While vacuums in a range of prices perform well in professional tests, we found the strongest feedback from users for canister vacuums at the high and low ends of the price range -- typically owners who are interested in either the very best vacuum for allergen control, or inversely, just an inexpensive basic model. If you need something in between the two extremes, it's a little trickier sorting through reviews. In this price range, we found the strongest support overall for the Electrolux Oxygen Canister EL6988E (*Est. $325) . This 22-pound canister vacuum has adjustable suction, so it can run at full power on carpets and on a lower setting for drapes and other delicate materials. It also has a variety of convenience features: a telescoping wand, fingertip controls, onboard tool storage and a 21-foot retracting cord. It comes with two accessory heads -- a powered head for carpets and a brush for parquet and other hard floors -- as well as the standard crevice tool, upholstery tool and dusting brush. Its limited warranty covers the whole machine for five years.
The Electrolux Oxygen Canister EL6988E gets good scores in professional tests. The editors of Good Housekeeping say it does an excellent job on both carpets and hard floors, and their testers found it very easy to use. Another professional test confirms that the HEPA filter keeps emissions very low. We found excellent reviews for this vacuum at Walmart.com, but reviews at Amazon.com are more mixed. Users at both sites agree that the vacuum is powerful, lightweight and quiet, and its features are very convenient. However, we found far more complaints at Amazon.com about its durability. The problems users report run the gamut, from broken drive belts and connectors to a plastic handle that literally melted as the vacuum was running. (This finding is consistent with the brand ratings conducted by a leading consumer magazine, which say that Electrolux has a worse reliability record than any other brand of canister vacuum.) We also saw several complaints that the vacuum's attachments do not fit on securely.
We found a similar mix of positive and negative reviews for the Hoover Anniversary WindTunnel S3670 (*Est. $230) . Like the Electrolux, this 24-pound Hoover canister has adjustable suction, fingertip controls and a telescoping wand. It also includes two features the Electrolux doesn't have: automatic height adjustment for different rug thicknesses and an adjustable handle (a handy feature for very short or very tall users). It comes with a crevice tool and upholstery/dusting brush, both with onboard storage. Other features include a retracting 25-foot cord and full bag indicator.
In professional tests, the Hoover Anniversary WindTunnel S3670 performs well on both carpets and bare floors. It also does a very good job controlling emissions, which is good news for allergy sufferers. However, testers do find this machine rather hard to maneuver. User reviews for this Hoover model are not as strong as those for the Electrolux. We found close to 190 reviews at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Viewpoints.com, with average scores between 3 and 4 stars. Most users agree that this vacuum has good suction and works well on pet hair, and the telescoping wand and adjustable handle are welcome features. However, there are several complaints about its performance on bare floors; several users say they ended up replacing the bare floor attachment on their machines with one from a different model. Durability is another common concern. Many users report that the vacuum's plastic parts crack easily, but other elements -- including the retracting cord mechanism, handle, hose, latch and electrical parts -- have caused problems for users as well.
Hoover also makes two bagless versions of the WindTunnel canister vacuum: the Hoover WindTunnel S3755 and WindTunnel S3765-040 (*Est. $230) . The WindTunnel S3755 has many of the same features as the bagged version, including the HEPA filter, retractable cord and telescoping handle. However, its height adjustment is manual, with three settings. The WindTunnel S3755 canister vacuum cleaner gets 4 stars out of 5 from the expert reviewer at ConsumerGuide.com, who likes its small size and weight, powerful suction and telescoping wand. On the downside, the reviewer notes that the power head is large and a bit awkward to maneuver and the canister vacuum does not come with a brush for cleaning hard floors.
The Hoover WindTunnel S3755 canister vacuum cleaner earns decent scores from more than 250 reviewers at Walmart.com, averaging 4 out of 5 stars, while far fewer users at Viewpoints.com and Epinions.com give it slightly lower average marks. Users generally like its strong suction, light weight, quiet operation and washable HEPA filter. However, we also saw quite a few complaints about durability. Several reviewers say that the machine tends to lose suction over time, while others complain that the belts wear out and are hard to replace. Some like the fact that this bagless model eliminates the need to buy replacement bags, while others say that emptying the dust container is messy and inconvenient. (As with any bagless model, emptying the bin will expose you to some dust, so a bagging unit might be a better choice for those with allergies.)
The Hoover WindTunnel S3765-040 canister gets a strong recommendation from the ConsumerGuide.com reviewer, who awards it a perfect 5-star rating, citing its "durability, longevity, and performance." However, user reviews cast some doubt on this assessment. The WindTunnel canister vacuum does get fairly strong ratings from more than 1,100 users at Amazon.com, who praise its powerful suction and convenient features. However, like the other WindTunnel vacuums, it receives many complaints about its durability, both here and at Epinions.com. Users at both sites say that their vacuums stopped working within one to two years, and one Epinions.com review is titled, "After 12 months, falling apart, duct tape everywhere." Several users also report that replacement parts, such as filters, are very hard to find.
We actually found stronger reviews overall for budget canister vacuums, priced at $100 or less. While these models generally cannot handle deep carpet cleaning, they may be adequate if you do only light vacuuming -- particularly if you only need to vacuum hard floors. We saw the most positive reviews for the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G (*Est. $65) . This incredibly lightweight (less than 9 pounds) bag-equipped vacuum manages to pack a surprising amount of power, according to reviewers. Barbara Whiting, a former About.com guide to stay-at-home parents, places this little vacuum third on her list of the eight best canister vacuums. She says it works well on both bare floors and carpets and is ideal for dorm rooms or apartments. The Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G gets a 4.5 average (out of 5) in more than 400 reviews at Walmart.com, and a 4 out of 5 average in more than 125 reviews at Amazon.com. Users praise this model's light weight, good suction and maneuverability. The 25-foot-long cord is also described as a bonus, although many users wish it were retractable. Most consumers agree this model does well on bare floors, but say it is not ideal for carpet or rugs. Nonetheless, it is generally seen as a good value for the money.
Another low-cost model that reviewers generally like is the Dirt Devil Breeze M082500 (*Est. $85) . Whiting gives it a spot on her list of recommended canister vacuums, with a particular nod to its MicroFresh filter. (The current version of the Dirt Devil Breeze replaces this with a true HEPA filter.) A reviewer at ConsumerGuide.com likes its performance on both carpets and bare floors but gives it only 3 stars out of 5 overall because of its limited features. In another professional test, this model does an excellent job on bare floors, but only a fair job on carpets. The Dirt Devil Breeze M082500 earns an average score of 4 out of 5 from more than 200 users at Amazon.com, who like its good suction, relatively light weight (15.5 pounds) and low cost. Some, however, complain that this bagless model must be emptied often, and the process can be messy and awkward. We also saw some complaints about its durability. Like the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G, this canister vacuum is described in user reviews as better on bare floors than on carpets.