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Dyson v6 Absolute review: Dyson's high-priced stick vac only has one new trick

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The Good The Dyson v6 Absolute vacuum cleaner improves on previous Dyson sticks with a soft roller cleaning head that ups its prowess on hardwood floors.

The Bad The new vacuum head is clever but imperfect. Pet hair sticks to it and it flings the large particles it fails to grab.

The Bottom Line As usual, Dyson produced a competent product that costs too much. At $600, the Absolute isn't worth the upgrade over the Linx or even over other Dyson sticks.

7.6 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Features 7
  • Design 8
  • Usability 7

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.

Design and features

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.

A familiar feel to Dyson's stick vac. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

It transforms to a handheld quickly. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

The self-powered brush roll with the wider opening is on the right. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

The Absolute comes with lots of attachments. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

Usability

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.

That blue light won't give you any details about the battery life. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

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.

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