Dyson V11 Absolute full review

Dyson must be the only company in the world that can drum up hype for annual vacuum cleaner updates - surely only an iHoover could compete - which is how we find ourselves face to face with the new Dyson V11.

As you’d expect, this updated model comes with all the usual promises about improved suction power and a better battery, but the most interesting changes aren’t in the vacuum itself at all: they’re in the new High Torque cleaner head.

Price and availability

The Dyson V11 is available now in both the US and UK, with prices starting from £499/$599. The specifics of the available models vary between the two countries though.

In the UK, you can get the V11 Animal for £499, which comes in purple. This includes a range of accessories, but only one full-size cleaning head: Dyson’s old direct drive head, which is designed for carpets. That means the UK Animal is ideal if your home is fully carpeted, but doesn't include any full cleaning head optimised for hard floors.

£599 gets you the V11 Absolute (the model we’ve reviewed here), which is available in blue or gold. Unlike the Animal, this includes two full-size heads: a soft roller head for hard floors; and the new High Torque head, which is optimised for both carpets and hard floors, and is capable of automatically switching between the two.

Unhelpfully, the situation in the US is different. If you’re in the states, $599 gets you the purple V11 Animal. This does include the High Torque head, but it seems to be a different version to the one found on the $699 V11 Torque Drive (in blue or copper, instead of gold). Extra tools and attachments also vary between the US and UK, so this review of the UK Absolute model may not apply entirely if you’re shopping in the States.

To put those prices in perspective, last year’s Cyclone V10 models range from £399/$499 to £499/$599, while the older V8 starts from £299/$399, and the V7 is available from £249/$299.

Dyson isn’t the only game in town either, and other manufacturers can offer cordless for cheaper. The Philips SpeedPro Max is a great alternative from around £400 in the UK, while the Roidmi F8 is just £299/$329. If you’re in the UK you can go even cheaper with the Hoover H-Free at a mere £139 - so if your budget is tight, you might want to avoid Dyson entirely.

Check out our full guide to the best vacuums for more recommendations, both cordless and corded.

Automatic for the people

The most confusing thing about the way Dyson has divided the V11 models in the UK is that it restricts the vacuum’s best new feature to the premium model: its automatic mode.

Strap the High Torque cleaner head to the V11 and leave it in Auto and the vacuum will automatically detect whether it’s on hard floor or carpet and dynamically change the suction power to match, delivering extra oomph on carpets and saving battery while on hard floors. Sure, it's still more work than using a robot vacuum, but at least it's a start.

For anyone with a mix of flooring in their home, this is the sort of small touch that adds a lot to the V11’s usefulness. Dyson knows full well that despite shipping six or seven attachments with every vacuum, most of us just use the main one for everything and hope for the best, rather than faff around changing heads every room - and now that’ll actually work well, thanks in part to a combo of stiff nylon bristles for carpet and anti-static carbon fibres for hard floors.

Of course, if you want to keep things manual, you have that choice too. You can save battery in Eco mode or burn through it in Boost - the former will just about give you 60 minutes on a full charge, even with a motorised head, while the latter drops down to around 15.

Auto is powered in part by the High Torque cleaner head, which is what does the work in detecting the floor type. Switch to a different head and the option for Auto is replaced by Medium, which is hopefully fairly self-explanatory.

It's also easier than ever to switch between the main head and the smaller attachments, thanks to the introduction of a very simple innovation: a small bit of plastic that clips to the shaft of the vacuum and holds up to two mini brush-heads, saving you from trekking back to the cupboard every time you want to clean a crevice.

Screen to be believed

Switching between all these modes is handled by a single button on the end of the handle, together with a small, circular LCD screen that lets you know which mode you’re on.

Slapping a screen on a vacuum might seem like the height of pointless over-engineering (something Dyson isn’t entirely innocent of), but the V11 actually makes a surprisingly strong case for it.

Not only does the screen show the mode you’re on, but also the battery level. And not a sort-of-useful percentage indicator, but instead with an estimate of how much longer the battery will last on this level.

That means that as the Auto mode switches between suction levels you can immediately see how it will affect your remaining clean time, but it should also serve to help people select the right setting for them.

With previous Dysons there’s been a temptation to amp it up to max and then get surprised when the battery gives in, but the screen offers a live reminder of the battery impact of Boost, helping you plan your cleaning better and make the most of the Auto and Eco modes - which are likely to be more than enough for most vacuuming anyway.

The screen serves a purpose outside of regular cleaning too: if anything goes wrong, the screen will let you know, and display a brief graphic highlighting the problem and how to fix it. If the filter isn’t attached properly, it’ll zoom in on an image of the filter, while if there’s a blockage somewhere it will actually show you the specific part of the vacuum that’s blocking airflow, helping you fix it yourself (and saving Dyson’s customer support team some work).

Peak power

So that’s all the fancy stuff. But does the V11 actually work well as a vacuum? Unsurprisingly, yes, though there is some bad along with the good.

For starters, the new V11 motor is 20 percent more powerful than the Cyclone V10’s according to Dyson. In practice this is getting to the point of irrelevance: on max power the V10 was fast enough to match most corded vacuums, and so is the V11. In our testing it’s comfortably handled everything from dust to clumps of hair, on both hardwood and carpet, with relative ease.

The V10 was the first cordless vacuum with enough power - and battery - to make us comfortable ditching the cord entirely, and there’s nothing in the V11 to lose that same recommendation. This is a cordless that can be more than supplementary: this can handle your whole clean, even for a fairly large house.

It’s not all good though. That faster motor requires a bigger battery to keep it going, and as a result actual battery life is only marginally better than on the previous model. It'll now manage 60 minutes with a motorised head on the lowest suction mode - that's the same time that the V10 could manage, but that was only without a motorised head.

The new display should help most owners use that battery more efficiently anyway, but even so most users won't notice a radical difference. Both this and the V10 will manage about half an hour with a motorised head on typical suction settings, and battery on the max suction level remains below 10 minutes on average.

On the other hand, the company was probably reluctant to make the battery any bigger than it is because of the charge time - the V11 takes 4.5 hours to charge up to full, an hour longer than the V10. For most people that won’t be an issue, but if the battery runs empty mid-clean and you want to top it up for round two, you’ve got even longer to wait than before.

In addition to the wait, Dyson is probably also worried about the weight. The V11 is 300g heavier than the V10, which was already pushing the limits of what was comfortable. For a short dash-around the 2.97kg weight is still fine, but for a longer clean - especially if you’re lifting it up to clean ceiling corners - you’re likely to feel the burn before long.

That’s not helped by the fact that Dyson still stubbornly refuses to include a trigger lock. That means you’ve got to constantly keep pressure on the trigger to keep the vacuum going. No doubt that helps the battery last a little longer, but the trade-off is a sore trigger finger, especially when combined with the V11’s extra heft.

Finally, emptying the dustbin is as easy as ever - a quick flip of a switch and it empties out - while the bin size - 0.76 litres - is the same as the V10’s. It’s plenty big enough to last a full clean unless your floors are really filthy, and remains one area where Dyson is ahead of most of the competition.

Verdict

The V11 feels like an iterative update in terms of pure power, but a more substantial one when it comes to user experience.

Silly as it may sound, the new LCD screen is a genuine innovation, and the live battery updates and troubleshooting advice are a massive help. The High Torque head’s Auto mode is also ideal for those of us used to ploughing ahead with the same old attachment no matter the surface, with the V11 now capable of making up for our laziness.

The extra suction power is welcome, but with minimal battery improvements and extra weight this might not win over anyone yet to be convinced by cordless.

At the end of the day, this is without a doubt the best cordless vacuum on the market, but at this price it would have to be, and for most people the company’s cheaper rivals will do the job just as well. And with the Auto mode strictly Absolute-only (in the UK) there's really no reason to go for the Animal.

Specs

Dyson V11 Absolute: Specs

  • Up to 60 minutes battery life
  • 4.5 hour charge time
  • 0.76 litre bin volume
  • 261x1286x250mm
  • 2.97kg