Dyson's v6 Motorhead adds a powered brush roll to its stick vac line with promises that it can now outperform a standard upright.
Editors' Note, February 12, 2015: Dyson has rebranded the DC59 stick vacuum line, giving each model a new coat of paint and a new price. The DC59 Motorhead that was now forms the primary components of both the $400 Dyson v6 Motorhead and the $500 Dyson v6 Animal. The only difference between the new models is the number of included attachments. This review is updated accordingly.
Dyson hopes to convince you that its $400 v6 Motorhead vacuum cleaner can replace your upright. The name "Motorhead" comes from a brush roll that spins via a separate, low-power engine with the intention of increasing carpet agitation and fine particle pickup. The resulting performance on our sand test bested the original v6, the excellent Hoover Linx , and many stand-up vacs as well, but it's still not at the level of the top full-size models -- the Oreck Touch Bagless and the Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean . The widened head of this newest Dyson model allows it to pick up more dirt at once, but that often results in jams with larger particles, leading to lower performance numbers on this test than either the v6 or the Linx managed. The powered brush roll also decreases the battery life, and the v6 already didn't hold a charge as well as its competitors.
The $400 Motorhead does not have enough clear improvements over the $300 v6 to warrant paying the premium for the upgrade. Besides that direct drive head, you get a couple of extra attachments, and two more for the $500 v6 Animal. If you're at all price-conscious, the Linx and the Shark Rocket still offer comparable performance and more convenience for much less. If you're a Dyson loyalist, the v6 gives you the same engine power for less, and the $600 v6 Absolute gets the best numbers of the Dyson sticks. The Motorhead and Animal suffer as the middle children of Dyson's new v6 lineup.
At an assembled weight of 4.9 pounds, the Dyson v6 Motorhead packs the majority of its power into the base. Hold the base by the handle, click the wand and the motorized head into place, depress the convenient trigger on the handle, and you're ready to vacuum. With most of the weight in your hand, and a smaller version of Dyson's patented roller ball allowing the head to pivot on a dime, the Motorhead maneuvers fluidly. In fact, because you're holding the weight, it doesn't take much leverage to reach floors, stairs, and even ceilings with the same setup.
Dyson successfully designed the Motorhead with convenience and ease of use in mind. You can purchase the vacuum for $400 on Dyson's website, via Amazon, and at most major appliance retailers such as Best Buy or Walmart. Currently, it's only available in the US.
Included in the package are the base you hold, the wand, and the powered head, along with a combination tool for dusting, and a crevice tool for corners. Pay $100 more for the Animal, and you'll get the same basics with a mini motorized tool for removing pet hair and dirt from smaller spaces and upholstery, and a dusting brush for the top of furniture. In both packages, you'll also find a docking station you can hang from a wall to hold your vacuum while it charges.
The Dyson v6 Motorhead is quite similar to the rest of the v6 line, including its predecessor, the original v6 (previously the DC59 Animal). The design of the base, wand, the included tools, and even the docking station is exactly the same. The Dyson digital motor that gives the v6 series its name provides the primary power source for both and supposedly spins up to 110,000 times a minute. Both have a regular mode and a boost mode and run on a nickel manganese cobalt battery. In fact, except for the head, the Motorhead and the original v6 are exactly the same.
The Motorhead upgrades the v6 by providing power directly to the brush roll via a miniaturized motor in the cleaning head itself. This adds a little weight to the total package, since the Animal weighs in at 4.6 pounds versus the 4.9 pounds for the Motorhead. The Motorhead is also longer and wider. These physical changes are small enough, though, that you'd be hard-pressed to notice them with your naked eye.
Focus on the brush roll, and the difference becomes more apparent. The Motorhead's brush roll has a larger circumference to cover an opening that spans most of the bottom of the head. The v6 opening for dirt is much narrower. With its wider opening, the Motorhead can suck more dirt, faster, and the powered brush roll facilitates this, leading Dyson to claim the Motorhead is a significant upgrade over the v6 and any stick vac, to the point where, as I said, the company argues that it can replace your upright.
However, a few of its design elements make the Motorhead less convenient for cleaning your entire home than a full-size machine would be. Because the weight is centralized to the base you hold, the Motorhead won't stand up on its own. Again, the weight distribution adds to its appeal as a clean-anywhere stick vac, but for a lengthy housecleaning, it would be nice if it could prop itself up.
You power the vacuum by squeezing a trigger on the handle. The trigger works well and fits the design perfectly, but holding a trigger is more natural for spot cleaning -- turning the vacuum on as you approach visible dirt -- as opposed to systematic floor cleaning to cover a large area for what you can't see.
The Motorhead, like its predecessor, is ergonomic and easy to use, but its design isn't upgraded from the v6, and since you can't store attachments on the device itself, it isn't nearly as self-contained as a full-size vac.
Combine the ergonomic design, the high level of maneuverability, the snap-in-place extensions, and the easy-to-empty dustbin and you do have a vacuum that is easy and, dare I say, almost fun to use.
It looks and feels like a giant Nerf gun. The kid in me had an easy time daydreaming I was doing other, more action-packed activities while wielding this Dyson. Since the extensions and the wand are so easy to snap into and out of place, you can quickly switch between cleaning tasks, all while feeling like you're locking and loading to equip yourself for battle.
Unfortunately, the battery charge runs out quickly, meaning the fun won't last long. Since the battery provides the suction and spins the motor, the same battery used by the original v6 dies more quickly when powering the Motorhead. The v6 lasts 26 minutes on normal, and 6 minutes in boost mode. Dyson claims the Motorhead lasts 24 and 6 minutes. I found 6 minutes to be accurate on high power, but on normal, with the Motorhead attached, I could only get it to run for 16 to 18 minutes.
Combine that with the fact that it takes 3 hours to fully regain its charge, and cleaning your whole house can become an incredibly lengthy task. For procrastinators, this is the perfect excuse to draw out the chore, but it's much less convenient than a standard upright for those who actually want to get the job done.
Lastly, the dustbin, though it's easy to empty by holding it over a trash can and pressing a lever, only holds 0.12-gallon of debris. If you don't notice when it passes the fill line, you'll wind up digging dirt from the top of the bin with your fingers to get it clean. It's also easy to miss dirt in the rubber flaps that seal the bin shut. If you do, it won't seal properly, and small particles can leak out as you carry it to the trash.
Without a cord, you can move the Motorhead more easily than you would a standard upright, but not if you have to continually head to a trash to dump the dirt, or stop entirely after a couple of rooms to recharge the battery.
The design of the Dyson v6 Motorhead is not an upgrade from the original v6 and as far as usability, it takes a hit because of battery life. Compared with a full-size vacuum, it's lighter and easier to move, but lacks some convenience for long jobs. However, for our vacuum reviews, performance holds the most weight of all categories, and rightly so. If it can best uprights in performance, the other pitfalls will be much easier to overlook.
To test the cleaning power of our vacuums, we put them through a series of rigorous trials designed to quantify their ability to pick up small particles, large particles, and hair across a variety of floor types. We use 2.5 ounces of sand, 1 ounce of Fruity Cheerios, and 0.2-ounce of pet hair respectively, and do three trials of each across low pile carpet, midpile carpet, and hardwood floors.
The first test was pet hair, and the Motorhead aced across all three floor types and showed the reasoning behind that motorized head. The wide circumference of the brush combined with the extra power provided by the motor resulted in great pickup with relatively few tangles. All of the best vacuums tend to score highly on this one; it's a great way of separating the studs from the duds. The Motorhead successfully positioned itself with the former, and bested the v6 in the process.
The Motorhead had less success with Fruity Cheerios. Since it uses the same engine from the v6 to power two motors, instead of just one, it has less suction power than its predecessor. Dyson hoped the spin of the brushes and increased agitation would make up for this lower suction. On the Cheerios test, the wider cavity and decreased airflow resulted in a higher rate of clogs. The Motorhead would successfully grab a lot of Cheerios simultaneously, weakly pulling them through the wand and causing them to gather at the narrow passageway from the wand to the dustbin, jamming the vacuum, stalling it, and resulting in a failed test.
The Motorhead didn't fail every Cheerios test. It did quite well in two of our three test runs on both types of carpet, but failing a third of the time you want to use it means it falls significantly short of most uprights here. The Linx and even the v6 came out ahead.
On hardwood, the Motorhead performed even worse with Cheerios. It still jammed every three tests, but even on the tests it didn't fail, the head had trouble getting over the top of the particles, and ended up pushing them around as opposed to picking them up. This again resulted in lower performance numbers than the Linx, the v6, and many uprights have scored.
Because it doesn't consistently pick up large particles, the Motorhead disappoints as an upgrade to the Animal and as an upright replacement. The Cheerios test also solidified the Hoover Linx in its position as the top-performing stick vac. However, the fine particle test brought redemption for the Motorhead and proved the diverted power to the brush roll really does help with deep-cleaning carpets.
The Dyson v6 Motorhead still can't match the best stand-up vacuums, and the Oreck Touch and Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean each cost only $400. Nonetheless, it outperforms the Linx and its predecessor in picking up fine particles and pet hair, making this new Dyson the best for that function of the stick vacuums we've tested.
Additionally, in power mode, the Motorhead shone even brighter, grabbing an average of 79 percent of the sand from the midpile carpet.
Dyson claims the Motorhead has three times the suction of any other cordless vacuum. At least in terms of real-world performance, the Hoover Linx easily debunks that theory. The powered brush roll does give Dyson's latest stick great numbers with pet hair and fine particles, but those numbers aren't even twice as good as the Linx earned, and the Dyson ultimately can't justify the price difference. Especially, because you can get the original v6 for $300, it's tough to justify spending an extra $100 for an insignificant upgrade.
Other stick vacs aside, is the Dyson v6 Motorhead enough to replace your upright? Again, its performance picking up pet hair and fine particles is great, and on par with that of many full-size machines, if not quite the best. However, you'll want to use a different tool to pick up large particles.
Add in the Motorhead's short battery life and design quirks, and it no longer qualifies as an upright replacement. That said, the Motorhead is a very capable machine. The price makes it tough to recommend; the premium mostly buys you the Dyson brand name, but the v6 Motorhead and the v6 Animal come with a little extra performance.