Editors' Note, February 12, 2015: Dyson hasrebranded the DC59 stick vacuum line, giving each model a new coat of paint and a new price. The DC59 Motorhead that was now forms the primary components of both the $400 Dyson v6 Motorhead and the $500 Dyson v6 Animal. The only difference between the new models is the number of included attachments. This review is updated accordingly.
Dyson hopes to convince you that its $400 v6 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. The resulting performance on our sand test bested the original v6, the excellent Hoover Linx, and 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 v6 or the Linx managed. The powered brush roll also decreases the battery life, and the v6 already didn't hold a charge as well as its competitors.
The $400 Motorhead does not have enough clear improvements over the $300 v6 to warrant paying the premium for the upgrade. Besides that direct drive head, you get a couple of extra attachments, and two more for the $500 v6 Animal. If you're at all price-conscious, the Linx and the Shark Rocket still offer comparable performance and more convenience for much less. If you're a Dyson loyalist, the v6 gives you the same engine power for less, and the $600 v6 Absolute gets the best numbers of the Dyson sticks. The Motorhead and Animal suffer as the middle children of Dyson's new v6 lineup.
Design and features
At an assembled weight of 4.9 pounds, the Dyson v6 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.
Dyson successfully designed the Motorhead with convenience and ease of use in mind. You can purchase the vacuum for $400 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, and a crevice tool for corners. Pay $100 more for the Animal, and you'll get the same basics with a mini motorized tool for removing pet hair and dirt from smaller spaces and upholstery, and a dusting brush for the top of furniture. In both packages, you'll also find a docking station you can hang from a wall to hold your vacuum while it charges.
The Dyson v6 Motorhead is quite similar to the rest of the v6 line, including its predecessor, the original v6 (previously 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 that gives the v6 series its name 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 original v6 are exactly the same.
The Motorhead upgrades the v6 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 v6 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 v6 and any stick vac, to the point where, as I said, the company argues that it can replace your upright.
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 v6, and since you can't store attachments on the device itself, it isn't nearly as self-contained as a full-size vac.
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.
Unfortunately, the battery charge runs out quickly, meaning the fun won't last long. Since the battery provides the suction and spins the motor, the same battery used by the original v6 dies more quickly when powering the Motorhead. The v6 lasts 26 minutes on normal, and 6 minutes in boost mode. Dyson claims the Motorhead lasts 24 and 6 minutes. I found 6 minutes to be accurate on high power, but on normal, with the Motorhead attached, I could only get it to run for 16 to 18 minutes.