CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Dyson's new stick vac, the v6 Absolute, gets back to business as usual after Dyson's new Cinetic series pushed upright boundaries by removing the filter. The Absolute has new features of its own, including a soft brush roll for hardwood floors and a HEPA filter -- the first Dyson stick to include one. But the story of the v6 Absolute is a familiar one for the high-end vacuum maker -- it's a very good stick vacuum cleaner that'll get the job done, but it costs too much as it's not significantly better than much cheaper competition.
The v6 Absolute serves as the high-end model of Dyson's rebranded line of sticks all named after its v6 engine. Since a lot of these existing sticks got a price cut, the $600 Absolute seems even more out of place. It's pretty much the same machine as the two Dyson sticks we've reviewed previously, and since you can now get those for as little as $300-$500, you'll be spending an extra $100-$300 for extra bells and whistles included with the Absolute. To get the most bang for your buck, I recommend either the now-$300 Dyson v6 or the $180 Hoover Linx over the $600 Dyson v6 Absolute.
Don't be fooled by the v6 moniker; the v6 Absolute plays the same tune as the rest of Dyson's modern sticks. Again, Dyson rebranded its whole vacuum line. The Dyson DC59 Animal we reviewed previously is now called the Dyson v6. And the Dyson DC59 Motorhead is now either the Dyson v6 Motorhead or the Dyson v6 Animal, depending on the number of included attachments. The regular v6 is $300, the Motorhead is $400 and the Animal is $500.
The Absolute looks, feels and vacuums like the rest. The engine, filter and dustbin all fit into a compact core that you hold in your hand. A red wand snaps onto the mouth that sticks out of the dustbin, and the vacuum head snaps to that. Depress the trigger, and vacuum away.
Because the majority of the weight sits in your hand, the vacuum head pivots easily, leading to great maneuverability. You'll have the leverage to go up and down the floor quickly, vacuum the stairs, and even suck up those pesky cobwebs gathered near the ceiling.
Each piece snaps in place soundly, and can be removed by pressing a button near the joint. You can swap out the main brush roll for any one of the attachments, and the Absolute comes with many. Remove the wand and any one of the attachments will snap right to the base, making for an easy transformation from stick to handheld.
Again, though, this is all standard fare for a Dyson stick. From the trigger to the handheld base to the snap in place pieces, the design of each of these models is nearly identical.
What separates the Absolute from the others, and why Dyson prices it at the top of the line, is the number of attachments, an additional brush roll designed for hardwood floors and a HEPA filter.
The main brush roll used for carpets is the same as that on the Motorhead -- it has a separate engine to help create more agitation for a supposedly deeper clean. It's a tweak from the stick formerly called the Animal, now simply the v6 with no extra nomenclature. The head of the regular v6 doesn't have a separate motor, and has a narrower opening.
In addition to the motorized head, the Absolute includes a new hardwood-focused brush roll that replaces the usual bristles around an axle setup with a soft roller that touches the floor directly. The idea is to allow the agitation created by the spinning to help the vacuum's suction without the potential scratching or flinging of dirt that bristles can cause.
By keeping a soft spinning surface in constant contact with the ground, the new vacuum head is also supposed to keep a seal to help it suck up fine particles while still being able to get over the top of large particles to grab them. This was a test the Motorhead struggled with, and an interesting solution to the balance of suction and versatility on hardwood.
Starting March 1, you can purchase the $600 Dyson v6 Absolute, complete with the motorized head, the soft roller head, four attachments and a docking station from Dyson's website and select retailers. The attachments include a mini motorized tool, a dusting brush, a combi tool and a crevice tool.
It's US only for now. Dyson's working on bringing it to international markets. In Japan, a version of the Absolute, called the Fluffy, will retail for 74,800 Yen. It's the same model, minus the motorized head. The price of the Absolute converts to approximately £394 and AU$778.
Complete with the first HEPA filter Dyson's put on a stick vac, the v6 Absolute is well-rounded. It won't stand on its own and the battery only lasts 18 minutes, 6 on turbo, so it's versatile as a spot cleaner, but it won't replace your upright. It offers enough extras over the rest of the v6 line to be somewhat distinct, but not enough to earn its premium.
I found the Motorhead fun to use. The Absolute doesn't change that. I have similar nitpicks -- I wish it could stand on its own, I wish it had a longer battery and I wish the battery display was better. The Bissell Bolt Ion and the Black & Decker Lithium Stick each show you how much charge you have left with a series of LEDs.
Dyson only has one light. When you're charging it, the light shines blue, then turns off when you're done. It's on as you use the vacuum, but you don't see it progress downward as you would with the Bissell or Black & Decker. You do get a low-battery warning right before it runs out, but that's it.
The dust bin is small and easy to empty, but fine dirt gets stuck in the upper corners and the cyclones. When vacuuming sand, I continually found the weight of the dust bin increasing, despite my best efforts to clean it after every test. It doesn't compartmentalize dirt well. I also found sand kicked up into the wheel of the vacuum head.
Finally, the filter proves a little too easy to remove. That's meant to help you clean it, but because it doesn't latch into place, it fell out a couple of times when I tilted or turned the vac.
Again, these are all small issues. Because each piece snaps into and out of place so quickly, moving from one task to the next with the Absolute is a breeze. Needing to switch heads to move off the carpet might add a small inconvenience to multiroom cleaning, but that's the only real difference between using this, and any of the other v6 models.
Overall, the Absolute makes spot cleaning easy, but I was occasionally annoyed when I needed to clean the vacuum itself after a test.
Given the similarity of pieces, I wasn't surprised to see the sum of the parts of the Absolute -- the performance -- turn out similar results to previous Dyson stick vacs. That said, the soft roller head gives it a boost on hardwood, and unlike the Motorhead, it avoided clogs on Cheerios. Thus, though it did turn out mostly similar numbers, small changes led the Absolute to the best overall performance of the bunch.
To test our vacuum cleaners, we see how well they handle the tangles of pet hair, how well they can spot clean large particles and avoid clogs with Fruity Cheerios, and how well they can deep clean with sand. We run each test three times on low-pile carpet, midpile carpet and hardwood to see if the vac can maintain its performance on different surfaces.
On carpet, the v6 Absolute stayed neck and neck with the Animal (which again is now just called the v6, but I'll call it the Animal in this section for clarity). It suffered the occasional tangle on midpile, so it finished behind the Motorhead, which avoided those despite using the same engine and self-powered brush roll. Thus, it has a good design that avoids tangles most of the time, but is not immune to it.
Of more interest is the way the Absolute dealt with pet hair on hardwood using the new soft roller head. The soft spinning roller almost acted like a lint brush with pet hair, which wasn't entirely a good thing. Hair would stick to it, and occasionally clump and fling back out. When the test was done, hair stuck to most of its surface.
It did improve on the results from the Animal, but actually finished well behind the capabilities of the self-powered Motorhead. The soft roller tries to strike a balance between maintaining suction for small particles while still getting over the top of large particles, but pet hair proved troublesome for it.
The new roller head did help with large particles, as intended. It wasn't perfect, but it significantly improved on one of the Motorhead's main struggles.
On carpet, the Absolute avoided clogging, though it came close once. Cheerios stuck near the narrow opening behind the brush roll, and tumbled out when I stopped the vacuum. If I'd vacuumed too much more, they might have bunched in the opening of the head or the entry to the dustbin. The Motorhead had this happen a couple of times.
By avoiding clogs, the Absolute showed great improvement on carpet over the Motorhead, besting the Animal as well and only barely falling short of the top spot cleaner -- the Hoover Linx.
However, both the main motorized head for carpet and the softer brush head for hardwood floors would occasionally fling Cheerios. That's a mark against it, as you want your vacuum to contain the mess it can't quite pick up, not make it worse. The softer brush roll did this more than the motorized one. It's designed to fling large particles into the compartment where the vac can suck them up. It was successful most of the time, but when it missed, those Cheerios flew every which way.
The Absolute does very well on sand. Not well enough to outdo the best uprights, but it sits at the top of stick vacs along with its brethren.
As I expected, its results on sand stayed on par with the Animal and Motorhead. Neither of the previous vacs faltered on hardwood floors, though, so the Absolute didn't have ground to gain with its new toy.
Pet hair and Cheerios are important for stick vacs in particular -- since those are typical spot-cleaning tasks and we still haven't tested a stick that can fully replace your upright for whole-house deep cleaning. By besting the Motorhead on Cheerios and the Animal on pet hair, the Absolute sits at the top of Dyson's sticks, but it still doesn't spot clean perfectly, like the Hoover Linx.
Thanks to the price cuts with its relaunched line, you can now get one of the many similar Dyson stick vacs for $300. At that price, the v6 is well worth your consideration. The Hoover Linx is still significantly less at $180, and it's better at spot cleaning, but the v6 is much better with sand. Depending on how you use your stick vac, spending extra for the v6 might make sense.
Spending twice that for the $600 v6 Absolute still doesn't. You're paying for attachments, a motorized head that gives only marginally better performance on carpet and a softer brush roll that is a positive but flawed step toward bringing powerful vacuuming to hardwood. Especially since one of Dyson's own vacs is now priced within the stratosphere, there's no reason to break the bank for the v6 Absolute, despite its solid performance.