On specialty vacuum retail sites, you'll see a lot of praise heaped upon vacuums by Miele, and this brand often rises to the top in tests conducted by foreign review publications such as Which? and Choice magazines. Miele vacuums are generally more expensive than brands such as Hoover or Kenmore, and many reviewers say there's a good reason: their powerful motors and sophisticated filtration systems make them the best choice for users with allergies. Miele's brand name was previously associated mostly with high-performance -- and high-cost -- vacuums, but this manufacturer has now expanded its line to include somewhat more budget-friendly models.
The absolute top of the Miele line, according to reviewers, is the Miele S5981 Capricorn (*Est. $1,200) . This high-end model is named as the top canister vacuum by the AllergyBuyersClub.com, a retail site that reports test results and owner satisfaction for various vacuum models. The Miele S5981 Capricorn earns top marks for cleaning power, maneuverability and ease of use. The site also praises its quality construction, HEPA filtration system and convenient features, such as fingertip suction control, a filter-change indicator and auto-shutoff. Ristenbatt.com, another retail site, recommends the Miele S5981 Capricorn as well, citing its convenient controls, powerful airflow and quiet operation. A reviewer at ConsumerGuide.com gives this model 4 stars out of 5, saying its bare floor tool works extremely well, but for this price, it would be nice to have a powered upholstery tool included. (Miele does offer a choice of two powered floor tools with the vacuum.)
User reviews for this high-end vacuum are scarce, but we found about 30 reviews at Amazon.com, most of them quite enthusiastic. Owners say the Miele S5981 Capricorn is quiet, powerful and very well made. They also appreciate its handy features, such as the fingertip controls, onboard tool storage and retracting cord. Several of them compare it favorably to other vacuums, including the Hoover WindTunnel models discussed in the previous section. The most common complaints about this vacuum focus on its cost, although many users feel it is worth it.
However, the S5981 Capricorn's admittedly stellar performance does not necessarily justify its high price tag when less expensive Miele canister vacuums, such as the Miele S5281 Callisto (*Est. $900) , work nearly as well for significantly less. The Callisto has the same powerful motor as the Capricorn and includes many of the same features: HEPA filtration, suction control, sealed-system construction to keep dust contained and onboard storage for tools. It comes with the same hard-floor attachment as its more expensive cousin, but it also includes a separate tool for carpeting. However, this model has the suction controlled by a dial on the canister, rather than fingertip controls. (Two other versions of the Miele S5281 -- the Libra and the Pisces canister vacuums -- are also sold, each with a different powered floor tool. However, we did not find enough reviews for these models to assess their performance.)
The Miele S5281 Callisto canister vacuum performs very well in professional tests, with good performance on both carpet and bare floors and excellent filtration. Its noise level is also very good, though testers say its handling leaves something to be desired. Editors at Ristenbatt.com recommend this Miele vacuum, saying it is powerful and offers great filtration. We found only about 10 user reviews for this vacuum at Amazon.com and Epinions.com, but most of them are very positive. Owners say the Callisto is powerful, maneuverable, quiet and great at controlling dust. However, some find a couple of the controls "counterintuitive," and they say the user manual is not very helpful. Also, two users found that the powered head on their canister vacuums did not work reliably.
Another Miele canister vac that gets good overall reviews is the Miele S5481 Earth (*Est. $970) . Like the Capricorn and the Callisto, this vacuum has adjustable suction, but it is controlled by step-on buttons that adjust the power up or down. Its powered head is the SEB217-3 Powerbrush, not the SEB228 ElectroPlus that caused some users problems with the Callisto. The editors of Good Housekeeping award this vacuum a grade of A-minus, saying it does an excellent job on bare floors and is also good at removing pet hair and ground-in dirt from carpet. In tests performed by editors of AllergyBuyersClub.com, the Miele S5481 Earth scores almost as well as the top-rated Capricorn canister vacuum cleaner for cleaning performance, and equally well on filtration, maneuverability and ease of use.
Editors do note that its floor tools are not quite as good as the Capricorn's (which is odd, since both models come with the same floor brush), but both of them earn an overall rating of 5 stars out of 5. We found only a handful of reviews for the Miele S5481 Earth vacuum at Amazon.com, but they are very positive overall. Owners say this canister vac is quiet and well made, with strong suction and excellent filtration. However, we did see a couple of complaints that it is hard to maneuver, especially on thicker carpets.
Another high-end model that does very well in professional tests is the Kenmore Intuition 28014 (*Est. $600) . This canister vacuum has many of the same features found on the pricier Miele machines, including HEPA filtration, fingertip controls, adjustable suction and onboard tool storage. Its specially designed power nozzle contains a removable bare-floor brush, so it can switch between carpets and floors without changing out the entire head. The Kenmore Intuition 28014 canister vac is a top performer in one professional test. It achieves very good results on all floor surfaces with very low noise and emissions levels, although its maneuverability is only so-so.
The editors of Good Housekeeping award it a grade of A-minus, saying it is good on all surfaces and the fingertip controls are very convenient. They also like the Kenmore's dirt sensor, which lets you know when the vacuum is no longer picking up additional dirt from a particular patch of carpet. However, the user reviews we found for this vacuum do not measure up to its performance in the test lab. In 60-plus reviews at Sears.com (the only retail site that sells Kenmore appliances), owners give this vacuum an average score of only 3 stars out of 5. Most users agree that the vacuum is quiet and powerful, and switching tools is easy. However, we saw several complaints ranging from a retracting power cord that won't stay extended to a hose attachment that doesn't connect properly, spilling dust everywhere. One disgruntled reviewer, listing the many problems this vacuum has caused, says, "I feel like leaving it in the front of the store and just walking away."