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Not many teachers will attest to taking a vacuum cleaner into school and my Head of department laughed when I brought my AFK vacuum in; (as well as my 151 Elbow Grease solution which takes care of most spills) she immediately recognised the AFK brand from Makro since the AFK line up is not available anywhere else on the "high street," but at trading warehouses such as Makro. However as much as it caused some initial hilarity from the staff, the staff ended up using it where cleaners had ruled out cleaning, or on days where they hadn't been contracted to work! Simple carpet cleaning, taking up pencil sharpenings and general hoof that the pupils trod into the carpet - nothing could have been simpler! Dirt tends to attract dirt and more often than not if a pupil flicked pencil sharpenings off their table, they were ordered to take the vacuum out and clean up; pupils soon got the idea of keeping things tidy in my classroom and some even nominated themselves to using it after school in my room!
The AFK PS1600 is made by a German brand who make budget vacuum cleaners but the associations with Sebo, Lindhaus and Miele stop there where German brands are concerned. And that's a great pity because even though the box stated that the machine was made in Germany, it can suggest longevity until you take it out of the box. Priced at £16-99 and in an all silver and black contrasting colour (red and blue is also available) I thought the AFK PS1600 looked like a veritable bargain, purchased in 2006 and as such made a mockery of the so called supermarket brands that had a cheek to charge more. The PS 1600 watt (hence the model number) here is supposed to come with plastic telescopic tubes but instead the maker has put bog standard metal tubes which are not telescopic height adjusting. Makro also sell the PS1400 which is a similar machine but only with 1400 watts. The hose that comes with the PS1600 is like the standard 1 metre hose you get with most cylinders, but unlike most machines on the market you have to manually make up the hose connection to the handle out of the box. Seriously? Yes, I am afraid so. So those who don't like to make things up or have problems gripping may find this to be a bit of a bother. I certainly found it off putting that a hose and a handle aren't connected already and I was scared initially that I may break the teeth on the interconnecting handle when I tried to push fit everything together; the plastic on the PS 1600 is flimsy and feels liable to break early on.
The general performance of the AFK PS1600 is surprisingly good although with its variable suction control on its highest level, the AFK isn't as noisy as past Hoover models I've had. Power wise, there is a lot of suction once the rotary dial has been turned up to its fullest. This is located just between the "small toe" off/on pedal and the cord rewind pedal. I have noticed though that whenever the machine is switched on, it adjusts power accordingly from time to time, which results in the machine lowering and increasing its noise; I thought this was a soft start feature which keeps motors regulated (something which Miele and Sebo do) but it turned out to be something completely different. This is certainly not a feature that is available to read in the manual and yet from time to time, the cleaner is happy to clean and suck up dirt but cannot stay on a power range defined by the user. Somehow it seems to have a mind of its own! From calling Makro it seems to be a trait that follows the AFK models; because they're so poorly made the variable suction hasn't been well made to actually set at the amount of suction the owner wants!
I find that although its plasticky and cheap, thus suggesting the old adage that "you get what you pay for," travelling around with this little bug is surprisingly easy even though it has a very short power cord length of around 5 metres and it weighs around 6kg which isn't too bad. Two attachments are also supplied such as a short crevice tool and a snap down brush on the crevice tool already; this is as cheap as it gets with smaller cleaning tools and although they fit on the back of the cleaner easily, they bend too much and again, feel like they could break in prolonged use. Luckily when it comes to fitting most things, the 2.5 litre dust bag is easy to slide into the main door bin although the fittings are decidedly wobbly and there are some sharp edges in the inner bin area near the main motor filter. Close the lid and the lid locks. There is no indication however whether the bag has been put in correctly or not; no nib on the paper bag or the hinge to show whether the user has installed the bag correctly and at this price forget the notion that the bags have a self sealing nature when they lifted out of the vacuum cleaner; sadly they don't so you have to be careful when taking the bag out; over bagless options though, it is far healthier though.
One early observation has been the floor head; it is a really cheap item and lacks lint pickers you'd find on many suction only floor heads. It also has the advantage of having a stiff line of brushes that you'd push the pedal down for hard floor cleaning. As such for the vinyl floors at the school, the AFK had a better performance on hard floors due to the cheap nature of the floor head which failed to pick up dirt despite its high power. In less than three months use the floor head actually broke at the neck and Makro offered to replace the whole vacuum cleaner - but when I'm working at school I have no time to bother about with that! The claims from AFK suggests that the build quality of their parts are good but I also questioned their air watts of suction; AFK claim that air watts for this machine are rated between 200 and 250 air watts. That's quite a claim to make but air watts only work on vacuums that have 100% suction all of the time (cue Dyson and currently the "Mach," and "Zero," range by Vax) and don't depend on a paper bag that gets fuller as cleaning progresses. Since the AFK has 32mm diameter tubes, I immediately replaced the awful floor head with something of more quality (an old Electrolux floor head I had stored away) and as such the performance is markedly better than the nasty item offered by AFK.
For maintenance, the main motor filter is a 3 stage foam filter which can be picked out to be cleaned. This is washable but as the manual states, you do have to allow the filter to dry - and this cleaner doesn't come with additional filters which mean you have to consider the state of the filters AFTER you have finished cleaning the house. On the main bin lid there is a small window which shows green. This is the "bag fill gauge" which is also shown in small black lettering. As the bag starts to fill it changes its colour to red but you'll have to bend down to really take view of it. At the rear of the AFK there is also another filter that can be washed; this is a thick pleated 3 stage foam affair which can be washed but must be fully dried before you can use it again and locating it is thankfully very easy. However, the whole filter assembly bends inwards to the squarish part of the machine - the plastic build quality here and attention to quality is somewhat absent here because the filter grate doesn't look like it fits flush with the rest of the machine and a "bend" in the plastic at a concave looks awkwardly out of place. I already broke the door that held the filter in for example after it had been washed and dried after 3 months. Similarly the metal tubes are just like tubes that most Hoover cylinders come with these days, which is sad to say they are cheap and once screwed in, cannot be undone, so for versatility this gets a black mark despite. Here, though made of metal once the tubes are pushed and screwed in, there's not a chance in hell you'll get those tubes apart unless you have muscles of steel or happen to have a CDT department near you with a vice!
Needless to say a year later, the AFK died a death. It turned on one day with a new bag in place and with clean filters decided it would make all sorts of noises without picking up very much. Yes it still burst into life and it made a noise but it couldn't decide what level of suction it was on and in the end I donated it to CDT minus the power cord so they could show kids what a traditional vacuum cleaner looks like!
AFK have made a vacuum cleaner that is cheap as chips and have applied the same formula of budget cost cutting to produce tubes and a handle which isn't entirely air leak free once the machine is activated. Despite the price the AFK PS1600 is too shoddily made to be considered and as such it is a great pity despite its German branding that it really doesn't follow after its premium priced compatriots in the form of Miele or Sebo. Yes you would pay more but I rather think in that respect its worth paying out for something that just works without fear of breaking off and the fact that it doesn't come with a washable dust bag for further use means the AFK isn't as "good value," as the brand would suggest. You've been warned! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2009.
AFK Elektro Vertriebs (UK) Ltd
140 Coniscliffe Road
Customer services: 01325 485271
Short name: AFK PS1600