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Hoover Air Cordless review: Can this cordless vacuum go the distance?

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The $300 Hoover Air Cordless, available only in the US, ushers in an entirely new vacuum category that's essentially a hybrid of the brand's $180 WindTunnel 3 High Performance Bagless upright and its $180 Platinum Collection Linx Cordless Stick Vacuum . The result is the cordless upright -- a model that claims to have the power of an upright and the mobility of a stick vacuum. It's also one of Hoover's most beautifully designed vacuums.

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7.6

Hoover Air Cordless

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The $300 Hoover Air Cordless combines the mobility of a stick vacuum with the cleaning power of an upright.

The Bad

While it was competitive with other upright brands we've reviewed, it didn't outperform Hoover's own $180 Platinum Collection Linx Cordless stick vacuum.

The Bottom Line

Hoover's Air Cordless ushers in a welcome new vacuum category, but it still needs some work to match the performance of our most highly rated uprights.

And while it was competitive with other upright models we've reviewed, it wasn't able to match the performance of the highly-rated Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean , the Hoover WindTunnel 3, or the $550 Dyson DC59 Motorhead -- the Motorhead is the only other cordless model around that makes similar upright replacement claims.

The most interesting takeaway, though, is that it didn't test as well as Hoover's own $180 Linx stick vacuum -- a battery-powered stick model designed for its cord-free simplicity rather than its high suction power. So, while this is a very good vacuum, it's hard to recommend spending $300 when you can spend $180 on the Linx and get better results.

On the go with Hoover's Air Cordless (pictures)

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The overview

Hoover's Air Cordless is a gray-silver upright-style vacuum with bright blue accents. The Air Cordless comes with two removable 25-minute runtime lithium ion batteries, a battery charger, a reusable filter, a dusting-crevice tool combo, a swiveling dusting brush, and a separate brush roll specifically for bare-floor cleaning.

It's just shy of 10 pounds, making it incredibly nimble, although the Dyson DC59 Motorhead weighs half of that, at 4.96 pounds. It has a removable wand for targeted cleaning with the extra brush attachments, and it boasts the same three-suction-channel WindTunnel tech that you find on Hoover's WindTunnel 3 upright.

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Unlike the Hoover Linx stick vacuum, the Air Cordless is both lightweight and maneuverable. Colin West McDonald/CNET

Not only is the Air Cordless lightweight, it's also very maneuverable, with a pivoting nozzle that can navigate around furniture and other obstacles with ease. I also appreciate that it comes with two batteries. That way, you can charge one while you vacuum with the other. Each battery also display a three-LED status bar to let you know how much battery life remains.

While it's designed to transition easily from carpet to hardwood, tile, or other hard surfaces, the two brushes complicate things a bit. If I'm cleaning a space with an area rug that transitions to carpet -- or if I'm simply cleaning a home that has different flooring types throughout, I don't want to stop and switch out the brush roll.

That midvacuuming effort kind of defeats the purpose of an efficient, cordless design. Many standard uprights come with a single brush, so I have to worry only about tripping over the cord and finding a conveniently located outlet. The Air Cordless removes the cord concerns, but adds the bother of custom brushes.

A crossover vacuum with SUV performance?

Although the $300 Air Cordless and the $550 Dyson DC59 Motorhead are the only two vacuums that make direct upright replacement claims, I compared it to the $180 Hoover WindTunnel 3 upright, the $180 Hoover Linx stick vacuum, and the $300 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean upright as well. That way, I can account for the hybrid nature of the Air Cordless. It really is the crossover vehicle of the vacuum industry.

CHEERIOS, 1 OZ. (PERCENTAGE PICKED UP)

Hoover Linx 100 100 100Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 88 92 93Hoover WindTunnel 3 65 60 68Dyson DC59 Motorhead 66 66 55Hoover Air Cordless 65 92 22
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Notes: (Longer bars indicate better performance)

The fruity Cheerios test results were very inconsistent. I wanted to see if the nozzle could clear the Cheerios -- rather than simply pushing them around the floor -- and if they made it to the dust bin -- rather than getting stuck along the way. Yes, this is a bit of a "torture test" for a vacuum, because those big, sticky cereal bits can clump together and create all kinds of cleaning unpleasantness.

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The Air Cordless struggled on the Cheerios tests. Colin West McDonald/CNET

But, the Hoover Linx stick vacuum was able to pick up 100 percent of the fruity Cheerios on hardwood, mid-pile, and low-pile, so I had high expectations. Unfortunately, the Hoover Air Cordless struggled throughout most of this test. It picked up 65 percent of the fruity Cheerios on mid-pile, 92 percent on low-pile, and 22 percent on hardwood.

As with other upright vacuums, I turned the brush roll on for both carpeted surfaces and off for the hardwood test. When the brush roll was on, many of the Cheerios got jammed in the nozzle and in the hose, but most of them got trapped at the connection point between the hose and the dust bin -- although to a lesser extent on the low-pile carpet. That created a huge mess, because Cheerios spilled everywhere whenever I removed the dust bin to try to empty it.

With the brush roll switched off, it simply pushed most of the Cheerios around the floor. I did try turning on the brush roll on the hardwood out of curiosity and ended up with massive clogs once again. This also happened with the Dyson DC59 Motorhead, though, which only picked up 55 percent on hardwood and 66 percent on both mid- and low-pile carpet.

PET HAIR, 0.2 OZ. (PERCENTAGE PICKED UP)

Hoover Linx 100 100 100Dyson DC59 Motorhead 100 100 100Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 100 100 75Hoover WindTunnel 3 100 100 0Hoover Air Cordless 100 100 0
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Notes: (Longer bars indicate better performance)

The Air Cordless did much better on the pet hair test. It picked up 100 percent of the pet hair on both the mid- and low-pile carpets with the brush roll engaged. But, when I switched to the bare floor brush and turned off the brush roll, the vacuum failed completely. Instead of collecting the pet hair, the hair simply clung to the brush and was pushed from one section of the floor to another.

I tried it again with the brush roll on and it picked up everything with ease. Since the special hard floor brush roll is softer and less likely to scratch your floors, I would definitely recommend switching it on if you want to vacuum large dust bunnies or pet hair on your bare floors. The Dyson DC59 Motorhead picked up all of the pet hair on all three surfaces, but it doesn't have a brush roll "off" option, so the default comparison isn't entirely fair. If you switch on the Air Cordless brush roll when cleaning hardwood, these two vacuums end up with identical results.

SAND (PERCENTAGE, OUT OF 2.5 OZ)

Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean 80 91 97Hoover WindTunnel 3 64 100 90Dyson DC59 Motorhead 66 81 100Hoover Linx 34 48 99Hoover Air Cordless 43 57 59
  • Mid-pile
  • Low-pile
  • Hardwood
Notes: (Longer bars indicate better performance)

The Hoover Air Cordless also struggled on the sand test, calling its suction power into question. It picked up 43 percent of the sand on mid-pile, 57 percent of the sand on low-pile, and 59 percent of the sand on hardwood. Even the Hoover Linx stick vacuum, which shouldn't theoretically be more powerful than the Air Cordless, did significantly better on the hardwood test.

We also did a suction test to compare the airflow of the Air Cordless to the brand's WindTunnel 3 upright and the Linx stick vacuum. Interestingly, the WindTunnel 3 had an airflow of 41 cubic feet per minute (cfm), the Linx got 36.5, and the Air Cordless reached just 23 cfm. These results are consistent with the performance results.

Conclusion

Hoover is on the right track with its $300 Air Cordless but isn't quite there yet. That's because the brand's $180 Platinum Collection Linx Cordless stick vacuum performed better overall on all three of the major tests. So, while the the Air Cordless could replace your upright, you're paying more for its battery-powered mobility than its suction power. For that reason, I'd still suggest the Linx over the Air Cordless -- just make sure you spring for an extra battery; the Linx comes with only one. And if you want a solid upright vacuum, I'd still recommend the $300 Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean over the Air Cordless, the Linx, and the WindTunnel 3.

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7.6

Hoover Air Cordless

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Performance 6Features 8Design 9Usability 9