Product Type: Vax vacuums
Newest Review: ... it for over a year now and haven't experienced any problems. I'll definitely be looking at Vax again next time I need to purchase a vacuum.... more
Light To Lift, Hellish to "Hoover".
Vax U91-MA-B Air
Member Name: Nar2
Vax U91-MA-B Air
Date: 07/12/09, updated on 22/06/10 (5618 review reads)
Advantages: Slim & space efficient, light portable upright vac and has non-stop suction
Disadvantages: Cust services, iffy build quality, struggles to push on level sealed floors, dodgy pricing.
When I saw the price of the new Vax Mach Air upright bagless cyclonic vacuum cleaner reduced from £179 to cheaper price of £129 at John Lewis, I thought I was seeing things; it has only been on the market since late October and Vax have been promoting this model heavily on television as being the lightest bagless cyclonic upright vacuum on the market. Whilst some lucky buyers have been trying this vacuum cleaner out for free (namely those from the Amazon "Vine," programme) my only advantage here was finding the cheaper price at John Lewis. Argos, Comet, Currys and Tesco however will happily charge you full whack at £179.99
What's the latest technology aim here? Only that Vax have gone and brought out a similar copy to Dyson's Baby DC24 and against Dyson this vacuum weighs even less at 4.5 kg. Built around "masculine" approaches from its mixed matches of greys and silver with matt orange and vents and purposeful ridges planted here and there, the new Vax Mach Air U91 MA-B is a very portable and slim upright vacuum cleaner and uses the Hoover U.S patented "Windtunnel," technology of maintaining suction by fitting two suction channels instead of one and plastic filter shrouds similar to Dyson. Other differences are that you can prolong cleaning out filters when this vacuum is used. Out of the easy grab handled fitted carry box for installation all you do is fit the 6 metre cord onto the back, fit the "3 in 1" tools on, slide and lock in the handle and away you go. However there is a little more to this new vacuum than meets the eye...
For a start there is no foot pedal for example to put the floor head down, you just stand on the floor head a la Dyson/Oreck upright to pivot it down on the carpet. Then there are several hard ridges on the handle despite a grippy orange rubber line underneath, which can become painful in use over time whilst the handle doesn't quite lock in properly and moves a little from side to side in use. Quality is something that seems to have been missing from this new model from the off. Other design "highlights" include a height adjustable handle but for my 6ft frame, the 8 notches on offer even on the highest setting make me stoop a little just to push this thing across the floor. When the handle falls back into the vacuum this makes the Vax Mach Air extremely space saving on its design alone however.
Vax claim that the upright can clean flat to the floor but I'd say this is not quite true. At the lowest level the Vax Mach Air won't even achieve a perfect 180° angle thanks to its large wheels that get in the way. Then there's a green LED light that stays permanently on when the brush roll is activated and turns off when it is not in use. However the slightest touch to the brush roll (evident on hard flooring that has seams or slightly raised frames) when it is switched off makes the green LED light flicker nervously if the bristles are touched. If there is a jam, a red LED light replaces the green and there is a brush roll reset function available.
Pushing and pulling isn't the Vax Mach Air's forte despite the new name promising "Air," whether it points to its lighter total weight or the Active HEPA H12 filters on board. Where brush roll is concerned, it's all very new thanks to a gentle bristle action on an electric supported motor driven brush roller. Gone are the days where replacing a drive belt can be ordered, bought and replaced by the owner. The Vax Mach Air brush roll, if it ever happens to break has to be fixed by Vax although there is a handy reset button at the side of the brush bar if a jam occurs supported by a red LED light. A plus point is that the entire brush roll is viewable from a clear acrylic hatch that can be unlocked by two catches if you need to clear the brush roll of hairs or threads that wrap themselves around the bristles too tightly. However like most of the plastic on this vacuum, the actual acrylic is thin and feels like it could break if exertion is applied to it. The slim floor head is however fantastic with clear and easy to use edge and frontal edge cleaning built in and is quite a match for cylinder vacuums on their slim floor heads. Able to slide under radiators and tables with ease, the Vax Mach Air is extremely portable and compact where getting under low furniture is concerned.
There are only two oversized and slim rubber coated wheels on the back of this vacuum however and there are no other wheels present to aid a light-gliding factor. Oh what a mistake! The back wheels leave unsightly track marks unless you keep to the grain direction of your carpet - which to be honest who in their right mind has time to fathom out the direction of their carpet fibres? Sorry Vax but I just don't have the time! Carpet fluff pick up and hard floor cleaning is unbelievably poor on the Vax Mach Air - and all because the vacuum has a two part dust channel that influences the floorhead to stick to floors without respite. Well, unless by the grace of luck you have unlevel flooring and only then does the Vax Mach Air's name suddenly becomes befitting. Lacking an actual auto adjusting function, the Vax Mach Air correspondingly changes weight slightly thanks to its slim floor head which is so light that sometimes it feels as if it isn't making a deep enough contact with carpets. It certainly feels strangely heavier than both my "twice as heavy," Sebo full size uprights to push and pull on thick carpeting and Berber style coverings. Therefore the floor head doesn't actually deep clean that well which for Vax shows up poor testing here and an inability to offer a more aggressive brush roll.
There is also a facility to stop the brush from moving via the second switch by the power switch handily located at the top of the vacuum, if, say you want to clean hard floors - or so Vax would have you believe. Onto their next mistake..!
Because of its total weight, the twin rear huge spindly wheels compromise the Vax Mach Air. Granted they're rubber coated, so for hard flooring they'll always protect hard flooring. However in use on carpet the large wheels sometimes prevent the slim floor head from sticking to the carpet and will often flip the floor head up in protest that makes for a rather agonising and frustrating cleaning task that shouldn't really develop or occur. Upon posting a similar review to Comet, it took a spokesperson from Comet to email me suggesting that I should call Vax about my problem. What I got next was something I wasn't prepared for; according to Vax, the Vax Mach Air U91 MA-B seems to have an inherent problem that affects some models where the floor head always flips up, doesn't therefore stick to the carpet and the wheels prevent the handle from going any further. They suggested I use WD40 to spray the parts that don't allow the upright to stay on carpet. I suggested this was something that could injure the warranty and thanks to its not so literal user manual that is helpful in all but brush roll problems, I wasn't about to jigger about with something as unknown as this new Vax! Not only that, but unless Vax actually release an official statement, it doesn't bode well for such a new product that has this apparent problem. The call to Vax ensured that they were more than happy to take it back, fix it and return it. They sent out a plastic bag pack and a delivery address in order for me to send it back.
Onto Vax Mach Air number two - Vax sent one without my knowledge whilst I was having to wash and dry the filters on the faulty Vax Mach Air before you send back the vacuum to be repaired - otherwise Vax may have the cheek to charge you £35!! Luckily the floor head on this model doesn't flip up and it makes for almost easy gliding on carpets, but again my Sebo uprights are much lighter and feel planted to the floor. Often you can tell this by a brush bar's noise if the bristles sound lighter and this is constantly happening even on the second model that Vax have sent me. Power wise we're talking quite a lot where suction is concerned and the motor isn't as noisy as I thought it would be. Granted there's an environmentally friendly slightly high whine 1200-watt motor and 200 air watts to hand and it clear when it is switched on. Unlike the bagged but similarly compact Sebo Felix which its brush roll stops the moment you put the handle back into the upright position, when I put the Mach Air back into the upright position I assumed the brush roller would stop spinning. Not so. You have to deactivate the brush roll manually by pressing the button at the top. What a strange thing to have to do and the main lifting handle on top of the bin is vented with a natural hand grip on it. So it is a pity that after a few seconds of lifting up this featherweight vacuum, my hand was very sore and painful because of the vented handle. If you don't press the brush stop button and lift the vacuum up with you to get to higher ground with the hose and tools attached, god help you if you are wearing dangling clothing that can be attracted by the brush roll which will keep spinning. As pedantic as it sounds, the Vax Mach Air clearly is a vacuum cleaner where the user manual has to be scrutinised to get the basics from use. So much for new technology then and safety seems to have turned a blind eye too.
The reason the Vax Mach Air has to be lifted upwards is because the onboard hose is too small to have any decent reach on offer and this brings yet another series of problems despite its overall squat and slim shape. The hose measures 1.1 metres for example, which is smaller than most budget cylinder vacuums on the market and begs the question to why Vax bothered. Siting it at the bottom rear of the Vax means the upright isn't suppose to fall over in use. Fine if you can touch your toes because you'll jolly well have to in order to unlock it and use it! My elderly mother had problems with this to why she has now returned to using my Sebo Felix where the hose is located not so far down and I prefer vacuums that have an easy to reach hose at least. Once the hose is free, you're then restricted to a one metre of hose on offer because 25% of the hose at the top is held in by an un-removable hose ring and when the hose is pulled at the back, the little Vax comes with you! A way around this is to attach the hose to the height adjustable handle and tubes for more stretch. Ready for your next aerobics exercise? You have to unlock the hose from the bottom of the cleaner then stand up to unlock the handle before lifting it out of the Mach Air because if you don't the hose when attached to the handle without it becoming free can bring the Mach Air falling back. Once you unlock the handle, then you have to lock the hose onto the back of the handle, adjust the height of the handle (which now has the extension pipes added to them permanently) and then push on the "3 in 1" tool onto the end. What a palaver! So in my low ceiling flat I was surprised to find that I'd have to switch off the brush roll, lift the vacuum to waist level in one hand and then try to get into the ceilings with the handle/extension pipe added in the other hand.
Planting the Vax Mach Air on the floor with the hose and the handle extension pipe and tools just wasn't going to go any further than above my head and cleaning the ceilings was out of the question. For all that there is perhaps more excess hose and longer pipes on offer here, this is where Sebo's K cylinder vacuum makes life far more easier and that cylinder's handle can be independently removed from the hose if anything gets caught. Think Vax have offered the same here? Not a chance. The copied Dyson hose also has problems of its own. If you don't ensure that you lock it to the main handle properly, the roughest tug can unlock the hose as it sucks back into the back of the Vax and can cause personal injury if you don't duck out of the way. Another ill thought out design is the location of the 3 in 1 cleaning tools. Sandwiched between the top and bottom cord hooks with the outer 6 metre cord acting as a perimeter, when removing the power cord for use in a hurry, the slightest knock to the crevice "3 in 1" tool below the top cord wrap can loosen from its grippers and fall off.
The poor little "3 in 1" cleaning tools don't fare too well either. A short crevice tool with a pull down cheap brush acts as a "2 in one" tool with the further option to take off the brush section and reverse it for the narrow width flat upholstery tool. They look good on design paper but in actual use, the "lint added flat" upholstery tool is about as useful as sliding a cup along a floor with its high sides. In use the whole idea is noisy and if you don't push the tools on far enough, they'll simply fall off. MY tip is the discovery of the hose and pipe measurement; if you own any old Hoover, Electrolux or 32mm sized cleaning tools lying around they can be used on the Vax Mach Air. I'm currently using my Electrolux pet hair turbo brush I bought from Ebay recently and it works very well on both the clip added hose or the metal pipes. Vax do sell a turbo brush attachment and it costs around £20.
Emptying and filter care is nothing new. The Mach Air has a top washable filter that has to twisted off for access and has a handy material flap where the filter can simply be picked out. The top seal in the bin however always shows a line of dirt that for my reckoning shouldn't be there and points towards possibly future dust leakage. The back seal from the main dust channel to the actual bin is thin and a finger can easily loosen it in use. You can either have the option of pulling out the entire cyclone cone to gain access to the dirt OR for later Dyson fans push a button on the bottom bin for main dust release. Thankfully the bin is a clear acrylic so it is dead easy to see when the bin needs emptying, not just helped by a "Max" label. Crucially though it is the volume of dirt, which is slightly impressive as well as slightly, negative towards another Vax Mach Air claim. Vax suggest that the bin capacity of 1.5 litres is double that of other cyclonic uprights but given that most have 2 litres volume, I don't think Vax can live up to this claim other than the fact that the Mach Air uses similar Dyson technology to maintain suction even as the bin is bursting with dirt. Certainly when it took to cleaning up eight rooms, I found dust no longer spun in circles but rather clogged up the cyclone shrouds making the need to empty the bin sooner than later. Yet, whilst there is always an acre of suction available due to the Mach Air's copied "non-stop suction," Dyson cyclone design, it isn't quite like a Dyson in terms of filter care; there are two filters on board and one can be washed whilst the other has to be tapped free of dirt. Evidently Vax are on a cost cutting budget here but it wouldn't have been a disservice to include another washable filter instead of having to wait the usual 24 hours for vac filters to dry.
A good part of the design is that the inner filter shroud cone can be taken off through a series of click locks and a plastic ring that locks the main plastic honeycomb shroud to the single cyclone cone. Those that own this vacuum already may not even know about this facility since none of it is referred to or can be found to in the user manual. Thus I was intrigued to what would happen if I unlocked the ring and removed the main shroud and to a large extent I wish I hadn't! Behind the filter shroud sat clumps of dust and debris hidden behind the filter shroud and my question to why the top filter always got dirtier was suddenly answered. Cleaning out filters on bagless vacuums is always a messy affair and if you turn a blind eye to the Vax, you may find you need to constantly wash the top filter more times than is actually needed.
So is the Vax Mach Air worth it? In terms of compactability and storage the design really impresses me and I like the slim head that can get into low furniture or the bottom of radiators. However that doesn't make the overall grade of excellence here and I think there are better and healthier options around with just as efficient compactibility. Certainly for the price of £179-99 the Vax Mach Air is a very expensive vacuum cleaner and with its inherent flipping floor head design, a tendency to lightly brush carpets, miss fluff and an ill-fitting brush stop function whilst lacking in a nice touchy feeling plastic that shouldn't hurt my hands, overall the Vax Mach Air U91 MA-B disappoints me. You better watch out as you may well buy a duff model and you'll only have 28 days to register for your free 6 year guarantee and parts labour too; with such a lengthy guarantee on offer and a design fault that Vax haven't said anything about on their website, you may well find out that you'll need it sooner than you think. Thanks for reading.İNar2 2009
** Vax's Courier Service **
Vax deal with DHL although their customer service phone number has changed, a fact that isn't mentioned in the user manual. The return card with the faulty model also lists an older telephone number for DHL and turns out to be a far more expensive premium rate number. Initial call to DHL caused constant holding on and going through a series of call department options only to be told that on weekends DHL is closed. On a week day when DHL were finally in, they promised they would pick up the vacuum cleaner by the following Wednesday between the hours of 9am to 5pm. They took a phone number incase they wouldn't be able to deliver. Did they show? Of course not! Was there a phone call? No. No reason given only that where my mum lives they thought it was an Island and upon finding out from me that where she lives is a Peninsula that could take them to Glasgow by road (or further up the North part of Scotland) they still didn't give me a response and the company had to be called again to get another booking. They now promise that the vacuum will be picked up by Monday between the same hours. A call to my family relative confirms no call has come from DHL and the Vax still sits in its box awaiting to be picked up. Evidently Vax have money to burn at this rate. Watch this space! Vax - instead of offering me mild apologies - sort out your courier service!
Update: 23rd of December Vax/DHL picked up the broken model. What a wait and no surprise for Vax to send me a letter stating that they have changed their courier services. I do hope that the new couriers don't keep Vax customers hanging on in the future.
Summary: How can GHI have approved this? Vax need to look at it again and admit fault.
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