The first thing to say about the Vax Air3 Complete Upright Vacuum Cleaner is that it has some great and positive attributes and also some annoyingly poor points which could be improved. The ’3’ manufacturer's claim is that it is ultra lightweight, has superb suction and outstanding manoeuvrability. There are two other models of this cleaner; the Air3 Max with 320 air watts and a 3 litre dust container, and the Air3 Pet which has the pet hair tool but fewer other tools than the Complete.
It has a smart look straight from the box and the first of the good attributes noted is the compact handle that cleverly and simply extends to the length suitable for your height. This is also brilliant for storage under stairs or in shorter spaces generally. The handle will also readily lift right out of the cleaner for use on the end of the hose when using the extension tools.
The next useful and original attribute is the ability to turn the spinning brush bar on and off at the push of a button. This means that you have complete control of the brush bar and can turn it on for carpets, off for solid flooring; or set it any way you wish. It also means you can quickly turn the brush bar off if you catch a thread or some such thing. A green light tells you when the brush bar is working and, of course, it does cut off when the handle is upright. There is a red light to let you know if the brush bar is blocked.
Ease Of Use
In use the Vax Air3 handle allows movement in a circular way which Vax call Air Motion Technology. This means you can turn to the right or left without having to have the handle directly behind the head of the cleaner, which is great for tight spaces; although we found this freedom of movement makes the head of the cleaner seem wide and loose. However, there is a good soft rubber bumper that makes any accidental impact negligible.
Suction & Tools
In our trials the Air3's purpose built multi-cyclone facility that produces 225 air watts had a decently powerful suction and it was not affected by the 2 litre bag dust container becoming near full. Our carpets were completely cleared of pretty bad debris set up for the test, including sand, pet hair and other heavy dust particles. We also used scattered flour to illustrate the cleaning power of fine debris on a carpet and, as you can see, after five passes some flour is still embedded within the carpet. In fact it took around twelve passes to suck up all the flour.
We actually repeated this test and found it quicker to use the hose with such fine debris. This long-reach hose detaches from the foot of the cleaner and can be used with the handle and tools which are included in the 'Complete' version. These are a TurboTool, an upholstery tool and a fur n fluff tool, there is also an incredibly bendy and useful flexi crevice tool. With these attachments the hose reaches just about anywhere we could think to try: top of the stairs, top of the walls and the ceilings without trouble - extending to 4.8 metres, in fact.
What Needs Improving
Now to our niggles about the Air3. The plastic used for the clip that holds the detachable hose in the base of the cleaner is very brittle and the whole fitting seems inferior. In constant use this clip might easily break or fail and there is no suction without the hose fitting tightly in place. Added to this are similar clips used when emptying the cleaner dust container or removing the brush-bar. What a shame the technicians at Vax couldn't find something more sophisticated for these moving parts. One other niggle is that we couldn't work out how to unblock the pipe if something became stuck in the vicinity between the bend at the base of the hose and the intake of the dust container.
That said, the Vax Air3 is a lightweight upright cleaner at around 5.5kg, has a sensible 10 metre cable and includes an anti-bacterial H12 HEPA filter. And it carries a tremendous 6 year guarantee which means peace of mind against the possibility of broken clips, etc.
All in all, this UK designed multi-cyclonic cleaner is a real alternative to the Dyson, but nevertheless we would say that the latter still fronts the field in design and build quality.