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Canister Vacuums Performance and Ease of Use

Reviews of budget canister vacuums indicate that users sometimes expect more from this basic home appliance than it is engineered to provide. Two priorities regularly surface -- cleaning ability and ease of use -- and our top picks generally meet these standards.

But these little cleaning machines are primarily intended for smooth surfaces, upholstery/drapery, and maybe small area rugs, and a fair number of reviewers express annoyance when they falter on thick carpeting. Others seem to accept their limitations and praise their versatility. We also noticed scattered complaints about build quality (lots of plastic) for all the models we researched. And while the issue of noise arises occasionally in canister vacuum reviews, it rarely impacts the overall assessment.

Canister Vacuums Cleaning Ability.

Cleaning performance is the most important factor for consumers, according to canister vacuum reviews. The vast majority of posts at Amazon rave about the cleaning chops of the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G (starting at $57) when pitted against carpeted stairs and deep corners, wood trim and hard surfaces. Some users gripe about weak suction and the superiority of previous Eureka models, but one retorts that the powerful suction has not diminished during four years of service and another says she would pay four times the price because it is that effective.

Equally laudatory comments about the Dirt Devil Featherlite Cyclonic Canister Vacuum SD40100 (starting at $59) appear at Walmart, where one canister vacuum reviewer calls it his best friend. Others report that it picks up short pet hair and cat litter and does a fine job on cushions. A handful of posts assert that this Dirt Devil is ineffective on carpets.

The two second-place canister vacuum picks, the Eureka ReadyForce 900A (starting at $57) and Panasonic MC-CL310 (starting at $85), garner mostly above-average ratings for cleaning proficiency. Users are generally pleased with the Eureka ReadyForce, with comments at sites such as Best Buy extolling the power and effectiveness, particularly on small area rugs and bare surfaces; one review says it beats a broom by a factor of 10. Not surprisingly, some dissenting posts point to inadequate suction, especially when faced with messes wrought by children and pets. Canister vacuum reviews of the Panasonic MC-CL310 are a bit more reserved, with some at Amazon reporting weak suction regardless of surface and finding clumps of pet hair and grit that get trapped in the brush. A majority says this model is sufficient for light-duty tasks given its entry-level price.

Households with pets go for the Eureka Pet Lover Mighty Mite 3684F (starting at $75). As its name suggests, this budget model is adept at pulling up pet hair from every surface, according to reviews at Walmart. And, they add, it transitions cleanly from hard floors to light carpet duty.

Some cheap models disappoint more often than delight. Reviews posted at Amazon contend that the Dirt Devil Lite Bagless Canister SD40010 EZ (starting at $79) simply can't handle hair or fur of any kind. Users share stories of having to unclog the hose with a long, sharp object or their fingers after every use, and others say the clog indicator light often sends false alerts. The EZ Lite also takes heat for failing to clear away surface dust. Still, some users are satisfied with its performance, from sucking up ash from a wood stove that settles on carpets to cleaning a house full of tile floors.

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Ease of Use.

A potpourri of features, such as retractable cords, flexible hoses, well-placed handles, and cleaning attachments help make canister vacuums user-friendly. Reviewers appreciate the easy-to-reach attachments on the wand and the multi-angle nozzle in the Panasonic MC-CL310, for example. Ditto for the fingertip controls on the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G and the foot pedals that control the on/off switch and retract the cord on the Dirt Devil SD40100. A large carry handle facilitates moving the Eureka ReadyForce 900A up and down ladders and stairs, say posts at Best Buy. And canister vacuum reviews at Macy's talk up the virtues of the bottom-empty dirt cup on the Dirt Devil Featherlite.

And then there are the irritants. Some canister vacuum reviews report that parts don't always stay attached on the Panasonic MC-CL310 and the dirt cup seems a tad small. A few consider the 16-foot power cord on the Eureka ReadyForce 900A too short. The Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G takes heat for a hose that kinks, and a cord that doesn't retract and gets hot quickly. And the Dirt Devil Featherlite gets called out by some reviewers for overheating and not gliding easily over low-pile carpet.

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