Small But Powerful: Dyson Small Ball Vacuum Cleaner Review

Dyson’s Small Ball Vacuum Cleaner is Dyson’s newest innovation in lightweight vacuum technology. The Small Ball is designed  for those who want the power of a great canister or upright vacuum without having to be burdened by the weight and bulk of one.  It is available for purchase in the United States starting today, February 28, 2016.

Dyson's History of Innovative Vacuums:

If you are at all familiar with new technology, you will know that Dyson has earned a reputation as a leader in innovation with respect to air powered technology like vacuums, fans and humidifiers. In the late 70’s, James Dyson was frustrated by the performance of his Hoover Junior vacuum cleaner because the bag was clogging with dust, causing it to lose suction power. Dyson came up with the idea to use a cyclone in a vacuum in order to collect dust and not lose suction power. Thousands of prototypes later, Dyson was unable to license his bag less vacuum cleaner in the US or UK to vacuum manufacturers because the vacuum bag market was so profitable. In 1983, he licensed his technology to a Japanese company. In 1993, using the income from the license, James Dyson was finally able to manufacture a bagless vacuum under his own name and created a whole new class of vacuum cleaners.  Today, Dyson's team continues to find ways to make vacuums more powerful, efficient and user friendly.   The Dyson Small Ball is the latest result of Dyson's relentless pursuit of  the better vacuum.


Dyson Small Ball Review:

I’ve always been curious about trying a Dyson vacuum. I currently own a vacuum that I bought over 10 years ago. Let’s call her Betty. At the time I purchased Betty, I considered buying a Dyson vacuum but it was about $200 more than Betty. Betty also received a lot of good reviews, so I purchased her. I can’t say I regret it. She has served me well so far. In retrospect, I realized that I shouldn’t have avoided the Dyson because of the higher price  because after filters and vacuum bags, I’m pretty confident the Dyson would have cost me less.

I’m also one of those people who won’t go buy something new when their current product is still working well (or it could be because of the lack of storage space in my house). So when I was offered the opportunity to try out Dyson's newest lightweight canister vacuum and provide an unbiased review, I jumped at the chance. It was the perfect excuse for me to get a new vacuum.

Oddly enough, a good vacuum makes me excited. It must be genetic because my two teenage boys were pretty excited when they saw the Dyson Small Ball arrive in the mail (yes, they tried it the same day I assembled it). I think they are just obsessed with technology and don’t care if it’s the latest iPhone or the latest vacuum. The Dyson Small Ball was pretty simple to put together. To tell the truth, when I was looking at the assembly instructions, for the first few minutes, I was a little apprehensive. It just had a bunch of pictures and arrows. I thought it was going to be difficult but it wasn’t. I just followed the pictures and arrows and it was easy. There was no fidgeting around to make things click. The pieces pretty much slide into place. (Afterwards I realized that if you turn to page 10 in the instruction book, there are written instructions on how to assemble the Small Ball. I obviously only got to page 9 by the time I was assembling the vacuum.)

The first thing I noticed about the Dyson Small Ball is its weight. Wow, it is light! Maybe my old vacuum is super heavy but the Dyson Small Ball is super light. It is 12.5lbs. I live in a split-level house and I have four sets of stairs. Lugging Betty up and down the stairs was tiresome. The Small Ball was so easy to carry up and down the stairs that I now find myself using the Small Ball more often than I used Betty. (Dyson’s heaviest vacuum falls in at about 19.2 lbs in case you are trying to compare their vacuums.)

I tried the Small Ball in a variety of different floors and here's what I found:

Vacuuming the Carpeting

I have two areas in my house with wall-to-wall carpeting: the bedrooms and the den. I had two very different experiences when vacuuming my carpets.

I vacuumed the bedroom floors and my first reaction was that it was a little hard to push the vacuum. At the same time, I noticed that after I vacuumed the bedroom, the pile on my carpet was taller than I had seen it since … maybe the first year we had it. It was like my carpet was standing at attention. And it felt so plush. I felt like the Dyson Small Ball was trying to suck every ounce of dust out of the carpet.

Then my son wanted to try the vacuum so he wrapped up the cord, and took the vacuum down two sets of stairs to the den. I told him that it might be a little hard to push around. I was still upstairs when he started using the vacuum. He yelled, “Wow, this vacuum is so easy to use.” So I came downstairs and asked him whether he thought it was difficult to push, he said, “No.” So I tried the vacuum again. The Dyson Small Ball was so easy to use and practically floated around the den. It was a breeze to maneuver. I guess that is the patented Dyson ball technology kicking in. It really just hugs the corners and turns on a dime.

I was a little confused why it was easier to use in the den and than in the bedrooms. After testing the Dyson Small Ball again upstairs, I realized that it might be the type of pile. The upstairs carpet has a different type of pile, the yarn is definitely longer and it is plusher than my den carpet (I googled it and I believe my bedroom carpet is called a Saxony). All I know for sure is that the carpet upstairs looked plusher (and felt cleaner) than I had seen it in a long time and the den carpet looked great too. The difference had to have been because of the difference in the types of carpet pile.  So if your carpet is a higher pile, it will be much harder to push the vacuum around than on a short pile carpet.

Vacuuming the Area Rug

I also have three area rugs in my house: one in my dining room, one in my living room and one in my front foyer. The rug in the front foyer is very thin and small (about 5x7) and the Small Ball just glides over that rug. It did a great job of cleaning it. This is very different from my other vacuum as Betty does not glide over my area rug and it’s a pain to use Betty to clean such a small rug. My dining room rug is pretty thin too. So similar to the front foyer, the Small Ball did a great job cleaning the dining room. If you have short pile small carpets, the Dyson Small Ball will work well for you.

My living room area rug is plush. The pile height is over one inch long. The area rug is beautiful but it isn’t easy to clean using Betty. I have to use an attachment or else she will eat the yarn. So when I tried the Small Ball on it, I turned the brush bar to the off position. It was not easy to push. I turned the brush bar to the on position but the Small Ball turned it off. It was aware that it was a delicate rug and the brush bar should not be on. Overall, the Small Ball was somewhat difficult to push on such a high pile height.  If you are going to use the Dyson Small Ball for super plush or hile pile rugs or carpets, you will probably have to work a litter harder to clean them than you would with more self-propelled or self-pushing vacuums.

Vacuuming the Hard Wood Floors and Tiles

It was effortless using the Small Ball to vacuum my hardwood floors and tiles. I think the weight of the Small Ball made it feel similar to when I owned a Shark floor and carpet sweeper. It just glided around the floor and picked up everything in sight (but did a much better job than the Shark sweeper).  Dyson promotes that the brush bar at the head of the machine is especially designed to capture microscopic dust from hard floors. My stairs are wood and the Dyson did a terrific job on them and it was so easy to clean them. The Dyson Small Vacuum is an excellent vacuum for hardwood floors and tiles.

Key Features and Issues with the Dyson Small Ball

Here is an overall review of the features of the Small Ball.

1. The Ball™ technology is amazing. It makes it so simple to get around furniture and walls with the pivoting ball. The size of the ball does limit your ability to get under furniture but I think the benefits of the pivoting ball outweigh the limits for me. 

2. The self-adjusting cleaner head automatically adjusts between carpets and hard floors. You do not have to adjust the vacuum and the brush bar will automatically turn itself off when you shouldn’t be using it. It works well and is a great feature.

3. It only weighs 12.5 lbs  which is great if you are short on storage space. It is also very easy to carry around – especially for those of us that have lots of stairs.

4. The handle is retractable by about 10.5 inches. The Small Ball is 2.6 feet with the handle retracted. This also allows you to save some storage space.

5. The cables, wand and hose extend to 42 feet, which Dyson claims is 45% longer compared to their previous small upright vacuum.

6. The canister is clear so you can see when it is getting full. It is really easy to open and empty. Simply press a button and it opens the bottom of the canister.

7. The power cord is 35 feet long. The advantage of having such a long cord is that you don’t have to constantly plug and unplug it. However, the disadvantage is that it is a little cumbersome since it has to be unraveled completely to really use it.

8. Dyson says that their new Small Ball is 30% quieter than their other small uprights. I haven’t tried their other uprights but I can tell you that it is a quiet vacuum. It is noticeably quieter than my Betty.

9.  The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball that we reviewed last year did not require filter cleaning so I was disappointed to learn that with the Dyson Small Ball,  you are supposed to wash the filters at least once a month. I haven’t had it for a month but for the sake of this review, I washed the filters. There are two filters and they are pretty easy to remove and very easy to clean (you just rinse them with cool water). The only annoying part is that you have to leave them out to dry for 24 hours.  Cleaning the filter is not a big deal but it would be great if that was not necessary. The good thing is that the filters are washable so there are no extra costs. Once you buy the Small Ball, you don’t need to buy anything else.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Overall, I would rate the Dyson Small Ball pretty high and recommend it.

It’s not perfect for every situation but everything that it offers makes up for its shortcomings. It is powerful and it really gets in there and does a great job of cleaning. I appreciate that it self adjusts and goes from carpet to hardwood floors and I don’t need to do anything. I really like the clear canister so you can see how much dirt you have after vacuuming a room. What I love the most is how lightweight it is. I know the weight of a vacuum shouldn’t stop me from using it more often, but it does. I pull out the Small Ball constantly. I don’t think I’ve used Betty since I’ve gotten the Small Ball (sorry Betty). The only thing is that bothers me is the 35 feet long cord  is a bit cumbersome and I would love to not have to manage the cord. I also am not looking forward to washing the filter every month. It's such a small thing but when you have to clean up all the time, I don't like having to add one more thing to my cleaning list.

I think for people who live in smaller homes, who have difficulty carrying heavy things or for those who need to carry around a vacuum from place to place like I do with my split level home, the Dyson Small Ball Vacuum is an especially wonderful option. It does a great job overall and it is super easy to use especially on low pile rugs, carpets and hard floors. For those with deep pile rugs and carpets in their home, the Small Ball just takes a bit more work so you will want to weigh the benefits of power and portability with need to "push" the vacuum more than with some other self pushing uprights or canisters. 

The Small Ball is priced at $399.99. It's available for sale starting today, February 28, 2016 on and on, and it will be available on May 1, 2016 at select retailers.

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