Dyson DC59 Motorhead review: The newest stick vac from Dyson tries to replace your upright

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.5
  • Performance: 7.5
  • Features: 7.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Usability: 7.5

Average User Rating

5 stars 1 user review
Review Date:

The Good The Dyson DC59 Motorhead stick vacuum cleaner performed extremely well on both pet hair and fine particles. The design makes it portable, maneuverable, and generally easy to use.

The Bad The Motorhead is a marginal upgrade at best over its predecessor, the Animal, and performed worse with big particles. The motor in the brush roll results in relatively poor battery life. It still doesn't outperform the other sticks enough to justify its luxury price.

The Bottom Line Dyson's DC59 competes well enough as a high-end stick vac, but poor battery life and a tendency to clog with large particles hold the DC59 Motorhead back from replacing your full-size upright.

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Dyson hopes to convince you that its $550 DC59 Motorhead vacuum cleaner can replace your upright. The name "Motorhead" comes from a brush roll that spins via a separate, low-power engine with the intention of increasing carpet agitation and fine particle pickup. Dyson makes a lot of bold claims about its newest product in the Digital Slim product line, and it needs to after releasing the DC59 Motorhead so shortly after the DC59 Animal. Perhaps Dyson was responding to Hoover's great stick product -- the Linx -- which outperformed the Animal for half the price. The Motorhead is at least partially true to Dyson's word. It improves fine particle pickup across all surfaces, besting both the Animal and the Linx in the process.

This fine particle performance out-cleans many stand-up vacs as well, but it's still not at the level of the top full-size models -- the Oreck Touch Bagless and the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean. The widened head of this newest Dyson model allows it to pick up more dirt at once, but that often results in jams with larger particles, leading to lower performance numbers on this test than either the Animal or the Linx managed. The powered brush roll also decreases the battery life, and the Animal already didn't hold a charge as well as its competitors.

If you already own the DC59 Animal, the Motorhead does not have enough clear improvements to warrant paying another premium for the upgrade. If you're at all price-conscious, the Linx and the Shark Rocket still offer comparable performance and more convenience for much less. That said, if you're a Dyson loyalist or are simply willing to pay the price to be sure you have the stick vacuum with the most cleaning power on the market, the Motorhead delivers.

Design and features

At an assembled weight of 4.9 pounds, the Dyson DC59 Motorhead packs the majority of its power into the base. Hold the base by the handle, click the wand and the motorized head into place, depress the convenient trigger on the handle, and you're ready to vacuum. With most of the weight in your hand, and a smaller version of Dyson's patented roller ball allowing the head to pivot on a dime, the Motorhead maneuvers fluidly. In fact, because you're holding the weight, it doesn't take much leverage to reach floors, stairs, and even ceilings with the same setup.

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This stick vac is lightweight and easy to maneuver. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Dyson successfully designed the Motorhead with convenience and ease of use in mind. You can purchase the vacuum for $550 on Dyson's website, via Amazon, and at most major appliance retailers such as Best Buy or Walmart. Currently, it's only available in the US.

Included in the package are the base you hold, the wand, and the powered head, along with a combination tool for dusting , a crevice tool for corners, and a mini motorized tool for removing pet hair and dirt from smaller spaces and upholstery. You'll also find a docking station you can hang from a wall to hold your vacuum while it charges.

The Dyson DC59 Motorhead is quite similar to the DC59 Animal. The design of the base, wand, the included tools, and even the docking station is exactly the same. The Dyson digital motor V6 provides the primary power source for both and supposedly spins up to 110,000 times a minute. Both have a regular mode and a boost mode and run on a nickel manganese cobalt battery. In fact, except for the head, the Motorhead and the Animal are exactly the same.

The Motorhead upgrades the Animal by providing power directly to the brush roll via a miniaturized motor in the cleaning head itself. This adds a little weight to the total package, since the Animal weighs in at 4.6 pounds versus the 4.9 pounds for the Motorhead. The Motorhead is also longer and wider. These physical changes are small enough, though, that you'd be hard-pressed to notice them with your naked eye.

Focus on the brush roll, and the difference becomes more apparent. The Motorhead's brush roll has a larger circumference to cover an opening that spans most of the bottom of the head. The Animal's opening for dirt is much narrower. With its wider opening, the Motorhead can suck more dirt, faster, and the powered brush roll facilitates this, leading Dyson to claim the Motorhead is a significant upgrade over the Animal and any stick vac, to the point where, as I said, the company argues that it can replace your upright.

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The Motorhead, with its wider opening and powered brush roll, is on the right. The Animal's head is on the left. Colin West McDonald/CNET

However, a few of its design elements make the Motorhead less convenient for cleaning your entire home than a full-size machine would be. Because the weight is centralized to the base you hold, the Motorhead won't stand up on its own. Again, the weight distribution adds to its appeal as a clean-anywhere stick vac, but for a lengthy housecleaning, it would be nice if it could prop itself up.

You power the vacuum by squeezing a trigger on the handle. The trigger works well and fits the design perfectly, but holding a trigger is more natural for spot cleaning -- turning the vacuum on as you approach visible dirt -- as opposed to systematic floor cleaning to cover a large area for what you can't see.

The Motorhead, like its predecessor, is ergonomic and easy to use, but its design isn't upgraded from the Animal, and since you can't store attachments on the device itself, it isn't nearly as self-contained as a full-sized vac.

Usability

Combine the ergonomic design, the high level of maneuverability, the snap-in-place extensions, and the easy-to-empty dustbin and you do have a vacuum that is easy and, dare I say, almost fun to use.

It looks and feels like a giant Nerf gun. The kid in me had an easy time daydreaming I was doing other, more action-packed activities while wielding this Dyson. Since the extensions and the wand are so easy to snap into and out of place, you can quickly switch between cleaning tasks, all while feeling like you're locking and loading to equip yourself for battle.

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Snap these pieces together and you're ready to go. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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Where to Buy See all prices

Dyson DC59 Motorhead

Part Number: dc59-motorhead
MSRP: $550.00 Low Price: $549.00 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Cleaner Type handheld
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