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I've tested more than 100 vacuums - the Dyson Gen5detect is better than all of them

 A Dyson Gen5detect cleaning a floor.
A Dyson Gen5detect cleaning a floor.

Dyson is the frontrunner in vacuum tech and have set the bar for the last decade or more. Many of Dyson's innovations became industry standards, and over the past few years we've tested every vacuum they've released to try and find a dud. When the Gen5detect came out, we simply had to see if it could live up to such high expectations.

The Gen5detect is, according to Dyson, the most powerful HEPA cordless vacuum in the world. Furthermore, its 70 minute run time is the longest you’ll get from a single battery cordless Dyson. Then there are the other upgraded features such as improved illumination technology on the Fluffy Optic floor head.

That's all very nice, but I’ve reviewed well in excess of a hundred vacuums in my many years of reviewing household appliances. I’ve come to learn what works and what's a useless gimmick. The jargon and marketing claims are all well and good but I wanted to find out what it’s like to use in real life, in my home, because that’s what matters.

But Dyson have done it once again. I found not only one of the best vacuum cleaners you can buy, but probably the best vacuum I've ever used. My only warnings are about the weight and the incredibly high price tag. If you want the best vacuum in the world, money no object, this is the appliance you need.

Product specifications

A Dyson Gen5detect vacuum on a white background
A Dyson Gen5detect vacuum on a white background

Who will it suit?

The Gen5detect will suit those with smaller homes. If you have a generous sized home, you might find the Dyson Gen5outsize a better fit, as it has a wider floorhead and larger bin. However, the Gen5detect is ample for small and medium sized houses and apartments.

If you have multiple floor types to clean, then the two main floor heads have you covered. This is a vacuum that can cope with transitioning from hard floor to carpet and back again without a fuss.

Unboxing and setting up

Unboxing the Dyson Gen5detect
Unboxing the Dyson Gen5detect

As I've come to expect from Dyson, all the parts are straightforward to assemble. Once I’d removed it from the fully recyclable cardboard and paper packaging, it only took me a minute to put it together and get it charging.

Depending on where you plan to store and charge the vacuum, you can either plug the charger directly into the battery. Or, you can install the ‘wall dok’ –Dyson's misspelling, not mine – to neatly store and charge the vacuum.

The first thing I noticed was that unlike many previous iterations of cordless Dyson vacuums, there’s not a trigger on the handle that requires holding with your finger while vacuuming. Instead, a single button on the screen switches it on and off. This will be a welcome design change for those who struggle to hold in a trigger for long periods.

There are three power levels; eco, auto, and boost. Dyson claims you’ll get up to 70 minutes of run time, which is what you’ll get in eco mode. Auto mode is supposed to maximize battery life by automatically adjusting the power levels between floor types, and boost will give you the maximum possible suction, but the minimum possible run time. I found boost averaged about 12 minutes, which is poor, but I find that this is so powerful you rarely need it.

A close up of the LCD screen of the Dyson Gen5detect
A close up of the LCD screen of the Dyson Gen5detect

Like earlier models, the Gen5detect includes a Piezo particle sensor and live feedback about the size of dust particles you're picking up from the floor. It's incredibly impressive but I can't help wondering why this feature is still being incorporated in newest models. It feels like the only people who are really interested are the engineers at Dyson HQ. The rest of us just want to vacuum the house, make the floors look clean, and get on with our day. It feels a little like a placebo effect. Your vacuum tells you that you're picking up dust as small as 10 microns and it feels like you're totally banishing dust form your home, but at that level it's impossible to tell with the naked eye, so while it's impressive, it's ultimately a little meaningless.

It comes woth two floorheads. The first is the Fluffy Optic cleaner head, which designed for hard floors, and includes a laser to illuminate all those dust bunnies. There's also the Digital Motorbar cleaner head for every floor type, which can intelligently adapt suction power depending on the floor type you’re vacuuming. Its hair removal vanes automatically stop hair becoming tangled around it, which is very useful.

The slightly bizarrely named ‘hair screw’ tool is a small motorized tool for cleaning pet beds, mattresses, car seats, and stairs. Then you get the combination tool, a combined cleaning nozzle and brush for a variety of tasks such as dusting or car cleaning.

Lastly, the built-in dusting and crevice tool is cleverly designed so that it’s concealed within the wand. The press of a button detaches the lower part of the wand and leaves this tool attached, for a quick and easy transition into handheld mode.

Test 1: Carpet

Cleaning a carpet with the Dyson Gen5detect
Cleaning a carpet with the Dyson Gen5detect

I've tested dozens of vacuums in my career, so you know I'm not exaggerating when I say this: the suction power on the Dyson Gen5 is staggering. The embedded dirt that was lifted from deep within my carpets was far more than I thought possible.

The long pile area rug in my living room can be tricky to clean and although it did, on a couple of occasions, cause the roller in the floorhead to stop turning, the amount of fine sandy debris that was collected in the dirt bin was enough to make anyone think I live at the beach, not hundreds of miles away in a rural town.

On auto mode you can hear the power level increasing and decreasing as you work your way around a room and this does give you plenty of battery power to vacuum several rooms before it needs a recharge. On boost mode though, I managed to vacuum for just 12 minutes before the battery ran out. It's just enough time to blitz a couple of medium sized bedrooms before guests arrive, but not to give the whole house a deep clean.

A closeup of the fine dirt picked up by the Dyson Gen5detect
A closeup of the fine dirt picked up by the Dyson Gen5detect

However, I was somewhat disappointed that like many cordless Dyson vacuums I’ve used in the past, this latest model is still heavy. However, I think the payoff is worth it. It's heavier than other vacuums I've tested, but those are true lightweights when it comes to suction power. I'd rather totally remove crumbs and dust from my floors than have a slightly lighter but dirtier vacuum.

The boost mode hit about 83dB on my noise meter, which is a typical noise level for vacuuming. If you need to be a little quieter you can vacuum in eco mode, which reduced the sound to a gentler 70dB according to the noise meter on my phone. This was the same on both carpet and hard floors.

Test 2: Hard floors

Cleaning a hard floor with the Dyson Gen5detect
Cleaning a hard floor with the Dyson Gen5detect

Speaking of hard floors, to the naked eye, my wooden floors looked like I could easily leave them several more days before reaching for the vacuum. Once I started going over them and the laser illuminated every speck of dirt and dust bunny, I was absolutely horrified and felt like a total slob.

In fact, I became slightly fixated on vacuuming all my hard floors. As horrifying as it was to see how filthy they were, it was equally gratifying to see that all that dust had been removed. Though you can see the laser in full daylight, which is an improvement on the previous Dyson V15, it’s at its best in dim light. That means you can see just how long it’s been since you vacuumed under that piece of furniture in the corner of the room.

Testing edge cleaning with the Dyson Gen5detect
Testing edge cleaning with the Dyson Gen5detect

To check the edge cleaning, I spilled a handful of crumbs and flour onto the edge of the room next to baseboards. The result was similar on hard floors and carpet; it sucked up about 95% of the debris, leaving a few crumbs right in the corner. But, by quickly removing the wand and using the crevice tool, I was able to reach right into the corners and thoroughly remove any remaining bits.

Test 3: Handheld attchments

Testing the handheld mode of the Dyson Gen5detect on a baseboard
Testing the handheld mode of the Dyson Gen5detect on a baseboard

Removing the wand to reveal the built-in crevice tool and brush is a super handy function. It means you can quickly transition from vacuuming floors to reaching into an awkward corner or crevice. Because none of the other tools are stored on board the vacuum, this means that you don't need to remember to bring the small tools with you.

Speaking of which, I frequently vacuum my sofas and found the hair screw tool was perfect for the job. It made fast work of collecting crumbs and sprucing up the upholstery.

I have both carpeted and wood floored stairs and found it to be a convenient cleaner for both. On some occasions I used the smaller handheld tools on stairs, while other times I used the main floorhead – both work well.

Testing the handheld mode of the Dyson Gen5detect on a car floor mat
Testing the handheld mode of the Dyson Gen5detect on a car floor mat

During the week that I was reviewing this vacuum, I also used it to spruce up my car interior. I have a tiny car, so while I managed a quick vacuum of the carpets and seats, it was too heavy and bulky to do much more. The crevice tool was long enough, but not thin enough, to fit into the gaps down the sides of the seats, so frustratingly I couldn't clean the crumbs from this section of the carpet.

It’s worth noting that Dyson sells lots of compatible tools for all kinds of tasks, including a thin crevice tool, and an awkward gap tool. So you can add on accessories to suit a variety of cleaning tasks, if you’re happy to spend more money.

However, when using it as a handheld to clean my car, or vacuum away cobwebs, it didn’t take long before my arm was aching and I had to stop.

Cleaning and maintenance

Emptying the Dyson Gen5detect
Emptying the Dyson Gen5detect

Removing the dirt from the vacuum bin is as simple as pointing the end of the vacuum into your trash and pushing the lever. The dirt is then ejected straight into the trash bag  It’s easy and relatively mess free. However, if you’re prone to allergies, you may want to do this outside of your home to avoid the risk of allergens re-entering the air.

The HEPA filter is a lifetime filter, so there should be no regular ongoing costs for replacements. It's also washable, if you think it's getting too dirty. Similarly, the Fluffy Optic roller can be washed to keep it fresh. There’s not much regular maintenance to do, but you can take the bin and some of the accessories apart for cleaning should you need to.

How does it compare?

The Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute has been singled out as the best value Dyson on our best vacuum cleaner list. As an older model, it’s brings Dyson power but it's more affordable if you’re on a budget. It's hundreds of dollars less than this model, which is up near the $1000 mark. I can't emphasise enough that this the best vacuum I've tested, but $1000 is a lot to spend for cleaner floors.

One of Dyson's main competitor brands is Shark. The Shark Vertex Pro Lightweight Cordless Stick Vacuum is an affordable alternative to a Dyson, yet still comes loaded with a whole host of user friendly features. We love the multi-flex technology for effortless reach under low furniture and the two rollers in the floorhead, leave every type of floor thoroughly cleaned. It lacks the laser and particle sensor of the Dyson, and it's not as thorough, but it's a great vacuum for at least half the price.

Should you buy the Dyson Gen5detect?

In terms of performance this Dyson is probably the best performing and most powerful cordless vacuum I’ve ever reviewed. It’s well built and the robust selection of tools give it the versatility to be used all around the home.

It is, however, not perfect. It’s heavy, even when vacuuming floors. And as a handheld vacuum it feels bulky when cleaning in confined spaces, like a car. It's undoubtedly expensive, but if you’ve got the budget, you won't find anything better.

How we test vacuums

At Homes & Gardens, we take how west test vacuums incredibly seriously. Helen had this vacuum on loan from Dyson and used it as part of her normal cleaning routine at home for a week. She made use of all the tools and not only did she clean several floor types, but also used it to spruce up her car. She even vacuumed hard surfaces like shelving and used it for overhead cleaning to remove some pesky cobwebs.