* Prices may differ from that shown
When a new pet and friend arrived at my home in November 2011, I didn't think my work for caring for the pet would be so extensive! From wondering if the cat was sick to wondering where the cat had sat and left a mountain of hairs for me to vacuum up, to simply opening a book up and finding more cat hairs! It was not easy living in a large home with a cat who was used to a flat, where probably the hair build up could be more contained. I've tried the "wearing slippers" routine to stop pet hair coming off on my socks, but the black soles tend to leave markings on carpets, so it's a no-win situation but to vacuum daily and with a new cat on the premises, the larger dust bag in a vacuum cleaner is much preferred! I soon realised the need for a new upright vacuum as opposed to the Miele cylinder pull along S6240 vacuum I normally use because of its lack of a brush roll and the persistent power cord getting tangled up if the floor head is parked at the rear. When my old and trusty Sebo Felix upright developed a fault after six years and was sent away from repair, the Panasonic was duly purchased!
Nar2's Quick Skip Product Spec
* Brand & Model: Panasonic Optiflow Upright Vac MC-UG522.
* 3.5 litre dust bag capacity per high filtration use once disposable dust bag.
* 7-metre total cord length & 200 air watts claimed suction power.
* Comes with long extension "quick draw" straight tube, long crevice tube and slide on dusting brush.
* 1.5 metre stretch clear flexible rear hose.
* 1200-watt fixed motor power with automatic height adjusting floor head.
* 6.3kg total weight & My price £114 from Amazon UK.
* Current price 2013 £77 from Amazon UK, £129-99 from Panasonic UK with 2 year guarantee.
General Impressions, Quality & Design
Back to basics is exactly what the Panasonic MC-UG522 is all about, if you are looking for a powerful upright vacuum cleaner that can clean up pet hair and store it in a bag - with filters you won't have to constantly clean out every three weeks or every three months. It's not a joy that most bagless owners face - and if you are fed up of ingesting dirt or being covered in it each time you empty a bagless dust bin from a cyclonic vacuum, even if you do have to buy dust bags - the bags are healthier - one reason alone to why hospitals and places of hygiene still insist on bagged vacuums.
Purchased from Amazon as an early Christmas pressie to me (and a bit of a necessity since my usual vacuum was being repaired), this new model from Panasonic hadn't even been added to their UK website at the time of review and purchase- but I went ahead with the order from Amazon UK anyway and within a week, the MG-UG522 got here. Largely the difference between this vacuum and other bagged Panasonic uprights that the brand sell in the UK are much older, bulkier, slightly heavier and don't have as many soft and curvier parts that are softer on the hands - after all, when it comes to handling - wouldn't you want something comfortable to use? The comfort handle is an unexpected surprise, which was one of the first design points about this vacuum that attracted to me. I was also attracted to the fact that this vacuum out of the current UK range has a much lower 1200 watt motor compared to the 2000 watts Panasonic currently offer and is powered by a single drive belt - a refreshing change to what has gone on before and for the last ten years where previous Panasonic upright vacs use two belts where both have to be removed just to change one when it breaks!
Initially, the only assembly I had to do is to screw the handle into the back of the vacuum and ensure that the clear stretch hose at the back is clipped into place by way of two push release teeth, handy to push down and remove if the hose gets blocked. The hose has a lovely stretchy feeling to it, very similar to the kind of hoses both Dyson and Vax produce. Clear to see when a clog might occur and compacts down easily, the hose alone is a step up from what has gone before from Panasonic. A dust bag is already supplied & fitted and it is of the synthetic high filtration material, even though it is disposable, it feels and looks well made. The long crevice pipe supplied locks into the side within its own partition, although the UK model comes with a standard black colour as opposed to the U.S Panasonic "Platinum Optiflow MC-UG322," model that has a funky colour coded tool to go with the colour of the vacuum. There is a thick black bumper that protects the vacuum from the front but Panasonic haven't added any other protection aside from allowing the rear of the upright to have black PVC as opposed to shiny burgundy red appearance at the front. Armed with a 7 metre length manual cord and the 1.5 metre stretch hose, I put the Panasonic straight to work.
First impressions are that this upright vacuum is designed simply enough, smooth to the touch on the body, lightweight to steer through the hands and seems to be well made for the price. In short, it is everything that older Panasonic uprights from the 1970's exude when it comes to use and general design - and it is far and away one of the easiest vacuums I've been proud to own in such a short period of ownership - being beautifully light to carry as well - a trait that is not normally associated with upright vacuums unless you pay through the nose for a claimed design feature.
Generally this is a very easy upright vacuum cleaner to steer on hard floors and carpets - but the glossy deep red MC-UG522 hides a few surprises along the way. It has a high whine from its low power motor but not enough hot air flooding out the front as an early advantage compared to a lot of other brands on the market such as bagless uprights from Vax or even Hoover's old and heavy Purepower and ithe Panasonic sn't annoying to use. It lacks an actual side rocker switch when powering it up - with an old fashioned foot pedal just like my gran's old Hoover Junior from the 1970's. I much prefer that kind of design, but it kind of limits appeal to those who might assume there's an easier to flick switch. It weighs 6.3kg kg according to Panasonic for the total weight but I find it feels much lighter, particularly to carry thanks to its centrally mounted rear lift handle on the back and when made to clean carpets there's a pivot to the front floor head that automatically adjusts to any carpet setting provided that you keep the handle and the control of the upright lateral to your actual height. What this aspect immediately translates is the familiar experience of using Dyson's very famous DC01. The Panasonic MC-UG522 very much reminds me many Dyson uprights that have the same kind of auto-adjusting head with no dials to move but with a much flatter floor head and bin area. Thus, although the head will pivot down on carpet, the more upright you keep the vacuum "up" the less likelihood that the drive belt will snap whilst the weight of the vacuum is very light to push across floors and pet hair and dust gets picked up. If you lower your hand on the handle in terms of pushing more of the floor head on carpet, you'll get resistance and the Panasonic is heavier to plough as a result. You don't have to check if the floor head is on the carpet though as the general grinding noise of the brushes hitting the carpet can be heard, aurally.
I love the fact that I can steer the whole vacuum just by keeping one or two fingers pinched around the looped handle instead of applying a whole hand unlike most uprights! But to go as far as to believe in the claim that Panasonic state "less effort to use," is a bit of an understatement when the floor head has to be constantly checked it is actually cleaning the floor and not set too high via your control and height determined by your hand. The handle is very much like that of the "Oreck" helping handle, and feels more like a gripper style handle forcing the hand to accomplish an ergonomic "thumbs up" or ski-stick rest rather than the usual conventional handle of forcing the hand downwards. For those who have gripping problems, the handle on the Panasonic is a lot better thought out and more forgiving than the ribbed older handles on older Panasonic vacuums.
The instant downside of performance I find is that almost immediately when I allow the floor head to automatically pivot onto carpet, the Panasonic doesn't seem to like deep cleaning unless I stoop which is therefore required for a deep clean! However, take the Panasonic fast on carpets without much attention and pick up is generally good, regardless of whether it deep cleans or not - to the eye, dust, pet hair and visible dirt gets picked up instantly and probably due to the high suction power and bigger 13" floor head that tends to pull in dirt by suction only. It does the job I require for cat hair in an instant! There is an inevitable grooming foot print of the larger 13" floor head that leaves an imprint if you allow the handle to fall a bit more to what you're used to though and even if that floor head is flatter, the MG-UG522 requires another foot to ensure the floor head remains flat when going under low furniture. Frankly I find that design part really annoying. Standard uprights like the industry-favourite Sebo X series or the smaller Sebo Felix don't have the daft floor to height ratio hinges built in to ensure flat to the floor cleaning; it does it automatically due to its electronic sensor.
There is however edge cleaning on either side of the Panasonic's floor head that betters the Sebo X series and I appreciate this more for being able to whisk up all manner of pet hair stuck at the corners of door entrances. The huge rear wheels are entirely rubberised too, so hard floors are well protected, though its a pity that the UK model we get here in burgundy red lacks the foot pedal brush roll on/off function that Panasonic's U.S equivalent Platinum Optiflow uprights enjoy. Other brands are already bringing out uprights with a brush roll on/off function and as Panasonic were one of the first brands in the UK to offer this function way back in the 1980's, it would have been a bonus here on Panasonic's part to offer the same again in the UK.
The brush roll however makes a welcome return to the UK in the sense that is entirely wooden based. Wooden brush rolls tend to last longer than plastic and aren't as abrasive if the machine they're fitted in are intended to clean both hard flooring and carpets, nodding in agreement with Oreck. The bristles are well spaced out too and this seems to make cat hair, hair and threads less of a target to wind themselves around the brush roll as opposed to other brands I've used like Hoover or Electrolux with plastic, abrasive brush rolls.
Firstly you only get one straight extension tube that fits onto the existing 1.5 metre stretch hose - Panasonic call this the "Quick Draw" wand and to a certain extent, it works well, but isn't as well executed as my Sebo X1, because the Panasonic's tube is cut off and can't really be depended on for sucking up dust without either the longer crevice tool added or the dust brush. Plus, if you don't need the extension hose and take advantage of the grab handle at the back where the hose can sit at a secondary locked position further down from where it is usually parked at the top, there's no where else to store the long quick draw extension pipe in use.
Whilst then, the design is fresh and new, Panasonic have obviously answered some criticism for where it places the hose on the machine as well as a few other surprises. The handy cord hook at the top for example has a quick release turn that allows all of the cord to come off, but there's also the obligatory cord lock partition where the top of the cord can be locked in just under the handle to prevent it from getting in the way from the permanent brush roll. However, the partition seems to have been made for a thicker U.S cord where the U.K cord just slips out all too easily in use. I have now re-aligned the cord so that half of it sits behind the hose partition to avoid the cord from being run over and damaged.
Most buyers or owners prefer a hose that won't bring the upright crashing down either, but it is nigh impossible to add in a design point to allow this to happen, these days. Brands are just too afraid to add anything more in fear of decreasing the sales of their cylinder pull along vacuums and the top release hose with its "quick draw" extension tube added is a good idea in theory. The hose does stretch out to quite a long length, but it makes the vacuum liable to fall over if the hose is pulled roughly or even just using the hose for cleaning above the machine. Thus as a vacuum cleaner that is more suited to carpets, the Panasonic is a good alternative if you use the hose once in a while or just for quick to clean areas as opposed to using it for cleaning out the car or hard floored rooms where a cylinder vacuum or brush roll on/off function would be better.
Where other tools are concerned, the Panasonic MC-UG522 only comes with a longer crevice tool and an oval bristle dusting brush that seems to have a "pivot down" angle to the brush, also making it awkward to use. It fits into the hose, or tubes provided but due to the short length, the MG-UG522 can't be used for stair cleaning unless you are prepared to carry the vacuum with you or make a hope and a prayer that the vacuum won't fall over at the time of use. At all times to avoid the vacuum falling over, you also have to keep one hand on the handle and it is a pity that Panasonic bring a new upright vac to the market saddle it with less well thought out cleaning tools. Also despite the greater quality of the plastics used on the exterior, the Quick Draw suction tube has a nib on either side that the main hose is supposed to be twisted to lock onto; within a week, the suction tube's nibs wore down due to them being made of really cheap and thin plastic. Now the suction tube jams on via friction fit, but at the cost price of £129 that Panasonic claim this product has a general price of, it is not easy to dismiss or for the fact that it doesn't even have a bag full indicator on the bin door.
Although it is easy to "hear" when the bag gets full by a bypass vent hole at the back of the vacuum, it would have been good here for Panasonic to fit a bag indicator at the very least - when Argos Value bagged vacuum at three times less than the price this new Panasonic currently sells at - has a bag indicator on the bin door for convenience, it begs the question to why Panasonic have left this very handy indicator factor out!
Dust Bags, Filtration & Costs
The dust bags for this model also fit the recently introduced Panasonic MC-UG614 that I also looked at, but with both models, the bags are desperately small and cost on average £9-99 for a box of 4. Panasonic claim that because there is stronger suction, the dust bags last longer. Well, not here! The small dust bags have a limited, small capacity and fill up fairly quickly, even if suction seems to be continuous until the very end. This makes the Panasonic less economical in terms of its upkeep, making it more appropriate either for occasional use or as a main vacuum cleaner in a small home despite the handy, longer power cord length.
The new dust bags can also be hard to find, although I was lucky to find two boxes of bags at a reduced price from a seller on EBay because one of the boxes happened to have been torn, but none of the synthetic dust bags were damaged! Already in one month, one dust bag has been replaced which is disappointing to say the least - it takes 2 months to fill the dust bag on my Miele S6 with the same dirt capacity! Now with a few more months under the belt, when it comes to the duty of picking up pet hair daily, the Panasonic's dust bags have been changed three times - not exactly cost effective at their current prices. However, without the duty of pet hair pick up, the dust bags tend to last longer, for a maximum of 2 months.
Also, although thankfully easy to fit into the Panasonic just by pushing the bag collar onto the main dirt channel inside the bin lid, it is also disappointing that no extra seal has been added that seals up the bag once it is taken out. Panasonic's home country of Japan is known for optimum cleanliness and I find it disappointing that no seal has been added here. When I took the first bag out, a little dust fell out of the large opening, creating more work for me to get the dust out of the bin area before a new bag could be fitted!
Where filtration is concerned, the high filtration synthetic dust bag material on the Panasonic absorbs pet hair odour quite well though but this is also helped by the HEPA Media cartridge at the front - that sadly isn't washable on the fact that it is entirely made out of cardboard and paper pleats, thus requiring pay out in the future for a new replacement and Panasonic currently charge £15 to £20 for the privilege! Eco-friendly costs plus the expensive cost of the filters & dust bags? Sadly not! Panasonic are copying Miele here on the grounds of the quantity of dust bags you do get and HEPA filter costs, making it a bit more costly to keep in the long run.
Put simply, if you live in a home that has carpets and will see occasional use with a hose, the Panasonic MC-UG522 is a fine upright vacuum cleaner that will serve you with good reliability and a degree of efficiency. To say that it is "highly efficient," by Panasonic isn't quite true, although having no pets in a home may well prolong the dust bag!
Instead, the winning card for Panasonic's MC-UG522 has to be the low energy efficient 1200-watt motor that is also able to sustain strong suction without being overly noisy and it is quite easy for this vacuum to pivot around floors. It should get 5 stars at best! The handle is very comfortable to hold and steer but despite its clean and modern appearance, Panasonic's new MC-UG522 needs a little more thought spent on its general design even if there is a much lighter feel than heavier "budget" brand upright vacuums. Saddling the vacuum with a much smaller dust capacity and loading it with budget-cut features impelling the owner to constantly buy expensive replacements, from the filters to the small dust bags doesn't justify the claim that this product is highly efficient. It may be eco friendly on power, but it isn't eco friendly on the pocket! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2013.
Short name: Pana MC-UG522