Toronto Star

Handheld vacuum cleans up in design department

- ROB CRIBB Cribbnotes

We live in an age when style is substance. Slap the name of some designer guru on some uncomforta­ble avant-garde chair or nostrilsco­rching eau de toilette and you’ve likely got a big seller on your hands. We are label gawkers. And those that bear the name of modern celebrity trend setters compel our attention. And it’s not just turtleneck­s and shoes being slapped with big names anymore. It seems even handheld vacuum cleaners, perhaps the most mundane of household gadgets, are being marketed with designer credibilit­y. Dyson’s new handheld vacuum cleaner — the DC16 ($180) — comes with the name Issey Miyake prominentl­y emblazoned across the box and throughout the machine’s promotiona­l materials. The famous Japanese designer of fashions and perfumes has lent his name and leading edge design eye to the DC16, the newest machine from perhaps the world’s most hyped vacuum cleaner salesmen.

Aesthetica­lly, the DC16 is an alluring conversati­on piece.

Unlike your trusty Black & Decker handheld vac, with its convention­al lines and standard beige uniform, the DC16 is an aggressive looking piece of household functional­ity with dark grey and neon purple colouring and a futuristic machine-gun configurat­ion that would make it put it at home on the set of a Terminator film.

If it were a piece of clothing, it would be that outrageous­ly bold fashion statement that shimmers down a catwalk.

There’s no doubt that you will look more interestin­g while hunched down cleaning up those breakfast crumbs than you would with your old school mini vacuum.

But serious questions must be asked.

Who cares? Do we really need a better looking crumb sucker? Has our obsession with fashion really reached into our broom closets? Is this not the sure sign of a civilizati­on about to implode upon itself?

Dyson’s response is that the DC16, with its lofty price point, is more than just a pumped up, steroid-infused hand vac dressed up as a lethal weapon.

It’s got “twice the suction power of other handhelds,” says company literature.

For that, I tried out the DC16 on a range of routine household messes including standard kitchen floor filth, dust, spilled dirt and perhaps the most challengin­g of clean up horrors: Christmas tree needles.

I cleaned half of each mess using the DC16 and my ancient Black & Decker Dustbuster for the other half. Poised side by side, they look a bit like an old model Studebaker parked alongside Hummer.

But when it came to actual utility — the ability to suck — the chasm shrank.

Sure, the DC16, with its “cyclone” technology that keeps trapped dirt spinning inside its chamber to prevent suction power from fading, gave good suckage.

Asmall pile of dirt spilled from a planter disappeare­d effortless­ly into its mouth. Ditto for food scraps and dust bunnies. And it made relatively fast work of the pine needles, although they filled its bin quickly, requiring emptying.

Pull down a lever on the side of the machine and a trap door opens as gravity sends the collected mess cascading into an awaiting garbage bag. Just rise out the filters every three to six months and you’re equipped for any clumsiness that ensues at your house.

That said, the suckage appeared to be far less than double that of my old beater. Indeed, the old Dustbuster held up nobly.

The needles jammed it more often than the Dyson. And its relatively inelegant method of cleaning out the mess was more fumblepron­e.

But factor in the Dyson’s hefty price tag and you’ve got a tough call.

Fact is, the suckage factor isn’t the main selling point here. The days when sheer utility was the sole — or even most important — purchasing factor are officially extinct.

This is a machine that justifies itself by its design pedigree. It may sell you. It may not. But it’s got little to do with whether your kitchen floor will be clean next time you drop an open cereal box to the floor. Robert Cribb can be reached at

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