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Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum review: This Bissell is not a clean sweep for pet owners

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I went into vacuum cleaner testing expecting price to directly correlate with performance. I'm not sure why I cling to this assumption when other tests have proven otherwise time and time again. The Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum proved to be a contender alongside the $399-plus models we tested, even though it boasts a sticker price of $179.99.

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7.4

Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum

The Good

The <b>Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum</b> is a reasonably priced, versatile vacuum cleaner that excelled in cleaning fine particulates on both carpet and hard floors.

The Bad

It failed to pick up pet hair on hard surfaces, and cleaning the rollerbrush is less convenient than on other models.

The Bottom Line

If you want a vacuum cleaner that performs on par with, if not better than, luxury vacuums without paying a luxury price, the Bissell is a great option.

Originally, I expected the Dyson vacuums to outperform the pack by large swaths. I have since come to see Dyson vacuums as status symbols more than anything. They perform well, certainly, but they cost an arm and a leg and with the exception of pet hair on hard floors, the only Dyson to outperform the Bissell was the $649.99 DC41 Animal Complete. For far less, this Bissell vacuum consistently tested as one of the best. It is simple to use, feels reliably constructed, and offers welcome features like a removable canister and well-designed extension wand.

Given its consistent, competitive performance and affordable price, the Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum would be a welcome addition to your lineup of cleaning appliances.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design and features
The Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum weighs 16 pounds and features a dustbin with a 1-liter debris capacity. It is not a lightweight vacuum, but it weighs less than the 17.1-pound Dyson DC41, the 20.7-pound Eureka AS1104A SuctionSeal Pet, and the 17.2-pound Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean vacuums. Even though it is one of the lighter models in this test group, this Bissell feels sturdy and durable, due to the fact that it's made of a plastic that feels thicker and more reliable than the plastics of other models. The power cord measures 27 feet long, which is generous and gives you more than enough slack to vacuum the vast majority of rooms, if not more than one without switching outlets.

Considering basic aesthetics, the Bissell isn't as attractive as other models. It's not flashy and its purple coloring isn't as vibrant as other models' like the DC50 Animal. This didn't really matter for me, however. After all, my vacuum at home lives in the linen closet. I'll grant that whether your vacuum is stylish or not is a matter of personal preference. Suffice it to say that if you want a vacuum that looks like a futuristic spaceship, the Bissell is not for you. I would caution you not to be fooled by the Bissell's humble exterior; it comes loaded with options that even the most expensive Dyson can't match.

At first glance, you might think that the Bissell is a bit of a one-trick pony, only able to move back and forth like more traditional models. You would be wrong. Similar to the Oreck, the Bissell has a pivoting hinge that makes for easy maneuvering. Another hidden bonus comes with the handle. For those challenged vertically, be it high or low, this model offers an adjustable-height handle, a feature that we especially appreciated about the Electrolux.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Perhaps my favorite feature about this Bissell is the fact that it is a convertible vacuum, meaning that you can remove the canister from the body and use it independently. This gives you the freedom to vacuum stairs or baseboards without needing to cart the whole vacuum body along. I know that my own canister vacuum is indispensable, especially for tasks like vacuuming my car. The fact that the Bissell removes the necessity of using two machines makes life easier. The only other vacuum we've tested with this convertible capability is the Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away, which not only converts to a canister, but also includes a wheeled caddy for easy transport.

The Bissell's extension hose measures 6.5 feet from the canister and I appreciate that the wand is not only easy to access, but features a handle as well. Like most vacuums, the Bissell comes with attachments for the wand. You will find a standard crevice tool, which comes in handy for vacuuming baseboards, car seats, or upholstery. In addition, Bissell includes the Pet TurboEraser Tool, which is designed to collect pet hair from fabrics and upholstered furniture. Both are highly effective, but I was particularly impressed with the TurboEraser, which uses plastic blades on a roller to scrape pet hair into the vacuum. It worked well and was easy to use, just don't get your fingers in the way.

Pet-specific attachments vary in design from model to model. The Bissell's uses plastic blades on a roller to agitate pet hair from carpet and upholstery. Katie Pilkington/CNET

Usability
Overall, I found the Bissell easy to use. As with the Oreck Touch Bagless, you recline the top portion by stepping lightly on the base and then leaning the handle backward. The vacuum I grew up with required you to pull a side lever to recline it, and on the other end of the spectrum, the new Dysons require a rocking movement that is hard to get used to. I like the Bissell because it uses a hybrid of old and new gestures.

Once you recline the vacuum, you need only press a button to begin vacuuming. Like the Dyson models, the Bissell functions by two primary buttons, a power button and a brushroll button, which you use to activate the brushroll for carpets and deactivate it for hard floors or delicate rugs. The interface is simple and intuitive overall, though the power button felt unresponsive from time to time and required a solid press. Still, this was not an inconvenience and happened less frequently as I acclimated to the vacuum.

Other buttons include the lift-off button, which allows you to detach the canister from the vacuum base, and the handle height adjustment button.

The cord wraps around two hooks on the side of the vacuum body, and keeps the cord sufficiently out of the way, which helps make it easy to remove the canister. The Bissell pivots similarly to the Oreck, both of which give you better turning and maneuvering capability than traditional, fixed-axis vacuums. It will navigate easily around your furniture and features lower clearance on the front, so it can sweep 5 inches under your couch, as long as the lip of the couch is higher than 3 inches. In addition, the 12-inch brushwell cuts a broad swath through dirt.

Like pet attachments, the dustbins also vary from widely. Some are more easily emptied than others. I like the Bissell bin's simple design, though the bottom latch can be difficult to secure. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Like other bagless vacuums, the Bissell collects debris into a dustbin, which empties easily via a gray latch near the bin's bottom. At times I found the bin difficult to close and often pressed it down onto the countertop to ensure that the latch caught. It was certainly more of a hassle to empty than the bin on the DC40 Origin, which empties seamlessly, and closing the bin required me to come in contact with some of the collected debris. I wish it had a mechanism like the Oreck's bin, which opens and closes via the same lever, requiring no contact with dirt or dust.

You will find that the Bissell moves well on both hard surfaces and low-pile carpet, though it is, at times, hard to push on high-pile carpet. While this might be a drawback for you, we found that the Bissell collected more fine particulate matter on midpile carpet than nearly all of the other vacuums. It seems that the brush agitates the carpet surface more and, in doing so, causes greater friction, making the vacuum harder to push.

My primary complaint about using this machine lies with the brushwell. Unlike the Dyson models, which enable you to access the rollerbrush easily, the Bissell's rollerbrush is hard to get to. This is especially frustrating when you go to remove tangled hair. For full access, you'll need a screwdriver so you can remove the bottom plate entirely, which you'll need to do for full brush cleaning or to detangle hair.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Performance
We put each of the vacuums through a series of rigorous tests to assess how they would do with debris types you may encounter in your home. Our tests included Fruity Cheerios, a sand and sawdust mixture (to mimic fine particulate debris), pet hair, and human hair, collected from a hair extension kit. We performed every test three times each on three different surface types: low-pile carpet, midpile carpet, and hardwood/laminate floors. We also conducted a torture test, scattering nearly 3 ounces of bobby pins, washers, and nuts on the low-pile carpet.

Cheerios, 2 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood
Midpile
Low-pile

Given that the Bissell faced stiff competition from vacuums that cost twice as much and then some, I was extremely impressed with its performance. So impressed, in fact, that I repeated several tests for extra data points, to be sure that the information was correct.

Sand/sawdust, 2.5 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood
Midpile
Low-pile

On low-pile carpet, the Bissell collected 98 percent of the Fruity Cheerios, 79 percent of the sand/sawdust mix, and 100 percent of the pet hair. This made it the second-best performer with both Cheerios and sand/sawdust mixture, outperforming more expensive models.

On midpile carpet, the Bissell picked up 100 percent of the Cheerios, 83 percent of the sand/sawdust mix, and 100 percent of the pet hair. To put it in perspective, it picked up the most Cheerios out of any vacuum we've tested so far and outperformed all but one of the more expensive vacuums with sand and sawdust.

Pet hair, 0.2 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood
Midpile
Low-pile

In some regards, at least, hard floors proved to be a challenge for nearly all of the vacuums we tested. The Bissell was not exempt from this, and yet it performed well in surprising ways. Bissell recommends disabling the rollerbrush for hard-floor vacuuming. This is not uncommon. On hard floors, the Bissell collected 83 percent of the Cheerios, 99 percent of the sand/sawdust mixture, and a negligible amount of pet hair.

I wasn't surprised about the pet hair as, with that debris type, the brush seems to be integral to most vacuums' success. I was, however, surprised by the fact that it picked up so many Cheerios. It collected more than the Eureka, Shark, and the DC40, all of which boast higher prices.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

True, the hard-surface tests are somewhat unrealistic where larger debris is concerned. If you spill cereal or other large items on your floor, the broom and dustpan will likely be far more convenient and certainly faster for you. Many vacuum manufacturers make bold claims about hard surfaces, however, and so the tests felt necessary, if for no other reason than to serve as a proving ground.

Human hair proved to be challenging for a couple of the vacuums, the Bissell among them. On both carpet types, two-thirds of the hair became wrapped around the rollerbrush and only about a third made it into the bin. Unraveling the hair was a pain, obviously, and I was disappointed that I had to do it, especially when other models performed better. The Bissell redeemed itself on the hard floor, however, picking up nearly all of the hair and leaving a negligible amount caught on the rollerbrush. The brush's design seems to be the culprit because it catches the hair but, with the added friction of the carpet, that hair simply rolls around the brush and gets tangled. This grabbing quality is great for pet hair, which the brush grabs before the vacuum suctions it into the bin. Most pet hair, however, isn't long enough to wrap around the rollerbrush. When it was deactivated on hard floors, the Bissell picked up far more long hair.

None of the vacuums "passed" our torture test. All left debris behind and many experienced jams in brushwells or pipes. This test, however, wasn't designed to determine how much large, heavy debris a vacuum could collect. Rather, it was a test of ruggedness. We wanted to determine whether a vacuum would break if you accidentally ran over a penny or bobby pins. The Bissell did not break and picked up a couple of bobby pins and the smallest nuts, but everything else was left behind or jammed in the brushwell. The results weren't as impressive as other vacuums' but, then again, the Bissell didn't break either, and so we'll call it a win.

The Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum is tough on dirt (pictures)

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Maintenance and service
The Bissell comes with a five-year limited warranty. To preserve the life of the vacuum, Bissell recommends cleaning the filter regularly and taking care to empty the bin often. Given the reasonable price, the five-year warranty just sweetens the pot. In addition, the product page contains a section for ordering replacement parts, such as a belt or filter, should you want to try to fix the vacuum yourself.

Conclusion
With a $179.99 sticker price, the Bissell costs half the price of vacuum cleaners that underperformed it in all of our tests. It's a solid-feeling vacuum with strong performance -- it's particularly good at collecting fine particulate, be it on carpet or hard surfaces. If you have pets and a lot of hard floors in your house, it might not be the best option (the $499.99 DC50 Animal or the $649.99 DC41 Animal Complete excelled there, if you're feeling spendy). If, however, you're looking for a reasonably priced vacuum that will collect fine particulate matter throughout your home and manage your carpet cleanliness with ease, the Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum is an excellent option that offers a lot of value for your dollar.

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7.4

Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Features 8Design 7Usability 8