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Dyson breaks free from vacuum filters at CES

With tiny cyclones and oscillating tips, Dyson has done away with the filter. We test out Dyson's newest to see if they've succeeded in pushing the industry forward.

6 min read

Plenty of vacuums claim "no loss of suction." Dyson's newest models push technology forward in a way that might actually make that claim true. For years, Dyson vacs have used centrifugal force to remove dirt from the airflow and eliminate the need for a bag. Now, by breaking their "cyclone" that creates this force down into hundreds of small, oscillating pieces, the Dyson Cinetic series can supposedly process dirt into microscopic pieces without clogging and eliminate the need for a filter.

No filter necessary for Dyson's new vac

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The implications of Dyson's Cinetic technology affect long term use more than anything. Supposedly, the engineers tested the vac with more than 10 years worth of dust. Not needing to change or clean the filter over such extended use would be a great convenience indeed, but only if it can hold up to the same rigors as the filtered competition.

For example, five years down the line, would the Dyson Cinetic maintain suction as well as the excellent Oreck Touch with a freshly cleaned filter? If it wears out more quickly because of the missing piece, the extra convenience would certainly prove hollow.

Lots of vacuuming, no filter necessary. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We got our hands on the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy vacuum. Along with the others in the Dyson Cinetic series -- the Cinetic Big Ball Animal and the Cinetic Animal -- it will go on sale from QVC in the US starting Thursday, January 15. You'll be able to purchase it from Dyson's website and other major retailers beginning March 1. The Big Ball Animal Allergy retails for $700, the Big Ball Animal for $600 and the Animal for $550. In the UK only the Big Ball Animal has been priced, at £460, with no prices available for Australia.

We were able to test out the Big Ball Animal Allergy extensively, to see how it stacks up against the competition when it comes to normal vacuuming tasks. Check out my impressions below, and be sure to check back for our full review once we're able to examine the long-term implications of Dyson's filter-free approach more closely.

Old frustrations

As far as the look and feel of the vacuum itself, not a lot has changed from the Dyson DC65 Animal Upright. It's still quite maneuverable thanks to the ball it rests on, but it still feels flimsy and falls over easily.

When you lock the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy into its upright position, it clicks and two small wheels shift down below the big ball and give the vac a place to rest. When you tilt it back to vacuum, those wheels pivot up to move out of the way and let you use the one big ball to turn the vacuum head every which way.

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As usual, those small wheels don't always click into place as they should. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Again, for maneuverability, this works well, but the pivoting wheels don't function as smoothly. Quite often, after a test, I'd lift the handle to its resting position, I'd hear it click and see the wheels descend, so I'd let go -- only to have the back of the vacuum tumble to the ground because it wasn't fully locked upright. The preemptive click is so convincing that, even knowing the problem was there, it fooled me a couple of times.

It's a strange quirk, and there's little extra evidence for when it does lock into place. The click should be that indicator, but it consistently wasn't, and I was left having to push it up with some force, then slowly removing my hand because I was never quite sure if the back of the vacuum was going to come tumbling down.

These same shortcomings made it tough to recommend either the Dyson DC65 or the Dyson DC41 Animal Complete in our reviews. Dyson expects its customers to pay a lofty premium for its machines, yet they ignore issues that put their models a step below the more reasonably priced competition in terms of day-to-day functionality.

Promising performance

As I began to test the Dyson, I found my expectations again undercut, at least at first. To test our vacuums, we run them across low- and mid-pile carpets, as well as hardwood floors. On each surface, we see how well the vacuum picks up small particles for fine cleaning using sand. In addition, we try out the vacuums ability to handle large messes with fruity cheerios, and how well it can clean up after your furry family member with pet hair.

On pet hair in particular, the Dyson struggled.

Pet hair, 0.2 oz. (percentage picked up)

Hoover Linx 100 100 100Dyson DC65 Animal 100 100 95Oreck Touch Bagless 100 100 92Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 100 100 75Dirt Devil Lift & Go 90 87 100Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy 94 98 54Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 100 100 0
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The Dyson Big Ball Animal Allergy offers attachments to help with this task, but I still expected more from the main machine and vacuum head. The brush roll frequently tangled longer hair, and even shorter clumps would occasionally get stuck in the bristles or in the corner of the vacuum head. On hardwood in particular, the vacuum pushed hair away and to the side as it worked, spreading the mess instead of picking it up, even with the brushroll turned off.

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The power and brushroll button. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

On carpet, the vacuum picked up a much larger percent, but it still tangled plenty and ground hair into the carpet when it couldn't pick it up. You'll need to get out the hose and the attachments to effectively get pet hair without the headache of creating more of a mess or pulling tangles out of the brush. The Dyson Cinetic proved much less fit for this task then numerous other uprights, including the $120 Dirt Devil Lift & Go.

It performed better, but still not impressively, with Cheerios.

Fruity Cheerios, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)

Hoover Linx 100 100 100Oreck Touch 97 95 92Dyson DC65 Animal 100 100 80Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy 87 99 90Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 88 90 93Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 88 97 73Dirt Devil Lift & Go 87 73 52
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The brushroll head flexes to try to maintain a seal on any surface. It does this by letting the plastic bottom pivot separately from the rest of the compartment, so it can move up or down depending on the floor type. I thought this would work against the Cinetic when it came to Cheerios; I didn't think it'd be able to get over top of them. For the most part, it proved me wrong, capturing a large percentage of Cheerios.

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The bottom of the head pivots with the floor to create a seal. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

However, on both carpets, it would occasionally push cheerios in front of it or fling the leftovers to the side, making more of a mess with what it couldn't initially capture and hurting an otherwise fine performance.

On the sand test, the new Cinetic technology specializing in breaking down fine particles and the flexible vacuum head both got a chance to shine.

Sand, 2.5 oz. (percentage picked up)

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy 84 95 96Oreck Touch 83 91 99Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away 71 82 99Dyson DC65 Animal 65 79 99Dirt Devil Lift & Go 63 76 85Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 59 64 97Hoover Linx 34 48 99
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Allergy vacuum beat out the excellent Oreck Touch for the top spot in our fine particle test. As far as deep cleaning is concerned, the Cinetic shines. It's only barely better than the Oreck Touch, and the price still seems hard to justify, but credit where credit is due -- The Dyson Cinetic beats the competition in our toughest test.


Does the lack of filter really make that much of a difference in terms of functionality? Well, from the fine particle test, it appears it does have an impact. Dyson's Cinetic vacuum creamed the previous Dyson upright here. The convenience of not having to wash and maintain a filter is undeniable, and whether it holds up as well, or better, than a similarly powered upright with a filter is something I look forward to testing.

Given that the usability and design issues of previous Dyson uprights persist, and given the premium price still puts it well above the competition, it'll be tough for me to recommend the Dyson Cinetic. On the other hand, its performance on sand, and the possibilities offered if the filter-free approach works as promised could finally elevate a Dyson vacuum to the lofty status its price demands.