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If you're in the market for a cheap vacuum cleaner, many buyers by now have either seen the light and gone for Dyson or because of crippling cost prices have been pushed to buy alternatives that look like a Dyson simply because it claims to be cyclonic and bagless, or has a lurid colour and a clear bin - just like Dyson. However, there's a world away of differences when it comes to general design and filtration. Up until recently Dyson were the only brand on the market that can offer buyers an almost impeachable record of quality and endless suction due to its plastic shroud cyclones that trap the dirt you can't see and usually after a year if the vacuum in question has been constantly used to pick up all manner of dirt and debris from floors, the built in motor filter on board will need to be changed or washed. Dyson would like to think that just because there are no bags to buy, then there are no additional costs - but the question of drive belts and those filters that need changing - if they aren't washable - soon add up the costs.
The alternatives stem in so many brands these days that still use filters you need to clean a lot more frequently than once a year. Whereas Vax have some cheap models on the market that still use a paper pleated cone filter that needs brushing out once a month on average before the suction cuts out (unlike their expensive Mach series which has better filters) super large franchise brands like Proline from Comet, and Tesco Value rely on older vacuums that have been around for quite a while but with bargain basement prices to net you in. The Proline UVC4 upright bagless vacuum is one such model, based on an old Dirt Devil from the U.S with few differences and if you think this looks like the first bagless upright from Argos which came out a few years ago in red with the name "Proaction VC9630S4," you won't be mistaken - this time it's sold under Comet's brand name, Proline and there are quite a few similarities, even though Argos have seen the light and produce a much better quality vacuum for around the same price; £34-99. Comet/Proline have been wise here to colour their cheapest bagless upright in a similar laser blue colour that also adorns the Argos Value VU-101, but the VU-101 is actually better made, better thought out and can clean up without much stress. The Proline UVC4 is also sold under Tesco's own brand with the model number VCU007 but unlike the original Proaction, power is down on the Proline at 1400 watts compared to the more powerful 1600 watt model Argos/Proaction sold. Tesco's version is also fitted with a higher 1600 watt motor.
Assembly for the little Proline upright vacuum only takes a matter of minutes to hook the cleaning tools on the back of the upright and there's a handy handle on the suction release hose that comes with a pre-fitted permanent suction hose to aid for cleaning above the floor line. A thin metal rod with a plastic handle on the end, slid into the cleaner via a lock release completes the model and there's a handy 7 metre cord length for distance vacuuming. The handle can also slide down the back making it fairly easy to store the cleaner in small spaces if storage space is limited. The vacuum weighs a total of 6.5kg, which isn't too heavy and may provide an alternative to someone who needs a lightweight upright vacuum to deal with carpets. Although you get two suction pipes to aid for stretch when used with the hose, one of mine broke off and you also get a round upholstery brush that works quite well on dusting. It is good that Proline have retained a long hose on this upright, and for that reason alone the hose can reach up to about 13 steps and measures 1.5 metres generally. You just have to hold the upright with one hand and the hose with the other, or place the upright at the base level of a staircase because it will fall over unless an obstacle is put behind it, as it is too wide to sit on stairs. Nothing new there when it comes to an upright vacuum but more expensively priced vacuums do it better these days. I bought this before I bought the Argos value upright but it took Dooyoo quite a while to put it on here!
In the case of the Proline's performance, once you've fired up the UVC4, it roars and whines into action and has quite a noisy motor. Despite the generous 6 settings on the front of the floor head, the rotary dial will not move unless the handle is locked up into the upright position and feels too cheap to last. More worryingly, the motor exhaust at the front puts out quite a blast of hot air which is bad news if you're cleaning around low lying furniture like coffee tables and expect papers to fly about. However you certainly get what you pay for where this design is concerned - although the bin is clear to begin with, the plastic quality means the clear plastic soon takes on a frosted appearance making it difficult to see when the Profile UVC4 needs to be emptied and if your cleaning needs extend to cleaning up after more than one pet with a shedding coat, the filters will block up and cut the suction off. The bin has a large capacity of 3 litres but the suction seems to get cut off very early on, so it's always best to check by the hose not by the amount of dirt already collected spinning in the cyclone chamber.
On carpets, performance from this model is okay to poor on hard floors. It steers well but this is probably down to the handle here and stainless rod that feels a little bit better in terms of steering the vacuum around helped by two small wheels on the rear and two smaller wheels underneath by the main roller beater bar. However they are all made of cheap plastic and as a result you'll often hear squeaks in the process as the vacuum trundles on! The tools rattle a fair bit too even though they sit on cheap holders that don't feel like they will last and unlike the Proaction, the UVC4 lacks the handy drive belt window at the side of the floor head to check the belt every so often. This is a major downside because I went through no less than three drive belts in one month and getting drive belt replacements was harder than getting someone on the end of Comet's premium rate customer services who knew exactly what model I was talking about! On thicker carpets, gliding is very heavy when selecting the first two levels of height adjustment and no light gliding is offered until you select third or fourth levels of height. This then means pet hair pick up or general dust often gets missed on carpets by the roller bar and despite the fact that it has a hard floor cleaning height position, the beater bar doesn't stop revolving and dust pings off the beater bar all too easily without getting a chance of being picked up. There are ways around this, like removing the rubber straight line squeegee behind the roller brush as this will lighten up movement and increase better pick up but even in hard floor mode, the upright pushes the floor head away from hard floors and doesn't increase better pick up. For a design that is supposed to be better on carpets because of its permanently rolling beater brush, I was expecting more from the Proline here.
Compared to a lot of bagless cyclonic vacuums I've used including the Argos same cost priced Value VU 101 bagless vacuum, the UVC4 fills up a lot quicker and seems to clog the filters a lot faster. This means that the filter assembly has to be taken apart and it involves splitting the top bin open from its twist lock top (where the main carry handle is located) revealing a washable HEPA ring. Top marks to Comet for adding another filter ring that can be used whilst you wait for the washed filter to air dry. However, once that filter is put back in, the bottom half of the bin has a permanent clear plastic grid which cannot be removed, often looking too caked in dust and can only be wiped clean with a twist removable plastic finned filter in the middle that has to be cleaned out quite often. It also has sharp and dangerous edges. Whilst the HEPA filter ring only needs minimal maintenance, say once a month to keep it going, the central spindle filter is very messy and often needs brushed out regularly particularly if the vacuum is being used to clean up pet hair. The Proline UVC4 also has a habit of not connecting the top half of the bin and the bottom half of the bin properly either - this is down to poor plastic quality - and it may take a few times to align the parts properly before they can be locked together again. Thankfully at least the main dust bin has a central button at the back to release the dirt from the bottom, but like the rest of the vacuum's plastic bits, sometimes the button doesn't take to release the actual trap door at the bottom and when the whole bin is put an angle, the door may well open taking you by surprise and covering your room in the dust you've carefully picked up and left in the bin to accumulate! This happened to me a couple of times for example!
In all, I can't really recommend this upright vacuum for the price. When Argos sold it, it was back in 2008 when perhaps this kind of vacuum and its low design element could have been justified, and before Woolworths went knees up, they had a similar upright without the added hose or tools. But, with too many rivals that do cleaning and pick up without stress and added noise, it just doesn't make any sense to consider the UVC4 unless you need a very cheap upright vacuum to do minimal jobs but expect a hunger for drive belts and the need to clean out the dirty filters too often. Too much maintenance time and poor performance on flooring generally means that despite the light weight and longer hose with more cleaning tools than the Argos Value upright, these benefits aren't enough to give this model a second glance. What's more, when two customer service personnel sent me two replacement user manuals for another model when my email to them clearly identified the actual model number, it kind of adds up to the overall experience of Comet's own brand. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2010
Short name: Proline UVC4