A name like JetForce inspires high expectations. It conveys power, performance, and excellence, at least in my mind. Unfortunately, the Panasonic MC-UL429 JetForce Bagless Upright vacuum falls short of the mark.
Priced at $148, the MC-UL429 is the newest member of Panasonic’s line of MC-UL vacuums, all of which boast the same JetForce technology and hourglass-shaped bin. This particular model, available exclusively at Walmart, failed to wow me the way I’d hoped it would.
Performing in the bottom half of six of the nine tests we scored, the Panasonic failed to impress, even for its budget-friendly price. It’s one strength was with fine particulate (a sand and sawdust blend) on hard floors, a test in which it collected 100 percent of the debris, the best record in that particular test. Hard floors, however, are not the most common surface target for vacuum cleaners. To qualify as a good vacuum, it has to work well on carpets, too. In this, I was disappointed with its results on both large debris and fine particulate debris tests. It did perform well with pet hair on carpet, collecting 100 percent, but as anyone who has ever deep-cleaned their carpets will tell you, there is a lot more stuck in that carpet than just pet hair.
Consumers looking to purchase a sub-$200 vacuum would be far better off considering either the
Design and Features
The Panasonic is a light-feeling bagless, upright vacuum that features bright purple accents and tools. It uses two primary controls, which include a brush roll on/off switch and a power switch, both located within reach of your foot. To recline the vacuum, you must press your foot down on the front and then pull or push the handle backwards. This gesture is similar to the one required by the
The hose and compressed telescope wand reach 8 feet, though when you extend the wand, it reaches more than 9 feet. This reach is further extended by the telescoping crevice tool for a total reach of up to 13 feet. This length isn’t particularly generous, especially when compared to the Hoover, which boasts a 12 foot hose, telescoping wand not included.
Like the other vacuums we’ve looked at so far, the Panasonic comes with tools for the extension hose, such as the gliding double roller pet tool, three-position fan and blind tool, and the telescopic crevice device.
Aside from the fact that it can triple in size when it's extended, the Panasonic’s telescoping crevice tool is fairly standard in terms of nozzle shape. It doesn’t have the uniquely molded tip like the Hoover’s crevice tool. That said, I don’t want to downplay the fact that it does extend much farther than other tools we’ve seen, in addition to functioning as expected.
I really like the three-position fan and blind tool (known with other vacuums as a dusting brush). Whether you’re trying to reach the tops of fan blades or vacuum under a sofa, this tool will help you get the job done.
I wish I had the same glowing report for the double roller pet tool, which caused me problems with pet hair on both carpet and upholstery. It looks like it’s picking up all the pet hair, but upon turning it over, you’ll notice that the pet hair is matted together and stuck inside the tool’s narrow slit opening. I found the pet tools on nearly every other model more effective. I attribute this to their use of either bristles or rubberized blades, both of which grab at pet hair and bring it towards the vacuum hose. The nubs on the Panasonic’s tool don’t do enough to grab pet hair and the entry point into the vacuum is too narrow to collect it even if they did.
Like the Hoover and Oreck, the Panasonic comes with a replaceable HEPA filter, which will help trap dust and allergens, helping you breathe easier.
You’ll find a 24-foot long power cord, which is not as long as the cords on other models. I don’t mind this so much, however, because the Panasonic’s cord is retractable and housed inside the vacuum’s body, just below the dustbin. The
Like other bagless vacuums we’ve looked at, the Panasonic uses a plastic dustbin to collect debris from floors. I’ve been rather ambivalent about most of these dustbins. Some elements I like, others I don’t. My feelings about the Panasonic’s bin are no different though they are, perhaps a bit stronger on either side of the spectrum. For example, I love how easy it is to remove the bin and reinstall it onto the vacuum. Both actions are effortless. On the other hand, I hate that there isn’t a lever or button to open the bottom hatch and that I have to manually pull the bottom of the bin open to empty it.
While the Panasonic lacks maneuverabilty-centered hardware like the Dyson ball, found on the
Unlike other models, like the Eureka and
When I consider a vacuum’s usability, the difficulty involved with cleaning both the brushroll and the dustbin factors heavily into my assessment. With a bagless vacuum, the dustbin is convenient but it’s not as “set it and forget it” as some people think. In addition to emptying it regularly, you’ll need to rinse the bin’s filter once a month. You'll also need to occasionally dust or clean off the cyclones or other equipment inside the bin. On some models, accessing these parts can be a huge hassle.
I’ve found that where routine maintenance is concerned, if it’s troublesome for me to do, I tend to conveniently forget about it. Fortunately, it's incredibly easy to access the Panasonic’s filter and bin insides. The top portion that encloses the filter lifts off by means of a tab. This filter gets really grimy and if you vacuum frequently, you may want to rinse it more often than the recommended once a month.
Cleaning the filter is the most important, but I also like to, from time to time, clean the inside of the bin itself. I’m not so worried about the canister, but the cyclonic portion gets really dirty and I used a compressed air duster to remove dust and debris trapped on or around the cyclones. This might be especially important during months where static electricity is a problem because debris, especially dust and pet hair, clings to the inside of the bin. For deeper cleaning, follow the instructions in the manual regarding washing the cyclones.