal. The thought of little fingers in the brush bar isn’t pleasant, so it’s not suitable for little kids, but older, competent children could enjoy using it
Dyson V8 Absolute
Money-no-object handheld cleaner boasting strong suction and a cleaning head designed with hard floors in mind. £520 dyson.co.uk
A more affordable Dyson but its battery life is just 20 minutes in normal mode… and 6 minutes in boost mode. From £200 dyson.co.uk
AEG CX7 LI-45 Animal
This stick-style cordless cleaner has a pop-out handheld in the middle for smaller stuff, motorised nozzle for pet hair and self-cleaning brush bar. £180 aeg.co.uk