Dirt Devil Dash Upright Vacuum review: High hopes dashed with this vacuum

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MSRP: $119.99

The Good The Dirt Devil Dash Upright Vacuum's Vac + Dust tool powers through debris on hard floors, utilizing both a vacuum nozzle and machine-washable microfiber pad.

The Bad The Dirt Devil was a bottom performer in all of our tests.

The Bottom Line If you're spending money on something, you want it to work. Sadly, the Dirt Devil Dash Upright Vacuum doesn't perform well enough to make it worth $119, especially when other sub-$200 vacuums outperform it by leaps and bounds.

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5.8 Overall
  • Performance 4
  • Features 7
  • Design 6
  • Usability 8

With a $119.99 sticker price, the Dirt Devil Dash Upright Vacuum is the cheapest vacuum cleaner we've looked at by more than $50. Unfortunately, it seems that to some extent, you get what you pay for when buying a vacuum, at least in the sub-$200 category. This Dirt Devil was the bottom performer in five of the nine tests we scored and was never in the top half. It performed reasonably well with pet hair on both mid-pile and low-pile carpet, but performed so poorly with the other debris types that we can't recommend this vacuum, even for the low price.

If you're on a budget and looking for a sub-$200 vacuum, you would be far better off spending a little bit more on the $179.99 Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe Pet Vacuum, which performed better by a wide margin. It's more of an investment, sure, but considering that many people keep their vacuums for a decade or more, that extra $60 feels more reasonable, especially when, for that money, you're getting dramatically better performance.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design and features
The Dirt Devil Dash weighs 15.2 pounds, making it one of the lighter vacuums we've looked at so far, comparable to the 15.5-pound Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away and 14.6-pound Dyson DC40 Origin. It isn't a heavy vacuum to push around on the carpet, though it lacks any mechanics that would enable it to maneuver easily, like the Dyson ball technology or even the Oreck Touch Bagless's or the Shark's pivoting hardware. This is fine -- I don't necessarily need to be able to slalom my vacuum around my living room, but I can't help but compare the Dirt Devil to the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean and the Eureka AS1104A SuctionSeal PET, both of which have fixed handles with no pivoting capability, and yet feel more maneuverable.

Like all of the bagless vacuums we've looked at, the Dirt Devil uses a canister or dustbin to collect debris. These vary in both design and ease of use. The Dirt Devil's bin is smaller than some of the others, like the Dyson bins, but not by a large margin.

Each of these bagless uprights features dustbins with subtle differences. Colin West McDonald/CNET (photos); Katie Pilkington/CNET (collage)

The Dirt Devil features a 25-foot cord, which should give you plenty of lead to vacuum a large room or even multiple rooms, depending on their size, without unplugging the vacuum and switching to a different outlet. Like most vacuums, the Dirt Devil includes an extension hose and wand, for use with crevices, upholstery, furniture, or detailing. The wand nests inside the vacuum, with the handle serving both the wand and vacuum itself. The Dirt Devil's hose is 6 feet long, which is not terribly generous, especially when compared with the Eureka's 9-foot hose. Then again, the Dirt Devil comes with a wand extension, which gives the added reach you might need.

I really appreciated this wand extension when using the Vac + Dust Floor tool, which is one of three accessories you'll find with the Dirt Devil; the others are a 2-in-1 crevice tool with dusting brush and the Turbo Tool, designed for upholstery or stubborn, hard-to-clean areas. The Vac + Dust works much like a Swiffer would, only with the added benefit of a full-strength vacuum cleaner. It picked up all of the debris I scattered onto our hard floors, and I like the fact that it's machine washable.

Many vacuums come with an attachment designed to clean upholstery. In many cases, they are designed to remove, specifically, pet hair from upholstery, carpet, and furniture. Katie Pilkington/CNET

The 2-in-1 crevice tool works well as both a crevice accessory and a dusting brush. I like that the two tools are integrated into one, making for fewer accessories to keep track of. I was disappointed, however, in the Turbo Tool. When I used it to clean pet hair from an upholstered chair, the hair matted and clogged the tool's very small opening. It might be fine if you don't deal with pet hair and just want to remove collected dust or grime from your upholstered items, but it would be less than useless in my house with two shedding dogs.

Like the Electrolux or Eureka, the Dirt Devil's roller brush is adjustable, with four choices ranging from bare floors to high-pile carpet. This control switch changes the height of the vacuum and its brushroll, but I found the switch occasionally stubborn and hard to move from floor type to floor type.

Similarly, the Dirt Devil comes with a pedal that turns the brushroll on or off. This pedal looks almost identical to the one found on the Hoover WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless Upright vacuum. I thought the pedal was responsive enough and appreciated that it was easy to reach and trigger with my foot.

The Dirt Devil Dash was easy enough to use and I appreciated the no-frills controls. In fact, you'll find only three main controls on the vacuum: a power switch and a brushroll on/off pedal, both located within reach of your left foot, and a switch that raises or lowers the brushroll's height for different floor surfaces. You'll also note a fourth control, which is the wand-release button at the base of the handle, which unlocks the wand from the vacuum's body for use with the extension hose. The wand-release button is responsive, and I liked that the wand nests inside the vacuum body, making it conveniently accessible without encumbering other vacuum functions.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

As with the Eureka, I appreciate when manufacturers place controls near each other and I like that I can, for the most part, control the vacuum with one foot with ease.

The Dirt Devil isn't the easiest vacuum to clean and maintain, but nor is it the most difficult. You'll find that the bin detaches easily from the vacuum body. Emptying it can be a pain, as you have to touch the bottom hatch of the bin, which can be grimy. My primary complaint about the bin, however, centers not around its removal and emptying, but rather its reinstallation.

The bins on the Panasonic MC-UL429 JetForce Bagless Upright Vacuum or the Oreck lock into place with great ease, with next to no effort on your part. The Dirt Devil's bin requires you to line it up and press backward until you hear a clicking sound. It felt less well-designed than other models. I know that I can't expect the design of, say, the $649.99 Dyson DC 41 Animal Complete's bin. That said, I grew more and more annoyed with the Dirt Devil's bin as testing progressed.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Chief among my usability complaints is how difficult it is to clean the rollerbrush. This process requires a screwdriver and a lot of patience, as you must remove the entire bottom plate of the vacuum to access the brush. It isn't hard to do, technically, but it's tedious and feels unnecessary, especially when models like the Dysons allow you to access the brush easily, without the need for tools or patience.