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The launch of a new Dyson vacuum, for us anyway, has all the trappings of a debut from Apple or Tesla. It starts with a press conference and a release date—and we wait. Just like all the products that we test and rate, we ordered the Dyson V15 Detect, $700, which Dyson calls its “most powerful and intelligent vacuum yet.” In this case, as soon as it hit the market.
In addition to how it cleans, we wanted to assess the new features—a laser that sits atop a second brush head, called the “Laser Slim Fluffy cleaner head” and an electronic dirt detector. And while we didn’t swoon over the Dyson V15, we do think it’s a solid cordless vacuum. So good, in fact, that it’s now the top Dyson in our stick vacuum ratings, outranking its brandmates the Dyson V11, Dyson V10, and Dyson V8 as well as almost 50 cordless vacuums from a dozen other brands.
We must admit that the laser did catch our attention. In addition to the standard detachable brush head, the V15 comes with that second “fluffy” cleaner head, designed for hard floors, along with several additional attachments including an anti-tangle brush for pet hair, an upholstery brush, special tools for nooks and crannies, and a docking station.
Dyson claims that the laser detects microscopic dust on hard floors. And it can, under favorable lighting conditions. “The laser is angled to shine on the dust in front of the vacuum head, and it does reflect the dust,” says Frank Rizzi, who gave it a whirl in our lab before running the V15 through our standard battery of tests. “It’s cool, but the darker the room and floor, the more dust you’ll see.”
As you might imagine, the lights in our labs are brighter than those in an average living room, but we do mimic real-life conditions in our tests. And, honestly, if the laser gets you to vacuum more often, we’re all for it. Worth noting: Dyson smartly added an on-off switch to the vacuum head so the laser isn’t on the entire time (and potentially running down the battery).
Then there’s the dirt detector, called an acoustic piezo sensor. In the V15, the onboard sensor categorizes the dust by size and quantity and displays those numbers on an LCD screen (as seen in the image above). That’s good visual feedback if you want to see what your vacuum is sucking up. We did not test the dirt detector for accuracy but it’s designed to increase suction when it detects a larger volume of dust. “We didn’t see real differences in our bare floor tests,” says Rizzi, adding that the vacuum’s suction power does adjust automatically when moving from floors to carpet and back. “I’m not sure how useful the piezo is,” he adds.
We typically recommend that a stick vacuum serves as a secondary machine to a full-sized upright or canister vacuum—especially if you have a lot of carpeting—so $700 may seem like a high price to pay. “But unless you need to deep-clean carpet, you can use a larger-size stick vacuum for your entire home,” says Rizzi. In which case, perhaps, that price tag (combined with a slim profile for storage, a slew of attachments, and the convenience of a cordless), could feel justified.
CR’s tests are designed to compare the performance of one vacuum to another, so you can choose the one that best suits your needs. When a new model has a special feature—hello, laser beam and dirt sensor—we try out those features but don’t include our observations as part of the vac’s Overall Score. Rather, that score is based on how well a vacuum performs in our standard slate of tests for cleaning carpet, floors, and pet hair, and on how highly the brand rates for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, based on our member survey.
Dyson V15 Detect Test Results
“Dyson’s performance has always been very strong in our tests,” says Rizzi. Dyson has made incremental changes to its cordless stick vacuums from one generation to the next. The Dyson V15 is in the same weight class as earlier models, and the runtime clocks in at about the same as the V11 generation—but longer than the V10 and V8 models.
As for our performance tests, the Dyson V15 Detect did well, picking up scattered debris and pet fur on a variety of surfaces in our test labs. Here’s a quick look at the results. Read on, below, for a more detailed breakdown of the test scores.
Performance tests: The Dyson V15 notched nearly perfect scores in our performance tests, including Excellent ratings for cleaning carpet and bare floors and picking up pet hair. It scarfed up the sand, rice, and cereal we scattered on carpet; removed litter from tile floors; and attacked the pet hair in a medium-pile carpet.
This stick vac zips along edges, leaving little to nothing behind, and emissions are clean, meaning the bin retains what the vacuum sucks up.
It also runs quietly, earning an Excellent rating in that test, and is just as quiet as the three top stick vacuums in our tests, all from Tineco. Its brandmate, the Dyson V11 Outsize, which scores a point lower, is a bit noisier.
Runtime is a big factor for cordless vacuums, and the Dyson V15 runs for about 70 minutes per charge on low and 8 minutes on high. That’s on par with the other late-model Dyson cordless stick vacs and longer than many of the other brands of cordless vacuums in our tests. The battery takes 5 hours to recharge, which is typical for many cordless vacuums. The V15 comes with one battery, but you can buy an extra separately for $150 if you prefer to always have a backup charged to ensure an uninterrupted cleaning session.
Reliability: Batteries are the Achilles heel of cordless stick vacuums. In our surveys, CR members who own a cordless stick vac generally report a higher incidence of problems than do those who own a corded type of vacuum, including batteries that diminish in power over time or die completely. Such problems are particularly acute by the fifth year of ownership.
According to data from CR’s exclusive member survey, none of the brands of cordless stick vacuums we rate earns a reliability rating better than a middling Good. Dyson cordless stick vacuums earn a Fair rating for reliability.
Because of their comparatively sub-par reliability compared to corded types of vacuums, Consumer Reports currently does not recommend any cordless stick vacuums. But we continue to monitor battery issues in our annual vacuum survey.
How the Dyson V15 Detect Compares
Like most Dyson stick vacuums, the Dyson V15 is pricey. You can buy our top-rated cordless stick vacuum, the Tineco Pure One S11, for half the price, and it matches the performance of the new Dyson task-for-task. As do two other Tinecos, the Tineco Pure One Tango S11 Ex and the Tineco Pure One S12, which sell for $470 and $600 respectively.
Still, the new Dyson V15 Detect isn’t the highest-priced Dyson in our lineup. The Dyson V11 Outsize sells for an eye-popping $800. Two other Dysons in our ratings also sell for $700—the Dyson V11 Torque Drive and the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute. If you have your heart set on a Dyson but can’t commit to those prices, take a look at the Dyson V8 Absolute, $450, or the similar Dyson V8 Animal, $400. And we’ve seen some of the older models discounted from time to time during such sales events as Black Friday and Presidents Day. (When they're marked down, we include them in our weekly round-up of home and appliance deals.)
If you want to spend less, there are lots of choices in our ratings. Here, listed alphabetically, are five top cordless stick vacs to consider that cost less than $350—and as little as $230—that are solid performers.