One of the disadvantages of being a joint owner of a rental property isn't just the up keep of the outer structure but also the interior of the home and its furnishings. Due to different tenants over the years we've had to keep using vacuums that don't have rolling brushes that can destroy the hard stain resistant carpet tiles installed throughout the property - but it can be a bind not having an upright vacuum for a quick clean. Due to a glass breakage on a hard lino kitchen floor, I thought it would be plain sailing using one of my vacuums to suck up broken glass and the Miele S4210 in the home that was the main vacuum I put there seemed to do a good job of safely depositing the glass bits into its soft, synthetic dust bag. This was okay until I discovered a horrible smell emanating from the Miele's built in Air Clean filter, an expensive yearly replaceable charcoal filter that is built to hide or trap odours like pet hair as it sits in the bag. However, the Miele was nearly destroyed by picking up rotten cheese that was under the fridge freezer - where most of the dangerous and larger splinters of the glass had slid under. The smell was absolutely honking! The kitchen stank for a few hours, the hose on the vacuum could be replaced at a cost of £70 from the manufacturer concerned with new suction tubes at £35, a new filter at £10 and thereafter still putting up with the smell of rotten cheese that had gone through the motor the first time around, until the smell eventually died down due to my own time spent neutralising the vacuum's motor. So much for premium Miele quality - after trying to wash out the hose, suction tubes and floor head, there was still that reminiscent honk of rotten cheese whenever the Miele was switched on. A cheap replacement vacuum would have to be sought in the meantime when the Miele was put on the back burner for repair or disposal.
Priced at £69-99, the Panasonic MC-CG 691 looked like a good alternative at the time because when I bought this machine at a local electrical showroom in town, there weren't many other models in the shop due to buyers preferring to shop online. It seems to be the case today that bag-less vacuums have truly taken over the bagged variety and all because for the most part, the machines in question are built with poor plastics designed to last a short time before requiring to buy another. The reason I bought the Panasonic bagged cylinder vacuum is simply because of its low 1300-watt economical motor promise and for the fact that it was light to lift when I tried it in the shop and whilst Numatic's Henry is a great bargain for £99, his size with the longer hose and difficult to store nature meant he was elminated from decision making, sadly. I was also impressed at the time with the Panasonic's general compact design and being substantially cheaper than the blue version that came with a higher price and not many other extras.
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Model: Panasonic MC-CG691 High Efficiency cylinder vacuum cleaner.
* Price £69-99 from Scottish Hydro, £89-99 £104.00 online
* 1300-watt eco-friendly low power motor & variable electronic suction.
* 5-metre power cord length & claimed 450 air watts.
* 1.6 metre hose & telescopic height adjustable metal tubes.
* Suction only floor head with pedal for hard floor cleaning.
* Two smaller cleaning tools supplied; flat upholstery brush & short crevice tool.
* 3 litre disposable dust bag & HEPA filtration.
* Total weight of 4.5kg; easy to store or lift.
* Cost of dust bags, type C-17H £9 for 4 dust bags.
* Copy dust bags £2 to £5 for fleece/synthetic dust bags.
* 1-year guarantee from the manufacturer.
Design & Quality
The Panasonic MC-CG691/MCC-G961 is known online as quite a few different model numbers and quite why Panasonic keep making long model numbers is a bit of mystery. Initially though, I was quite surprised to find that this vacuum cleaner online doesn't have many reviews for it and wondered why since the Panasonic name is well-respected. Regardless, the main body of the Panasonic is reasonably well thought out - a huge expanse of dark grey/black PVC at the rear and sides protects the machine well with use whilst the red burgundy colouring on top of the machine advertises its high efficiency and "450 air watt" suction claim from usage of Panasonic's own high filtration synthetic disposable dust bags. The telescopic height adjustable tubes are of the shiny, stainless steel variety and although they do the job intended, they only have a height increase of 80 cm making them shorter than the industry standard of approximately 100cm. Panasonic try to hide this with a claimed 1.8 metre stretch hose (it's actually 1.6 metres), but in reality it is quite short even with the pipes locked in at their highest position. Despite this, the machine feels okay for the price, even if the plastic handle isn't particularly well thought out, lacking an air outlet slider for softer vacuuming even when the vacuuum is set at its lowest suction setting. The handle does however have a much better thought out tool storer located right underneath your hand with a slide out separate short crevice tool or an upholstery tool at the end - a very clever design here even though no dusting brush is supplied. All in all the design is simple to look at and even the pedals are recessed into the body, giving the whole design a streamlined and modern look.
However at least the Panasonic is made with a decent hike of quality, even if it is clear they have concentrated on function before form. There's a huge flush fitting pedal to switch on and on the other side the same for the auto cord rewind function. A small view window for the bag full function is on top of the hood and a large rotary dial with continuous electronic suction dial is fitted in the middle towards the bottom of the vacuum cleaner's main hood at the top. At the rear you'll find the Panasonic's main dust exhaust where the HEPA flirtation cartridge locks into. It's an idea that has been done before on the Electrolux Powerplus cylinder vacuums - but unlike Electrolux - the heat generated by the motor isn't as forceful, thus offering longer peace of mind if you do have to position the Panasonic into the upright position to clean stairs -without fear of burning any surface. All in all, a simple design that is largely efficient with two park positions for the floor head.
General Impressions & Performance
This vacuum cleaner has lots of suction from its 1300-watt motor and I find pick up is extremely strong thanks in part to its well-designed floor head, even though it is slightly cheap to look at. I wasn't surprised to find that the Panasonic moves easily too, due to a perimeter of castor wheels able to twirl the MCCG691 in the tightest of spaces. Although it lacks a moving roller brush, the MC-CG691 makes a decent stab at pet hair pick up, even if you need a little more power, you'll certainly get it by adjusting the control dial on the vacuum and the motor noise isn't as high as expected with other rivals. However with the lack of an air outlet slider on the main handle that has a permanent "down" action to it means you may well end up having to lower the suction from the dial all the time if you are cleaning dust off curtains etc.
What a superb idea to have the two cleaning tools that you do get hidden away underneath their own recess under the handle. It's a pity that for all that Miele are a premium brand, they don't do something similar instead of the daft clippable attachment storer that can be put at the bottom of the hose or behind the handle where it can catch your cuff. Here, the idea is far simpler - a piece of plastic that is permanently bonded underneath the handle and to the back of the hose that allows you to store and slide in the crevice tool or short twin lint added upholstery brush whenever you need them to hand - rather than bending down to the machine all the time to get a tool you need for cleaning.
What lets the Panasonic MC-CG691 down in my hands though, is the fact that I'm six foot tall. Even with the tubes adjusted to their highest length, I can never clean carpets without stooping with this vacuum. It isn't made for those who are tall, or above 5ft 10" and as such it can be a bit of an additional bind having to put up with the short mains power cord going from room to room before pulling abruptly and find that the plug is pulled out of the mains power socket.
Another issue that I have found is that the Panasonic has a tendency to fall over if the hose is also pulled roughly. This is down to the process of cleaning up dust and dirt quickly rather than taking your time - but I have cleaned quickly with other machines that don't suffer from this. The upside to its compact design is that the Panasonic is so lightweight to lift or pull around that you can often forgive its short tubes and hose just because when everything is parked on the body, the whole vacuum is very lightweight to carry with a big carry handle that doesn't trap fingers.
At least on hard flooring, the Panasonic is eager for dust. Coupled with the rubberised castor wheels, this machine is really nimble and pulling it is very lightweight, again thanks to its overall plastic build and general design. What's more is the fact that this vacuum cleaner uses 3.5cm/35mm sizing on its tubes and handle, so any friction fit tools made by Bosch or Miele can be used with this type of vacuum cleaner, even though you may well have to tighten whatever you choose to use by each brand on the Panasonic's handle or tubes to avoid them falling off.
Other Downsides & Filtration
I am a bit mystified as to why Panasonic, a traditional Japanese company from a country who are known to be fastidiously hygienic have gone to the bother of supplying high filtration bags but with no seal on them. It can be a bit of a downside after months of sucking up DIY work dust, pet hair and associated household dust, only to have to change the dust bag, open the bin door and face your dirt. Caution must be taken when removing the bag to prevent dust spillage, even though putting one in isn't difficult and you'll find a slip out motor filter in there that goes behind the bag. The door that keeps the filter in there however isn't very well thought out, seemingly just sitting there without a lock to infer that it is properly made for that section.
The user manual is well worded but it doesn't show the filters properly and as a result it can be difficult to know which part of the motor filter should be put in, not helped by the poor plastic grid that keeps it in place.
Where the suction tubes are concerned, they fit via friction fit. Although there's a thick plastic ring at the top, you have to make sure the hose handle is pushed firmly in and then twist the tubes around to ensure they stay on. Whenever I've used just the handle and a smaller cleaning tool beforehand before putting the handle back in, there's been a couple of times when the suction tubes fall off the handle because I haven't tightened them properly. When used to a Miele or Sebo vacuum that has lockable button tools, tubes and handles, it makes itself apparent when you travel back in time with friction fit styles.
Panasonic's blue model that the company also sell has lockable handles, tubes and floor heads but for an extra £40 on top of the £90 this particular model lacks - and for that total cost price you may as well buy any one of SEBO's K range which is just as compact and far better made with lockable tubes.
Lastly, at least the HEPA filter cartridge has a better fitting, even though it is a paper pleated design with excess glue bonding that can be seen emerging out of its sides. This is a immediate warning sign not to wash the filter in hot water to prevent the glue from melting - a fact that seems to be missing from the user manual - and a possible ploy for owners to spend the extra £15 it will cost for the HEPA cartridge replacement. Still, for the price and the features here, it is good to see a HEPA cartridge being fitted against cheaper filters that can't hide odours.
If you live in a bedsit, a small home or even a small flat and have limited space, the Panasonic 1300 watt MC-CG691 bagged cylinder vacuum isn't a bad idea until you realise that it's probably just that little bit less thought out than the value of its statistics on paper and what Panasonic would have you believe. Whilst there is lots of power on tap, the machine lacks the little details that make rivals stand out, and more user friendly and safer to use- particularly as the short hose and telescopic tubes are too short and often make the machine fall over. That aside, the dust bags don't have seals on them making them liable for the dust to fall out when you go to lift the bag and finding the bags online can be hard despite the fact that the bags fit other bagged vacuums that Panasonic sell.
Therefore, for an easy life, the Panasonic MC-CG691 isn't the vacuum of choice, but rather okay for a stop-gap model until something better comes along and worth the price. Even though more expensive by £60, the Sebo K1 Airbelt is far better made and better thought out if you prefer bagged dirt with longer, lighter hoses that you can get the advantage of or the Vax Mach/Total cylinder vacuums, if you must choose bagless -whilst both of which also come with 5 or 6 years warranty against the miserly 1 year guarantee this Panasonic is saddled with. Poky, powerful and portable it may be, but it needs a little more thought instead of careful, slow use due to its slipping pipes and stooping along with it. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2013.
Short name: Panasonic MC-CG691