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Dyson DC40 Origin Review review: This Dyson doesn't sweep the competition

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Editor's note: Dyson has discontinued this vacuum. Click here for news about its latest products.

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7.0

Dyson DC40 Origin Review

The Good

The<b> DC40 Origin</b> is a good-looking vacuum that functions well, but it’s not a showstopper in terms of performance.

The Bad

Fragile-feeling hardware makes it hard to feel confident in the DC40’s durability and staying power.

The Bottom Line

You could do a lot worse than the DC40; however, you could also do better and spend less.

The Dyson DC40 Origin is the least expensive model in the Dyson line of upright vacuums. It's a sleek-looking vacuum with all of the attributes you expect from a Dyson product such as the ball technology and bright coloring, a yellow-orange in the case of the DC40. The DC40 performed well enough, but we have some concerns about its overall durability, concerns you shouldn't have with a $399 vacuum.

Given that we have tested the $499 Dyson DC50 and the $649 DC41 Animal Complete, the DC40 had big shoes to fill in terms of performance. In addition, it faced stiff competition in the form of the identically-priced Oreck Touch Bagless and the $309 (formerly $399) Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean, both of which met the DC40 admirably in the field.

We found that the DC40 performed acceptably, but not as well models from other vendors such as the $309 Electrolux, or the $199 Shark Rotator Pro Lift-Away. The Electrolux was a top performer and the Shark performed on par with the DC40 for half the price. Still, if you like the Dyson brand but don't have the budget or desire to spend $600-plus, you could do worse than the DC40. You could also do better, however, and spend less.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Design

The DC40 weighs 14.6 pounds and features a removable 0.42-gallon dust bin, an extension hose for hard-to-reach surfaces, an adjustable brushroll, and a 24.6-foot long power cord. Dyson's patented ball technology, perhaps the DC40's most unique-looking attribute, serves as the drive mechanism. This ball gives Dyson vacuums a wide range of pivoting motion, and make the DC40 exceedingly maneuverable.

I have concerns about the durability of this vacuum, however, and the ball is central to a few of them. The roller ball won't hold the vacuum up on its own, and it requires two small additional wheels to keep it upright. The wheels are plastic, like nearly everything on this machine, and don't feel terribly sturdy. If you use your vacuum like my family does, you constantly cart it up and down the stairs, accidentally bump it into things, and subject it to other, normal household wear-and-tear. I'm not confident that axles on the rear wheels would survive my household's daily vacuuming without suffering damage.

Another design element that bothered me concerned the handle locking mechanism. In order to lock the handle, you have to push it forward with some force until it clicks into place. There's a trick to it. The DC40 also makes a clicking sound when the small rear wheels go down, which is misleading. If I let go of the vacuum at that point, which I did many times, mistakenly thinking it was locked upright, the handle fell. Rather, I had to push the handle forward until I heard a second click, much fainter than the first. The same issue applies in the reverse, when you go to unlock the handle.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Neither of these handle release quirks are overly difficult to overcome, but I don't appreciate them in a $399 product. Call me old fashioned, but I felt much more secure with the locking mechanism and sturdiness of the Oreck, which required a more traditional step-and-press motion to unlock the vacuum.

I don't have a bias against plastic hardware. That's the way of manufacturing now and besides, there are some amazing, amazing products made of plastic. If plastic hardware is used in a vacuum, however, it needs to be sturdy. In my review of the DC50 Animal, I mentioned that the pin which depresses the button to open and empty the dust bin felt flimsy. I still have some concerns about the DC40's construction, but this bin feels much sturdier than the DC50's.

Features

As you would expect, the DC40 comes with an extendable vacuum hose and attachments, which include a combination crevice/brush tool and a stair tool, both of which reside on the vacuum itself. The DC40's hose doesn't extend as far as other models, but when fully it's extended, you'll be able to vacuum your drapes or curtains and any baseboards or crevices with ease. Stairs may prove more difficult and require you to move the vacuum as you get closer to the top or bottom, depending on where you start.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

I like the DC40's extension hose in concept more that I do in application. It nests against/inside the vacuum's handle. This is incredibly convenient and keeps the hose out of the way, preventing it from becoming a tripping hazard. The wand and hose are, however, a bit clumsy to access, mostly because to get at them you must press a button on the wand that isn't always responsive. In addition, you must completely unwrap the power cord to access the wand as the top wrapping prong is located on the wand itself. This isn't unique to Dyson, though I still find it somewhat inconvenient. Nevertheless, the extension hose and attachments work well. Despite their utility and good performance, the DC40's attachments seem less comprehensive when compared to the variety and versatile nature of the Shark's attachments and accessories.

The DC40 features a clear plastic dust bin, which you can access and empty easily. Deep cleaning the bin is easier than on the DC50, likely because of subtle differences in the hardware.

We can't discuss the DC40's features, or those of any Dyson on the market, without noting the ball technology. It seems to be both a blessing and a curse for this vacuum, a potential Achilles heel, if you'll. The ball is an excellent feature, enabling Dyson vacuums to turn on a dime and maneuver easily and without much effort on your part. It's exceptionally maneuverable and I was able to vacuum in a serpentine pattern (not that this is realistic, but still cool) without any trouble at all.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Usability

Like all Dyson vacuums, you'll find the DC40's controls incredibly easy to use. It has only two real function buttons, housed directly above the bin release button. The first button powers the vacuum on and off and the second turns the brushroll on or off. As with the other Dyson models, the roller brush button depresses automatically when you turn on the vacuum, engaging the brush. If, however, you want to vacuum a hard flooring surface, Dyson recommends disabling the DC40's rollerbrush as the bristles could scratch your floor.

The bin empties easily. You press the red button on the bin's top handle which undoes the latch on the bottom, emptying the debris into the trash without you needing to touch it. In some ways, I prefer the Oreck's bin, which closes by the same means it opens, freeing you from having to touch the dirty part of the bin at all. This is fairly unique, however, and the Electrolux and Shark had bins similar to the Dyson models, all of which required manual closing.

You'll also find that, in addition to being user-friendly, the DC40 is lightweight and pushed easily. Unlike vacuums like the Oreck, which isn't the 8-pound Oreck your Grandma still has, the DC40 moves without much force on your part. While I was able to steer the Oreck more precisely, it was heavier-feeling and more difficult to push and pull. I found I much preferred the action of vacuuming with the DC40 by comparison.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Its brushwell is 12.25 inches wide and it will get close to corners, though for heavy-duty cleaning I recommend using the crevice tool. It will also sweep 5 inches under your couch, as long as the bottom is at least 4 inches high. I wish the DC40 reached farther under a sofa, but these measurements are in the ballpark of other models and show an area where, if you don't move your couch often when you vacuum, a robot vacuum could come in handy. Still, you'll have no trouble maneuvering the DC40 around all of your furniture, even if you can't maneuver the vacuum under it.

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. We performed every test three times each on three different surface types: low-pile carpet, mid-pile carpet, and hardwood/laminate floors. We also conducted a torture test, scattering nearly three ounces of bobby pins, washers, and nuts on the low-pile carpet.

Cheerios, 1 oz. (percentage picked up)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hardwood
Mid-pile
Low-pile

Dyson DC40
62
90
92

Oreck
92
97
95

Dyson DC41
92
97
93

Shark
73
88
97

Electrolux
93
88
92

Dyson DC50
80
83

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

Dyson DC40
99
73
63

Electrolux
97
80
91

Dyson DC50
90
68
77

Oreck
97
61
67

Dyson DC41
98
68
60

Shark
92
86
59

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

Dyson DC40
100
90

Dyson DC41
100
100
100

Oreck
92
100
100

Electrolux
75
100
100

Dyson DC50
100
100

Shark
100
100

The DC40 rarely led the pack, but it kept pace on carpet. On low-pile carpet, it picked up 92% of the Fruity Cheerios, 63% of the sand and sawdust mixture, and 90% of the pet hair.

It performed admirably on mid-pile carpet as well, collecting 90% of the Fruity Cheerios, 73% of the sand and sawdust, and 100% of the pet hair.

What does this tell us about carpet? On carpet, no matter the pile, the DC40 seems to do well with large debris particles like pet hair or cereal. To its credit, though, it collected a majority of fine particulate as well, though other models outperformed the DC40 in this regard.

To some extent, hard floor surfaces proved challenging to all of the vacuums we tested and the DC40 was no exception. Unlike its cousin, the DC50, which has special carbon fiber filament bristles designed to get your hard floor surfaces especially clean, Dyson recommends disabling the rollerbrush on the DC40 when using it on hard floors. Given that the rollerbrush is no small part of a vacuum's success, this is problematic.

On hard floors, the DC40 picked up 62% of the Cheerios, 99% of the sand and sawdust, and a negligible amount of pet hair. The sand and sawdust result is a testament to Dyson's claims about excellent suction in their vacuums - relying on suction alone, the fine particles mostly made it into the bin.

Admittedly, the hard surface test is somewhat unrealistic as far as large debris is concerned. After all, if you spill cereal on your kitchen floor, you're likely to either pick it up by hand or use a broom and dustpan, rather than the vacuum. But as all of our vacuum manufacturers claimed that their machines could vacuum hard surfaces, it was a necessary to repeat the same tests across all flooring types.

Part of the reason for the DC40's failure with large particles on hardwood lies, I believe, is the fact that its bottom plate in front of the brushwell is so low to the ground. This means that the vacuum pushes debris around that doesn't fit under the plate and into the rollerbrush's path. With carpet, the DC40 didn't struggle because there is more give and friction on the floor, causing the Cheerios to stick and giving the vacuum a chance to run over them. Hard floors lack that friction, and the DC40 just pushed the cereal around sinceit was never able to get leverage. Even with its specially designed brush, the DC50 struggled with Cheerios as well.

The DC40 was a royal pain with the synthetic hair on carpet. Hardly any wound up in the bin itself and I spent several minutes after each run untangling the hair from around the roller brush. That said, it was a champion with the synthetic hair on hardwood, with none getting tangled and all ending up in the bin. If you know that you have a lot of hair in your home, this may be either a concern or bonus for you, depending on your flooring.

None of the vacuums passed the torture test, if pass is the right word. All left debris behind and, in some, washers or bobby pins got jammed inside of the brushwells or pipes. This isn't so much a test to see how much a vacuum collects, however, it's a test of ruggedness. If you run over a couple bobby pins or a washer, will it break your vacuum? The DC40 put forth a valiant effort but in the end, collected less than eight percent of the total weight, leaving the heaviest or clumsiest objects on the floor. It's comforting to know that, if you happen to buy or own the DC40 and if you happen to run over your bobby pins or spare change that, while the vacuum will make a horrible racket, it should live to fight another day.

Dyson DC40 Origin (Pictures)

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Maintenance and Service

If you empty the bin regularly and take care to clean the filter when necessary, you preserve the life and power of your vacuum. The DC40 comes with a five-year warranty should anything go wrong and comprehensive service page that includes parts if you're more of the DIY type.

Conclusion

The long and short of it's simple: the DC40 is a good vacuum in terms of suction and it performed adequately in nearly all areas of testing. Given it's $399 sticker price, it's the most budget-friendly vacuum in the Dyson bunch. That said, I expected the Dyson to outperform it's equally or lesser-priced companions. In this, I was disappointed.

It did not underperform these models, across the board, but as I said earlier, when models perform similarly, the features and price tags often break the tie. The $309 Electrolux outperformed the DC40 in nearly all tests and feels far more durable. On the other hand, the $199 Shark performed on par with the DC40, costs half the price, and offers twice the features and options. Either of those vacuums seem like the more cost-effective bet.

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7.0

Dyson DC40 Origin Review

Score Breakdown

Performance 7Features 7Design 6Usability 8