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Dyson Ball Allergy Vacuum review: New Dyson, same deal-breakers

Formerly known as the DC65, Dyson claims that the Ball Allergy is 25 percent more powerful than what came before it -- but does that translate to performance?

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
8 min read

On the Dyson Web site, Chief Engineer James Dyson is quoted as saying, "Our mission is simple. We solve the problems others seem to ignore." But what about the problems Dyson ignores?


Dyson Ball Allergy Vacuum

The Good

The <b>Dyson Ball Allergy</b> (formerly known as the DC65 Animal) vacuums even better on carpets than the DC41 that came before it, with improved airflow and a more powerful brushroll.

The Bad

Annoying design issues that plagued the usability of the DC41 linger through to the Ball Allergy. Most notably, the vacuum clicks into its upright position, but it doesn't always stick and can come crashing to the floor.

The Bottom Line

The DC41's design disappointed us, and the Ball Allergy's isn't any better. Despite the strong performance scores, this pricey Dyson is still difficult to recommend.

That's what I was left wondering after testing out the Dyson Ball Allergy, which at the time was called the Dyson DC65, and was the newest in Dyson's long line of high-end upright vacuums. Like the models that came before it, the Ball Allergy trumpets its forward-thinking engineering, and it performs admirably when it comes time to clean. But the Ball Allergy also suffers from a few baffling build flaws -- the same flaws I found when I tested its immediate predecessor, the DC41 .

These flaws impact the vacuum's usability, undermine Dyson's claims of superior design, and make the Ball Allergy a tough sell compared to models like the Oreck Touch and the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean , even in spite of the fact that Dyson recently added new attachments for 2015 and cut the price from $600 down to $500.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

A design that falls flat

The Dyson Ball Allergy is a very attractive-looking appliance, with a bold, futuristic build that looks more like a space station component than a vacuum cleaner. Of course, this distinctive design isn't new. Dyson's uprights have only seen incremental build tweaks since the company's first ball-mounted vacuum, the DC15, was released in 2005.

In terms of performance, the Ball Allergy offers three primary build upgrades over the DC41. The Radial Root Cyclones that sit above the canister have been "retuned," with newly modified diameters that Dyson claims allow for more airflow.

The brushroll has also gotten a power boost of 25 percent, which is intended to help the bristles work dust and allergens out of your carpets more effectively. Additionally, the sides of the cleaner head have been stripped back for "edge-to-edge cleaning," which makes it easier to vacuum into corners and up against baseboards.

Deep cleaning with the Dyson Ball Allergy (pictures)

See all photos

Aside from these changes, the Ball Allergy's design is almost exactly the same as what we saw from the DC41, as well as the now-discontinued DC40 and also the DC50, which now goes by the name Dyson Ball Compact Animal . The Ball Allergy retains their futuristic sheen -- but, unfortunately, it also shares their shortcomings.

Chief among these is a problem with the vacuum's back wheels, which act as its kickstand when it stands upright. Bring the Ball Allergy down, and the wheels pop up and out of the way with a click, allowing you to maneuver using the Dyson Ball.

When you're finished and push the vacuum back up into its standing position, the wheels click back down into place -- only sometimes they don't stay there. It takes a little extra push past that initial click in order to keep the wheels locked in place. Fail to give it that extra nudge and the Ball Allergy will end up flat on its back.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

This is the same issue we saw with the DC40, the DC50, and most notably, the DC41 (the extra size seems to exacerbate the problem, which carries through to the Ball Allergy). Keep in mind that these vacuums don't come cheap. I know that I wouldn't want a $500 appliance to come crashing to the floor every other time I tried to put it away.

This problem gets worse when you consider all of the small, plasticky parts that stand to get jarred around whenever the Ball Allergy falls. Dyson likes to refer to the clear, ABS plastic that makes up the canister as "riot-shield material," and it's admittedly tough stuff -- but look at that thin, red plastic exposed along the outside. That's the mechanism that opens the bottom of the bin for cleaning, and even on a brand-new Dyson, it rattles a bit and feels slightly loose. I can't say that it inspires a great deal of confidence -- although, to be fair, Dyson does offer a five-year, parts-and-labor warranty on all of their vacuums, which is reassuring.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Another issue that carries over from the older models is the Ball Allergy's wand. Like the vacuum itself, it performs fine, but its usability suffers from design flaws. There's no handle on the thing. You're forced to grip it at its base, right where the plastic ends and the hose begins. This, combined with the wand's length and the natural elasticity of the hose, makes for an awkward and uncomfortable fulcrum as you're moving the wand around and cleaning with it.

Other models, like the Oreck Touch, don't just put a handle on their wand; they also extend it away from the point where the plastic meets the hose. This puts much less stress on your wrist as you move it around, and gives these models a distinct usability edge over Dyson.

None of these flaws are fatal ones, and they don't compromise the Ball Allergy's level of performance, which is admittedly impressive. Still, they add up to a user experience that's less than ideal -- and certainly less than I'd expect from a $500 vacuum.

Most frustrating of all is that they're flaws that continue to recur throughout successive generations of Dyson vacuums, something that flies in the face of the company's reputation for problem-solving innovation.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Redemption through performance?

The Dyson Ball Allergy's design issues put increased pressure on its performance to justify the high price tag. Fortunately, performance is where Dyson vacuums tend to truly shine, and the Ball Allergy is no exception.

In our tests, the Ball Allergy showed even greater carpet-cleaning power than the already impressive DC41 that it replaced, lending some credence to Dyson's claims of improved airflow and a more powerful brushroll.

Cheerios, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)

Oreck Touch Bagless 92 97 95Dyson DC41 Animal Complete 92 97 93Dyson Ball Allergy 80 100 100Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe 83 100 98Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 93 88 90Eureka AS1104A SuctionSeal Pet 72 93 100Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 73 88 97Dyson DC40 Origin 62 90 92Hoover WindTunnel 3 68 65 60Panasonic MC-UL429 JetForce 12 75 83Dyson Ball Compact Animal 0 80 83Dirt Devil Dash 15 55 63Samsung Motion Sync 7 33 20
  • Hardwood
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Our first round of performance testing involves sprinkling Fruity Cheerios over three separate surfaces, then testing to see how much of them the vacuum can pick up on each one using a predetermined run pattern. As you can see in the chart above, the Ball Allergy was the first vacuum to score perfect scores on both low-pile and mid-pile carpets (and the first Dyson vacuum to score perfect scores on either one).

But what about hardwood floors and other smooth surfaces? The Ball Allergy scored an 80 here, meaning that on average, it picked up 80 percent of the cereal that I spread over my hardwood test surface. Though better than what either the DC40 or the Ball Compact Animal were capable of, that's 12 percent worse than its direct predecessor, the DC41, and worse than the top-performing models from Oreck , Bissell , and Electrolux .

There was actually quite a lot that we learned from this test alone. Like many vacuums, the Ball Allergy gives you the option of turning the brushroll off, which can be a good idea if you're vacuuming over a smooth surface like hardwood or linoleum. Without the friction of carpet fibers, a brushroll can end up scattering more debris than it picks up, and Dyson's brushroll is no different.

The DC65's more powerful brushroll cleans carpets more effectively -- but it also scatters debris more aggressively on hard surfaces. Colin West McDonald/CNET

When I tested the DC41 on hardwood in 2013, I found that it was barely able to pick up any cereal at all if I turned the brushroll off (much of it would end up stuck in the cleaning head, never getting spun up into the bin). If I left the brushroll on, the DC41 scattered about 10 percent of the Cheerios, but the rest made it up into the bin.

With the Ball Allergy, things were a little different. With the brushroll off, it picked up 80 percent of the Cheerios, but didn't scatter any of them. With the brushroll on... it picked up 80 percent. The other 20 percent got scattered far and wide across the test area, much farther than the DC41 had flung anything.

The fact that the Ball Allergy scatters things more violently speaks to the more powerful brushroll -- but consider the fact that it still picks up 80 percent of the cereal with the brushroll off, compared to almost none from the DC41. That's a drastic difference, and one that seems to speak almost entirely to suction power. This result leads me to believe Dyson when they claim that the Ball Allergy's design leads to improved airflow and better suction.

Pet hair, 0.2 oz. (percentage picked up)

Dyson Ball Compact Animal 100 100 100Dyson DC41 Animal Complete 100 100 100Dyson Ball Allergy 95 100 100Oreck Touch Bagless 92 100 100Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 75 100 100Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe 0 100 100Hoover WindTunnel 3 0 100 100Panasonic MC-UL429 JetForce 0 100 100Samsung Motion Sync 0 100 100Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 0 100 100Eureka AS1104A SuctionSeal Pet 0 92 100Dyson DC40 Origin 0 100 90Dirt Devil Dash 0 92 92
  • Hardwood
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Next, we have our pet hair tests, which is where Dyson really excels. The Ball Allergy joins the DC41 and the Ball Compact Animal at the very top of the field, posting a near-perfect overall score that edges out all competitors. The perfect scores on carpet are less impressive here, as every upright we've tested has managed to score at least 90 percent on both. The hardwood test is, again, the more telling one. The pet hair we use is very light and a little clumpy, meaning that a vacuum with a poorly designed cleaning head will push it around the floor like a plow rather than rolling over it and sucking it up into the bin.

This is why you see such a sharp drop-off as you move down the chart -- the vacuums at the bottom of the list just can't get that pet hair underneath the cleaning head when cleaning on hardwood. The Ball Allergy easily bests all of them, gathering up 95 percent of the material.

Sand/sawdust, 2.5 oz. (percentage picked up)

Samsung Motion Sync 100 88 96Hoover WindTunnel 3 98 87 95Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 97 80 91Eureka AS1104A SuctionSeal Pet 99 91 77Bissell PowerGlide Deluxe 99 83 79Dyson Ball Compact Animal 98 68 77Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 92 86 59Dyson DC40 Origin 98 77 64Dyson Ball Allergy 100 72 64Oreck Touch Bagless 97 61 71Panasonic MC-UL429 JetForce 100 66 61Dyson DC41 Animal Complete 98 68 58Dirt Devil Dash 77 33 19
  • Hardwood
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance
If you want to talk about carpet-cleaning power, then you need to look at our sand-and-sawdust test, which has proven to be a fairly grueling challenge for our vacuums. Sucking the stuff off of hard surfaces is no problem for most, since, unlike the pet hair, it fits under the average cleaning head just fine. With carpets, however, the dusty mix has plenty of places to hide and plenty of fibers to cling to.

We've seen other vacuums rise to this challenge admirably well -- most notably the Samsung Motion Sync and the Hoover WindTunnel 3 . Dyson vacuums, on the other hand, seem to struggle with it to an extent. The DC41 sits near the bottom of the rankings, with the DC40 and Ball Compact Animal coming in toward the middle. I was curious to see how the Ball Allergy would fare with its improved airflow and more powerful brushroll, especially after it nailed the Cheerios test.

Not surprisingly, the Ball Allergy performed better than the DC41 on all three surfaces, but not by as much as I'd hoped, averaging only a 5 percent performance increase on the two test carpets. As I said before, the Ball Allergy's performance is definitely a legitimate step forward from what the DC41 offers -- but I wouldn't call it a giant leap.

Colin West McDonald/CNET


The Dyson Ball Allergy is a marked improvement from the DC41, and all comparisons aside, it is a very good vacuum in its own right, with performance that lives up to Dyson's lofty standard. It's just a shame that the vacuum's design and usability don't follow suit. By failing to address the DC41's design faults, the Ball Allergy fails as a replacement for it.

Dyson vacuums typically perform quite well in our tests, but they don't blow all competitors away. By some metrics, they even fall short of them. This alone makes it tough to recommend a $500 vacuum like the Ball Allergy over competitors that don't cost nearly as much, such as the Oreck Touch and the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean . Throw in my qualms with Dyson's design, and the Ball Allergy rolls even further away from a strong recommendation.


Dyson Ball Allergy Vacuum

Score Breakdown

Performance 9Features 7Design 5.5Usability 5