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A Handy Little Sucker That Blows Its Rivals Away
Black & Decker VH780
Member Name: Hishyeness
Black & Decker VH780
Advantages: Powerful, versatile, convenient and effective.
Disadvantages: A little noisy, but that's being really picky.
We own an industrial strength Kirby vacuum cleaner and needed something less bulky to handle the occasional dry spill, and hoovering the stairs. Having previously invested in a string of cordless vacuum cleaners which always seemed to fail to meet expectations, we decided to try a corded model when our latest disappointment - a cordless Dustbuster - started losing its charge too quickly.
After a quick look around, I settled on Black & Decker VH780 Dustbuster Mini-vac ("VH780"), which seemed a good combination of power, price and accessories. Unlike it's cordless cousins, it has proved to be (quite literally) a roaring success.
The VH780 is a corded 780 watt bag-less hand-held vacuum cleaner intended for light household, garage and patio use. It comes in a fetching sleek and curvy blue shiny plastic with silver lettering and light grey control buttons, and makes for an attractive looking unit. The cable, which is around 6 metres long, does not retract and is best wrapped around the machine when not in use. It looks and feels quite solid and robust, with excellent build quality. The front of the unit detaches at the press of a button to reveal a 370ml capacity dust and dirt "bowl". There is also an indicator on the side of the unit to tell you when the filter inside has become clogged.
The curved handle is ergonomic and fits well in the palm of the hand and the unit feels well balanced. I would estimate it weighs no more than a kilo and a half - heavier than other Dustbusters I have had, but not tiring to hold. The back of the unit is flat, so the unit can be stored upright, and its tidy shape means that it will not take up too much space regardless of where you decide to keep it.
The VH780 combines a powerful vacuum cleaner with a light blowing and inflating capability in one compact unit. It comes with fourteen accessories (as detailed in a separate section below), which makes it excellent value for money and a very versatile unit. Also included is a black, Black & Decker branded drawstring bag to store the parts in.
The bread and butter of this unit - vacuuming - is done from the front opening and the accessories provided cater for a wide variety of tasks. There are three accessories that plug straight into the front of the unit. Two of them, moulded in grey plastic - the brush tool and crevice tool - are stored on the underside of the unit and slot into the mouth of the vacuum direct. I found getting these in back into the storage recess a little bit of a challenge, so take note of how they come out, otherwise stowing them can be frustrating.
All of the other vacuuming accessories work off a blue nozzle adaptor, to which the rest of the accessories (i.e. the flexible hose and extension pipes) are fitted. This adaptor clicks into place in the front opening easy enough, but it proved something of a challenge to get back out again. It actually took a fair bit of arm strength and my wife has had trouble managing it without my help. She's a strong girl, so that gives you some idea how difficult it was.
The other main accessory for vacuuming is a flat floor head (think of a small version of a conventional vacuum cleaner head) which is well designed and engineered. There are four small rubber wheels on the bottom, allowing for a smooth rolling action, and two small levers on top, which, with a satisfying "click", allow you the option of: (a) locking a wide brush in place on the bottom of the floor head for use on carpet; or (b) stowing the brush away so you can use the accessory on wooden or other flat floors. The head pivots to allow the angle to be adjusted effortlessly in use.
Three separate interconnecting ten-inch rigid pipe sections are provided, allowing for a variety of extension lengths for both vacuuming and blowing. A springy and stretchy two foot flexible hose is also in the box for getting to hard to reach places.
> Blowing & Inflating
There is a hinged flap at the back of the unit which encompasses a filter, which easily pulls open with the thumb to reveal the opening for blowing and inflating. For light leaf or dirt blowing, a grey moulded attachment slots firmly and easily in place, to which you attach the rigid extension pipes, and then one of two blowing accessories - one has a narrow, wide aperture that blows air out in a wide "spray" and the other has a wider mouth and blows in a more concentrated blast.
The unit is a little more awkward to hold the "wrong way" round and feels slightly unbalanced with a fair bit of pressure on the wrist. As the power cord also comes out the back, I find it easiest to hold the cable along with the grip so it doesn't get in the way. I didn't buy the VH780 as a leaf blower, and although it performed well the one or two times I have used it in that capacity, I can't really see myself using it that way as I already have a heavy duty garden blower.
The inflating function is more practical, and as we have a paddling pool and a couple of inflatable mattresses, this does come in very handy. You use the blower attachment as before, and then instead of the rigid pipes, you use the flexible hose. To that, you click on one of the three heads provided, each with a different aperture nozzle to cater for various inflatables. On each head, there is a thumb sized "blowhole". To inflate, you insert the nozzle into the inflatable, turn on the power and cover the hole. To stop, you simply lift off your thumb to allow air to escape to avoid over-inflating. Simple, but very effective,
PERFORMANCE & USE
This is without doubt the most powerful and effective handheld vacuum I have used. The suction beats - hands down - any cordless device I have previously owned, and, in relative terms, gives our full size Dyson (the predecessor to the Kirby) a real run for its money. That said, there are two trades for all that power - it has a fairly noisy motor (the instructions claim its around the 60 decibel mark - louder in confined spaces), and there is a little bit of vibration that you can feel through your hand and forearm that may make prolonged use quite tiring.
That said, this unit is designed for occasional and light use only, so the likelihood is that it won't be on for more than five minutes at a time. You are losing the convenience of picking up a cordless without fussing with power cords, but that kind of misses the point - the VH780 is in a different league to its wheezy cousins, so if convenience is more important to you than performance, this may not be the Dustbuster for you.
We have consistently been using the VH780 for small jobs around the house rather than lugging our heavy - but highly effective - Kirby around and have found its various attachments practical and useful. For instance, I have never made such short work of vacuuming my car before, and the extension pipes make reaching top corners and behind furniture a doddle. The blowing function is particularly useful with summer inflatables and has happily eliminated the daze inducing chore of inflating things with lung power.
This is simplicity itself. When you remove the dust bowl, the main filter unit is easily removed by pressing on a tab and disengaging it from the unit. The filter is reusable and, along with the dust bowl, and the exhaust filter at the back of the unit (revealed when you open the hinged flap to get to the blowing function described above) is fully washable in soapy water. Once dry, the main filter unit clicks easily back into place without fuss.
The brief instruction booklet is mainly pictorial and provides: (a) an overview of the main working parts; (b) an inventory of the accessories; (c) illustrations on the various combinations in which the accessories can be used; and (d) easy to understand and well written instructions (in English only) on fitting, cleaning, care and storage.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
I was hoping to pick up, or at least view a model off-line, but I could not find one in the usual high street shops, so I ended up ordering one sight unseen from an Amazon Marketplace retailer called Toolbank. It cost £39.42 delivered (£34.24 for the unit plus £5.18 for delivery) and despite the fact that delivery was advertised within three days, it turned up via courier the very next day. It comes in compact, 100% recyclable packaging.
The VH780 is a value for money, highly effective and versatile cleaning machine which has, through its convenience and performance, made previously tiresome household chores (like hoovering the stairs) a lot easier - and much likelier to be done. It performs its core function - vacuuming - with consummate ease and it would have made a great machine if that's all it did. The blowing and inflating function are the icing and cherry on top respectively. I had my doubts that the VH780 would live up to its billing, particularly given my experience with Dustbusters before, but I need not have worried. This little baby blows the competition away. Highly recommended.
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: The best handheld vacuum cleaner I have ever used.
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