* Prices may differ from that shown
For no fault of any consumer, sometimes when you see a bargain it looks like a bargain, and sometimes when you see a price that is lower than anything else on the shelf, it looks too good to be true.
Having sampled what I consider one of the better compact cylinder vacuums on the market (Electrolux) Comet have as usual stuck to their guns in keeping and retaining their exclusive "Proline,"| branding for the consumer who wants good value or just the cheapest appliance in the shop which is designed to feature no frills and does the job.
The trouble is that whilst Comet would like to think that they have the market all sewn up for cheap products, there are quite a few budget brands out there, not least Tesco Value who remain for the moment to have the cheapest vacuums on sale, Argos second and then Comet.
The VC35 B ("B" could well stand for Basic) model however is a spin on an old model the VC300/400, no matter how many garish colours Comet try to disguise the fact. Made of shiny light blue plastic with a horrible gold decal and organic in shape as with everything these days, the Proline model has the basics in terms of what the consumer may need for a budget vacuum. And its squat shape and compact dimensions suggest that it may well be suitable as a small vacuum cleaner fit for purpose. And that was the consideration at the time to get something cheap and cheerful.
** Nar's Quick Skip Product Spec **
* 1400 watts variable power
* 5kg weight, auto cord rewind.
* Plastic pipes PVC construction (too thin and poorly made)
* Crevice tool and dusting snap on brush (as above)
* Basic 4 stage filtration.
* 4.8 metre power cord. (too short)
* Park positions for tube and floor head to rest on.
* 2 way universal floor head - very cheap and weak.
* 2.5 litre capacity in paper dust bags. (only available at Comet)
* Comet Price £19-99, £6-99 for a pack of 5 bags.
* Comes with three extra paper bags.
Out of the box the plastic reveals a disappointing quality, with the snap on dusting brush being one of the least considerate designs; mine broke and had to be sent back to Comet that they happily replaced. The dusting brush is simply a rectangular structure that flaps over the short 6" crevice tool and cannot be taken off unless you prise it off. Unlike most compact cylinder vacuums however the crevice tool cannot be stored anywhere on the body of the vacuum or the hose and tubes. That means it will get lost over time unless you put it into a recognisable and memorable drawer.
Design wise, it's a simple order of the day with the main suction control also acting as the power on button but it moves with such a weak and loose accuracy that in use when the hose brushes past the control dial, it can move frequently adjusting the suction either to more or less; I guess you could say it has a mind of its own! A handle on the front of the body allows the Proline to be carried and sensibly this also incorporates the cord rewind function when the handle is laid back onto the body, made to sit flush.
The tubes are plastic, coloured in grey and they don't feel particularly well made. A shame really given that the floor head isn't a basic wheeled item but has the added bonus of being a universal 2 way 2 down mechanism floor head which is unheard of on machines as cheap as this. The floor head though has been made to a limited budget, a fact that it's main neck can be bent when changing over tools and doesn't inspire confidence. Here though, as a main floor head it is entirely acceptable but it makes the feeling of something lightweight and budget like, all that more apparent. You'll realise how cheap it is when you press your foot down to put down brushes on hard flooring; the pedal is rather small compared to other standard cleaners on the market that feature a bigger pedal whilst the whole unit smacks of a limited budget on the whole, allowing the pedal mechanism to emerge with a loud "crack" whenever choices are made for flooring type. The pipes and the floor head screw into one another easily enough and with it being plastic, you can be sure that the tubes are easy to take off and depending on the cleaning task in hand. Already the first tube on this cylinder cleaner has started to crack at the rim, which again suggests the budget limitations on this model.
Once the pipes have been put together, the floor head screwed in and the first pipe/tube pushed into the main handle, then it's easy to get started. The paper bag slides into a holder much akin to many cylinder cleaners these days which won't allow the main bin door to be locked into place if the bag hasn't been slid in properly. The hinge which holds the bag however is poorly constructed and access to the bag doesnt have a wide enough opening. I noticed that the edges to the bin area were also sharp and blocky, nothing which the outer body of the Proline suggests. To get into the bag, there are two finger holes located at the top of the body (how ironic) which must be inserted to release the cheap lock holding the bin to the body of the Proline.
The standard hose connects to the main door by way of a push in push out click lock system, a system that is much more favoured than screw in hoses which can weaken over time. The hose handle is identical to my Electrolux handle in design and feel which means less hand strain and an air outlet hole which allows suction to decrease once a hole in the tube has been allowed to open; handy for vacuuming delicate materials. So it is a shame that with the slightest inch of a hole, not much air can actually escape - better built compact cylinders around the £35 to £40 mark are better designed here for this purpose.
** Filtration **
The filters on this machine consist of 4 stages of basic foam filtration so people with pets or dust allergies, forget it! That said, here is a cleaner that has filters which are washable and permanent - no need to go out and find replacements, or for that matter spend more money.
As the manual suggests the filters must be washed under a running tap but must be allowed to fully dry before they can be put in the machine again. What a shame then that Proline haven't included an extra set of filters for this purpose.
The Exhaust filter is also easy to get to, which can only be accessed outwith the bin lid. This means you can inspect the filter by picking up the catch. This reveals another foam filter (white) that can be picked out once it has turned grey or black to be washed. Like the Electrolux Z3318 however the motor is at the back which means it wont be able to be used with the body turned upright, unless you want a hot floor.
** Using It **
There is only a maximum of 5 metres power cord on this machine, so anyone with a big flat or house will not like this machine. Frankly since this is a replacement vacuum cleaner for one that has hit the dust, I am not that bothered since there isn't much floor space in the property where this cleaner will be used, but what a bother if you have too many stairs as ultimately the machine will not stretch all the way down to the bottom of an average stair case - depending on where your nearest power socket is actually located - but still, it would have made sense to allow more metre of cord even on a machine that is budget market fodder.
Noise wise, I'd say the motor is disappointingly loud. You certainly need to put it off if someone is talking to you or even from a distance. Never mind the normal whine, this machine actually has a good range of suction on it but that's partly down to the motor rating which is 1400 watts. The only problem is that the small 2.5 paper bag does fill up very quickly early on and you notice this when the machine is switched on in use because the suction will have to be turned up for it to regain its power.
Weight wise, I found that with the plastic construction added here on the tubes, handle and hose (5kg) and it can topple over, particularly if the machine is pulled quickly along the floor. That yellowish gold colouring doesn't last long either as the machine has no bumpers to protect the paintwork and as a result scuffs can be seen clearly.
As such used with plastic pipes as well the whole unit doesn't feel particularly sturdy and that comes at the price of buying cheap. Plastic tubes work well if they have connector points at the ends, but if they are screw in I generally find them too lightweight and not strong enough to cope with average daily cleaning needs particularly when exerting pressure on them with the main floor head attached.
Like most machines on the market, this vacuum cleaner has a mechanical bag full indicator window, showing red when the bag is full and nothing when the bag isn't full. Yet the window is really too small to be seen from a distance and locating the actual state of the bag means that you need to open up the bin door and just inspect the bag for a clearer informed decision.
Ultimately unless you shop at Comet all the time, the lack of bags and availability elsewhere means you may well have to look at another brand name and machine. As good as the suction is, the comparative lightweight feel not just in weight and general build quality outweighs the basic features and the washable filters. Plastic pipes are very old fashioned and surprisingly Comet have stuck to their principles of pricing something like the Proline to be of very short use unless treated with kid gloves. Poundstretchers sell cylinder cleaners at the same price and fit metal pipes for extra longevity of use, so why can't Comet? Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008
Short name: Proline VC35 B